Last summer, Tyson Chandler and Joakim Noah worked out a few times together before the Knicks center joined Team USA. When you're two of the best at what you do -- like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, who have trained together -- those opportunities can only push you to get even better.
That's what happened this season, as Chandler, 30, and Noah, 27, are playing the best basketball of their careers. Both are deserving of being named reserves on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. Coincidentally, their stat lines are nearly identical. While Chandler is averaging 12.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and nearly one block per game, Noah's numbers are 12.6, 10.5 and two blocks, respectively.
They've also gone back and forth making an impact in their first two matchups of the season, even though the Bulls won both. On Dec. 8 in Chicago, Chandler had 14 points and 18 rebounds, and then on Dec. 21 in New York, it was Noah's turn, finishing with 15 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. The Bulls center really made a difference in the latter game with his pick-and-roll defense. Chandler only made one field goal the entire game.
So who will take Round 3 on Friday night? Better yet, will Chandler's play pitch in for the win?
With the highly anticipated matchup around the corner, ESPNNewYork.com asked several GMs, scouts and agents who they would take right now -- Chandler or Noah. While Chandler is more popular with fans -- through last week, he had 315,752 All-Star votes compared to Noah's 158,743 -- he wasn't as much of a hit among the eight league experts polled. Six chose Noah, favoring his youth and offense. Only two picked Chandler, citing his efficiency and championship pedigree. Most agreed, though, they are pretty even defensively.
Here's a look at some of the responses:
Agent: "He's younger, and Tyson only has a couple years left. Noah is a little better back to the basket, but he's no [Hakeem] Olajuwon. Tyson is better in pick-and-rolls and in transition."
Western Conference scout: "Although he's limited offensively, I still think he's better on that end than Tyson. Defensively, I think they are even. For some reason, I believe Noah might be more durable."
Eastern Conference general manager: "Noah has a more well-rounded game, and he can pass the ball better. Chandler has the edge on D with his shot-blocking. Both guys care about winning; they come to play and do everything they can for their teams. When you look at the age, Noah has the edge there, too. He's very underrated because without [Derrick] Rose and not nearly the same bench, the Bulls have hung in and played well. That's a testament to Noah. He's very agile, and he's unorthodox with his shooting motion -- particularly with his free throws -- and he can make a jump shot now."
Agent: "I take Tyson because he is bigger and has more ability offensively, and is just as effective on defense. Tyson is a better player. I take Tyson on all levels."
Eastern Conference scout: "He's a more exciting player and stronger finisher. He's playing great with more future A-list players or Hall of Famers. Also, his field goal percentage is better than Noah's."
Who would you take? Leave us your thoughts below.
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