Bulls player preview: Joakim Noah

Bulls player preview: Joakim Noah

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 and Jimmy Butler.

Player: Joakim Noah (C)

Age: 26
Salary:
$9,658,536 (two missed paychecks in November are taken into account). He starts the first season of a five-year contract worth almost $60 million.

How did he perform last season?: Noah, who had heard his name in trade rumors involving Carmelo Anthony, came out of the gate looking like he was ready to make his first All-Star game. The 6-foot-11 center averaged 16 points and 13.2 rebounds during the first month of the campaign. He scored in double figures in the team's first 18 games. And for the first time in his career, he was shooting -- and knocking down -- the mid-range jumper with consistency. However, a torn ligament in his right thumb in late November caused him to miss 30 games. For the second consecutive year, Noah had been sidelined for a large chunk of the season. Fortunately for the Bulls, they were able to go 22-8 without Noah, thanks in part to reserves Kurt Thomas -- who recently signed with the Portland Trail Blazers -- and Omer Asik. When Noah returned in late February, he admittedly wasn't in great basketball shape and lost the touch on his mid-range shot. The Bulls were supposed to have a major advantage in the paint against the Miami Heat during the Eastern Conference finals, but Noah put up only six points per game on 31.7 percent shooting and was disappointed with his play.

Areas for improvement: The Bulls would love for Noah to have a healthy season, regain the touch on his 12- to 15-foot shot and become more comfortable alongside forward Carlos Boozer. After a slow, foul-plagued start in Friday's preseason opener, Noah picked up his game in the second half and finished with 10 points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes. It appeared that he was still hesitant to shoot the mid-range jumper.

Expectations for 2011-12 season: Bulls fans are banking on Noah to have a more healthy, productive season from start to finish. By all accounts, he worked hard during the prolonged offseason. He has repeatedly said he is hungry to have a big year and would welcome a rematch against the Heat in the playoffs. Plenty of fans are expecting an improved offensive game from Noah, who will be entering the aforementioned lucrative long-term deal. But it's more reasonable to place Noah as a potential Defensive Player of the Year winner. He was in contention for the award a season ago. Barring injury, Noah should average 12-14 points and 11-12 rebounds and play a big role in the Bulls' success on both ends of the court.

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