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Joakim Noah, Billy Donovan, Bulls

Should Bulls bring Joakim Noah back to Chicago to reunite him with Billy Donovan?

Joakim Noah was absolutely thrilled for his former college coach, Billy Donovan, after the 55-year-old tactician was named the new head coach of the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.

Noah and Donovan, after all, does have quite a history together, having won back-to-back titles as player-and-coach with the University of Florida Gators in 2006 and 2007.

It seems that their paths will cross once more now that Donovan is in charge of the same franchise that drafted Noah 9th overall in 2007.

The 6-foot-11 bundle of frenetic energy bared his heart and soul for nine seasons in the Windy City. During his time with the Bulls, Noah was named an All-Star twice, won Defensive Player of the Year in 2014, and made All-NBA First Team in 2014.

He also made All-Defensive First Team twice and a one-time All-Defensive Second Team member.

Way before he received such honors, Billy Donovan already saw something special from Joakim Noah and even included him in his 2004 recruiting class.

Over a decade later, the revered tactician once again has the opportunity to bring his old pupil back – but in a different capacity, of course.

While a possible reunion between the two will indeed be a touching moment, Noah’s return to Chicago does have some pros and cons.

The Bulls brass might need to consider these factors before inviting the free agent Noah back to the fold.

The Good

One look at the Bulls current roster shows that they have a promising but extremely inexperienced frontline. Lauri Markkanen still looks like a nice building block, while Wendell Carter Jr. and Daniel Gafford both have nice skillsets to work with. Cristiano Felicio, meanwhile, does provide a good burst of energy in spurts.

While these young studs are indeed a good group, there’s no veteran presence who can show them the ropes. Thaddeus Young is the only vet, but he’s not a vocal leader.

Joakim Noah, of course, is as expressive as they come. Obviously, the Bulls should not expect him to return to his prime form where he notched double-doubles most nights. Heck, he might not even play that much at all.

However, having a battle-tested veteran as credentialed as Noah might just be what the Bulls’ young core needs to take that next step in their development.  He is a good locker room guy who will have no problems cheering his team on while on the bench.

Noah tried to hitchhike and get his first chip by signing with the Los Angeles Clippers this year, but we all know how that turned out.

While he won’t be contending for championships if he returns to the Bulls, a reunion might just be what Noah needs to revitalize his career.

The New York-native plays with a lot of emotions, and there’s no better way to ignite those feelings by returning to where it all started.

The Bad

While Noah can still be an energizer bunny for Chicago, he is now on the wrong side of 35.  Multiple injuries have played a big factor for the Florida alum since the Bulls traded him in 2016.

He hasn’t been able to play more than 50 regular-season games since 2016. His last productive season was in 2017-18, where he notched 7.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 42 games for the Memphis Grizzlies before another injury abruptly ended his year.

Billy Donovan could give him 10 to 15 minutes a game, but how much can Noah still give them in those limited time?  While Noah’s main job would be to mentor the team’s young guns, the Bulls will still need to get something out of him when he enters the floor.

Chicago will probably have better big men options other than Noah from free agency in the offseason. They also have the 4th overall pick in this year’s draft, which they can use on a younger prospect who can play heavy minutes.

Verdict

Picking up Noah at this stage in his career would be a gamble for Chicago, but it might be in their best interest to roll the dice on this one. The Bulls brass certainly has the best understanding of Noah’s character as a player and the intangibles he brings from a leadership standpoint.

A one-year veteran’s minimum offer for Noah shouldn’t put much of a strain on the Bulls’ cap.