Welcome back to Beyond the Box Score, a series where we use advanced metrics to provide deeper analysis of the Bulls.
This week we're exploring the recent emergence of Joakim Noah in the Bulls offense. After the Circus Trip, Noah took a much larger role on the court, and it's paid dividends. Just by watching, you can tell Noah has the fire back in his eyes. He's playing with purpose again. He looks like the player who won Defensive Player of the Year and led the Bulls offense, and it's got Bulls fans excited.
|Last two games||0.15||1.14|
|Rest of season||0.055||0.73|
Let's start by looking at a few basic scoring metrics: points per chance, and points per shot.
First, pts/chance is a usage measure, which gives us an idea of how often a team looks to a particular player to score. Earlier in the year, Noah only contributed 0.055 points every time the Bulls had an offensive opportunity, according to Vantage Sports. Not only was that mark by far the worst on the team, but it was also the ninth lowest figure in the league.
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Fast forward to the last two games against San Antonio and Denver, however, and Noah's numbers jump all the way to 0.15 pts/chance. That was fourth best on the team, during those games, with Pau Gasol leading the way at 0.22 pts/chance.
One reason for this major uptick is the fact that Noah is shooting the ball far more efficiently. Noah only recorded 0.73 pts/shot in the first 14 games, again the worst number on the team. But against the Spurs and Nuggets, Noah soared to 1.14 pts/shot, good for third best on the team, behind Tony Snell's remarkable 2.2 pts/shot (although Snell's numbers are skewed since he primarily shoots 3's.)
But how can we explain this major shift?
|Joakim Noah||Open+ Freq.
|Last two games||71.4||0.78|
|Rest of season||39.6||0.67|
We can tell just by watching that Noah is taking better shots. Earlier in the year — and even parts of last season — it seemed Noah would throw up a wild shot, hoping to score. But now Noah is getting better looks, and taking higher percentage shots, like easy putbacks and layups.
The data actually reveals that the difference is actually far greater than our eyes may lead us to believe. The most eye-popping number is Noah's Open+ Frequency. This metric shows the percentage of shots taken, that are open, or with a late arriving defender.
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Previously, only 40 percent of Noah's shots were uncontested or lightly contested, according to Vantage Sports. But in the last two games, Noah was able to make solid cuts and strong moves to the hoop to give himself better opportunities. That led to him taking 70 percent of his shots with open looks.
Furthermore, Noah had more opportunities to make plays in the Bulls' most recent games. Looking at how many times Noah actually held the ball for every offensive opportunity the Bulls had, we can see he certainly took a bigger role in the flow of the offense. While the jump from 0.67 touches/chance to 0.78 touches per chance may not seem significant, it was the biggest margin on the team. Clearly, Noah received more opportunities, and he capitalized.
With Nikola Mirotic recovering from a concussion, Noah will likely take on an even larger role in the rotation, and will probably get the opportunity to contribute more on the offensive side of the court. Bulls fans can only hope that their spark plug continues to find the ignition.