Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah is expected back in the lineup as early as Monday after missing the last nine games with a shoulder injury, coach Fred Hoiberg said on Saturday, via the team’s official website. But the question is: Are the Bulls better off without him at this point?
In Noah’s absence, the Bulls have won seven of their last nine games after losing three straight, and Noah’s replacement, first-year player Bobby Portis has given them quality minutes off the bench averaging 8.3 points and 5.3 rebounds. Hoiberg said Portis will remain in the lineup when Noah comes back, possibly taking away from the 22.3 minutes Noah averaged before he got hurt, but that Noah’s return will coincide with the Bulls’ improvements on offense.
“We’ve been much better offensively, much more efficient offensively, we have to keep that going,” Hoiberg said. “I also think Jo will help with that and hopefully even step it up a notch.”
But with Noah set to become a free agent after this season and the trade deadline approaching next month, the Bulls could look to move on from the player they drafted ninth overall in 2007. Granted, Noah’s stock has declined due to the injury to his shoulder, but he has the next six weeks to get healthy and potentially attract buyers on the trade market.
Just last month, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Bulls were taking trade offers for Noah, among others, and that was before Portis started to come on strong for them with 14.6 points and 8.6 rebounds averaged during a three-game homestand against Toronto, Indiana and New York. His ever-improving play may have changed the tune in the front office, though Hoiberg doesn’t think so.
“You’re always out there listening, seeing if there’s some things you can do to improve the roster long term. As far as being active with it, I don’t think so.”
For now, Noah remains with the Bulls, and he will try to help them get through a stretch of four games in five nights, three of which come on the road. It will be interesting to see, though, if the trade rumors pick up regarding Noah closer to the deadline and whether or not the Bulls move him.