by Marcel Mutoni / @ marcel_mutoni

Even with one of the greatest defensive players in NBA history on his roster, Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale thinks Joakim Noah is the NBA’s top defender this season. (Tom Thibodeau admits he’s too biased to make his pick public.)

Dwight Howard, winner of the DPOY award three times in his career, says Noah’s impact on that side of the ball is undeniable.

Per the Houston Chronicle:

“He’s played very well. He should be Defensive Player of the Year,” McHale said. “They’ve been winning a lot just on his energy and effort, determination and confidence.”

“I’ve been playing against Joakim since Adidas camp back when we were 15, 16 years old,” Howard said. “I’ve seen the difference in his game. The one thing that hasn’t changed is his intensity level on the court. He’s always going after it every play, trying to get every loose ball, stuff like that.

“The first time, he was a water boy at the camp. We didn’t see too much out of him. By the time we were all seniors, he was playing in the All-Star game. We played against each other here in Chicago at the Reebok Classic, which was a lot of fun. I’m happy to see him grow. He’s doing a great job.”

‘We have a job to do and that’s make our teams better,” Howard said. “It’s not all about scoring. It’s all about dominating the game. That’s making the right play every time, trying to get our teammates the ball. It’s not always how the stats look at the end of the game. Defensively, … all of us, Joakim, Roy (Hibbert), myself, we pride ourselves on defense. Joakim, his energy, his intensity on the defensive end makes him special.”

Noah is averaging 12.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. Not exactly mind-boggling numbers, but as Howard points out, the Chicago Bulls center’s energy and passion on defense make him a true force.

Joakim Noah won’t get the MVP this season, but he has a legitimate shot at the Defensive Player of the Year award.