With fans preparing for the upcoming NBA season, let's further analyze each Chicago Bull to gauge what kind of impact they could have as the team looks to reach the next level. You can also check out the player previews for Omer Asik, C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson, Brian Scalabrine, John Lucas III, Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah, Rip Hamilton and Carlos Boozer.
Player: Derrick Rose (G)
Salary: $5,629,082 (two missed paychecks in November are taken into account). In a formality, he signed a five-year, $94.8 million contract extension on Wednesday. The max deal starts next season and will keep him in a Bulls uniform through the 2016-17 campaign.
How did he perform last season?: At an elite level. After Rose rhetorically asked reporters during last September's media day festivities why he couldn't win the NBA MVP award, he became the youngest MVP in league history at the age of 22 as the Bulls won a league-high 62 regular-season games. Accounting for nearly 50 percent of the team's offensive output, he appeared in his second consecutive All-Star game, this time as a starter. With front-court starters Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah missing large chunks of the regular season, Rose accounted for nearly 50 percent of the team's offensive output. He improved as a leader, stepping up vocally and setting a good example for teammates, which started with his commitment to coach Tom Thibodeau's schemes -- on offense and, most importantly, defense. The Bulls' winning formula was clear: play rugged defense for 48 minutes and let Rose orchestrate the offense, and if the game was tight down the stretch, he would, for the most part, find a way to close it out for Chicago.
In the postseason, Rose averaged 28.7 points through the Eastern Conference semifinals as the Bulls eliminated the Indiana Pacers in five games and the Atlanta Hawks in six. However, he suffered a left ankle sprain against the Pacers in the first round and didn't appear to fully recover from it. Following a hard-earned 28 points against the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the East finals, Rose struggled to find his shooting rhythm, hitting just 32-for-98 from the field in the series' final four games. He averaged 23.4 points on 35 percent shooting during the Bulls' five-game series defeat. Unfortunately for the Bulls, Rose was not able to will the team to victories the way he had been able to in the regular season and against the Pacers and Hawks in the first two rounds.
Areas for improvement: Rose admitted this summer that his "conditioning wasn't up to par at the end of the [2010-11] season." As expected, the 6-foot-3 point guard spent a lot of time in the gym during the prolonged offseason and appears to be in top shape. With a deep playoff run under his belt, Rose should be better prepared to deal with the grind this time around. In addition, he has worked hard to improve his post-up game. While Rose is an excellent finisher, he must continue to make strides on his shooting stroke. He shot a paltry 7-for-30 (23.3 percent) from three-point range in the East finals last spring.
Expectations for 2011-12 season: Bulls fans can pencil Rose in as the starting point guard for the Eastern Conference in the 2012 All-Star game in Orlando. At the age of 23, he should keep improving on both ends of the court. Plenty of NBA followers are counting Rose out of the MVP discussion. Although, the award is the farthest thing from his mind. Rose has repeatedly said his only goal is to win an NBA championship. If the Bulls are going to get past the Heat in a potential playoff rematch, Rose will most likely have to be the best player on the court over the course of the series, which is a tall order given the fact that he would share the court with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. The guess here is that Rose -- who has shown durability in his NBA career, and will need to again because of the compressed 66-game season -- averages about 23 points and 8.5 assists per game. Rip Hamilton, the team's newest addition, is expected to help the rest of the supporting cast shoulder some of the scoring burden. But make no mistake: The Bulls will go as far as Rose will lead them.
"For sure, knowing that we have a young group of guys that's willing to put in work just to win," Rose said on Wednesday when asked about the Bulls' chances of winning a title in 2011-12. "I always say that we just need winners. We have one thing on our mind, and that's to win a championship."