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Could D-League's Courtney Sims Be Possible Joakim Noah Replacement?

Dec 16, 2010 – 10:26 PM
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Scott Schroeder

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Courtney Sims has been one of the best big men in the NBA D-League this season, averaging 18.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, while playing for the Chicago Bulls-affiliated Iowa Energy.

Those numbers don't stand out quite as much as the 22.8 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks Sims averaged on his way to earning D-League MVP honors during the 2008-09 season, but he's still widely regarded as the top NBA prospect at the center position. That fact becomes particularly important after the recent news that Joakim Noah, standout center for the Chicago Bulls, could miss up to 10 weeks after undergoing thumb surgery Thursday, which is a long enough time that the Bulls might look into possibly acquiring another player to replace the double-double machine until he's healthy.

"We'll continue to look at it," Bulls general manager Gar Forman told ESPN Chicago on Thursday. "We've already talked some about the possibility of looking into either a trade or picking somebody up, but at this point, we'll go with what we have."

Forman's answer indicates that signing someone today probably is not in the works, but if Sims continues to standout with the Bulls' D-League affiliate, there's little doubt he'd be on the short list of candidates to try and fill Noah's big shoes.

"Courtney is obviously one of the premier big men in our league," Nick Nurse, Sims' head coach with the Iowa Energy, told FanHouse Thursday. "I think true big men that can really score down there are a rare commodity around the world and his biggest strength is he can really score the ball. He's really got good determination. He's got the ability, he's got the touch, he's got those -- and several other -- attributes that enable him to be such a high scorer."

Sims, a 6-11 center out of the University of Michigan, isn't just a high scorer, but an extremely efficient scorer. He's making over 64 percent of his shots from the field and, as Nurse was quick to point out, "It's not like he's just hoisting up a bunch of shots -- he's making the most of his opportunities."

"He's improved a lot since we first got him. We got him in February 2008 and he was kind of a 'play on the left block, power to the middle jump-hook' guy, but he's developed a lot of things," Nurse said of Sims offensive skills. "He's got a left hand now, he can turnaround, he can face-up and shoot now, he's got range pretty good range to 20 feet -- and he'll occasionally knock down a three -- but he can shoot it 20 pretty comfortably, so he's got a lot more stuff than he had when he first came to the D-League. He's even starting to develop a bit of a face-up game where he can put it on the floor a little."

While Sims has developed a lot on the offensive side of the ball since joining the Energy three seasons ago, Nurse sees a lot of potential for the 27-year-old to continue to improve.

"You know, A, I always hope my players get called up," Nurse said, "But, if he doesn't, I think you're going to see him develop some more facets of his game as the year progresses."

"He's capable of being even more of a force in a lot of other areas," Nurse noted, citing that while already solid, his rebounding and block numbers as well as his ability to be a more consistent defender on the screen-and-roll could all be improved if Sims becomes more consistent in focusing on them as much as he's focused on improving his scoring prowess.

Nurse noted that "there have been a ton of scouts -- like world record numbers" watching Sims and the Energy this season. Of particular interest along with Sims are Kyle Weaver, who played for the Bulls this preseason after playing last year with the Thunder, and Othyus Jeffers, a hard-nosed defender who earned a call-up to the Utah Jazz last season.

"The Bulls have been to see us at least half of our games this year," Nurse said. "They've had somebody at at least half of them so we've got a really good relationship with them."

With the increased interest in the Energy, one would not be foolish to think that Sims -- and possibly a couple of his teammates -- will probably earn an NBA call-up sometime in the near future.

The question is, though, if he's been able to impress the Bulls' brass enough to prove that he deserves a shot at attempting to fill Noah's shoes.
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