The Bulls are building around Derrick Rose that much is obvious. So how do the existing pieces fit around him right now? I look at the entire roster player by player to see what their strengths and weaknesses around Derrick are.
Luol Deng: Going into last season, Deng appeared a perfect fit next to Rose. A pure SF who doesn't need to dominate the ball to score and can generate efficient offense. We saw last season that it's going to take a lot of work between Deng and the coaching staff to make that vision a reality. Vinny's offense didn't seem to provide many cutting opportunities for Deng and he received the ball outside the three point range in isolation against his man. Something which didn't play to his strengths.
Deng, possibly pressured by his contract, forced the action from this position where he doesn't have the ball handling or quickness to beat his man off the dribble or the three point range as a threat to fake his man out or shoot over him. The results were not pretty for much of the season. Deng seemed to find his grove in January, playing excellently, prior to going down with the stress fracture.
We saw a bit of how Deng could be a strength or a weakness next to Derrick. His lack of shooting is going to add pressure around Rose, but his off the ball movement could make him a deadly pass target. It's worth noting that Rose needs to improve considerably to take advantage of Deng's cutting skills as well, as Rose's court vision isn't nearly as good as his overall ability is. Rose thrives getting into the lane, but he hasn't thrived in delivering the ball to teammates in position to score.
The future may hinge on how well this pair figures things out together as the Bulls are committed to Rose due to his talent and committed to Deng due to an ability to move his contract if they tried.
Kirk Hinrich: At first, I thought Hinrich was a poor fit next to Rose seeing as I felt he was more effective as a PG than a SG, however, I'm having second thoughts. What are the two things you need most in a SG next to Rose? Three point shooting and defense. Hinrich provides both. He may not be an elite shooter, but he's hit over 40% in two of his last three seasons and played top notch defense in two of his last three seasons.
On top of providing the two assets most necessary next to Rose at the SG position, he can also back up Rose to hedge against excessive wear or an injury. The real question isn't whether Hinrich fits next to Rose, but rather does Hinrich make too much money to marginalize his role on the team to defender, backup PG, and spot up shooter? With only three years left on his contract the commitment isn't that big, and he falls off the books when Rose needs an extension which should fit well with the Bulls financial planners.
Tyrus Thomas: Tyrus has all the physical tools to be a great fit next to almost anyone. His ability to play next to Rose largely depends on his ability to get his head out of his ass. He often dazzles the crowd with dunks, blocks, and sheer emotion, but just as often he's not pushing hard to run up the court, attacking the glass, boxing out, or playing solid man defense.
Tyrus's ability to perform next to Rose requires him to improve considerably in skills or effort. Either one will do, because if Tyrus played at a high energy level all the time then he'd be alone at the basket for an ally-oop all the time. If Rose can't get him the ball there, then blame Rose, but at least get into position. If Tyrus could develop a more consistent jumper to become a pick and roll threat, that'd work just as well as pressure opposing defenses.
As it stands, Tyrus needs to break out in a big way to have any shot of remaining with the Bulls. That may not be in the cards in any situation other than him becoming a superstar, and at this point, he may not want it to be in the cards anyway after three frustrating seasons where he hasn't seen eye to eye with the coaching staff about his usage.
Joakim Noah: There are probably three things that could stop Noah from being a long term fit in Chicago. He plays himself into a situation where another team offers him an unreasonably large contract that Chicago won't match, unlikely given that teams typically only overpay scorers. He spends more time smoking weed than lifting weights. He gets some type of debilitating injury.
Anything else, and Noah's your Chicago Bulls starting center for the next 5-6 years. He has the potential to give a team everything a non-star center can give; man defense, help defense, rebounding, hustle, post passing, and on court leadership. The only thing missing is some semblance of offensive game which might make him a max player even if he only chipped in 18 points a game.
John Salmons: Salmons three point shooting is a plus next to Rose, and his contract price makes him fit nicely into the salary structure for as long as he's here given what tremendous value he provides for the money being paid. On the downside he's a ball stopper, and doesn't defend well. He's also approaching the age where his game is going to fall off a cliff while requiring a new deal.
Salmons is a great fit for any team if the price is right. At the MLE or less he can be a nice asset due to his ability to create efficient offense on his own. His inability to fit well into a system of ball movement or defend his position adequately limits his value though.
The likeliness of Salmons remaining with the Bulls long term depends largely on whether he opts out of his contract or not. If he opts in, then the Bulls will spend cap space in 2010 and can sign Salmons with bird rights in 2011. If he opts out, the bulls will direct their cap space elsewhere.
He's not really a good fit next to Rose in terms of how his abilities play off of Rose, but he is a good fit in that his ability to work on his own will remove pressure from Rose and allow the Bulls to have another creator on the floor in clutch moments or while Rose is resting.
Brad Miller: He helps the team for as long as he stays healthy and his body doesn't completely betray him. He's the only one who can set good picks for Rose and then hit an open jumper. He's clearly not a long term solution at this point and would only return at the league minimum if at all next season.
Jannero Pargo: He may provide nice spot up shooting while Rose drives, but he's a one year stop gap solution.
Johnson/Gibson: It's tempting to write a big thing up about how they fit next to Rose, but after watching summer league I question whether Gibson belongs in the NBA, and Johnson's fit will depend entirely on how his game develops. However, I've learned never to take too much out of summer league play, and both have years to improve their games.