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.
Player: Omer Asik (C)
Salary: $1,495,060 (two missed paychecks in November are taken into account). Unless he accepts the Bulls' qualifying offer of $2.32 million, he will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
How did he perform last season?: Asik did exactly what you would have wanted from a rookie center who averaged 12 minutes a game. He provided an interior presence on defense and, on the other end, essentially tried to dunk anytime he was near the basket. Coach Tom Thibodeau raved about his defense and rebounding all season -- believing the Turkish big man will only get better on both ends of the court as he gains more experience. In his most impressive performance, he dropped five points, 13 rebounds and two blocks against the league's top center, Dwight Howard, and the Orlando Magic on February 3, a night when starting center Joakim Noah scored just two points and played 17 minutes while battling foul trouble. Games such as that one is the reason why the Bulls had the confidence to keep Asik rather than dealing him for a shooting guard like Courtney Lee or O.J. Mayo at the trade deadline.
Asik's season was cut short due to the fractured left fibula he suffered in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. He attempted to play in Game 4 but lasted only two minutes and was ruled out of Game 5. Still, before the injury, he was sound on the defensive end against the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks, although he was held scoreless in 11 of 15 postseason contests.
Areas for improvement: It was clear last season that the seven-footer lacked a go-to move or two when he received chances down low, which came few and far between. In addition, after hearing about how much Asik struggled at the free throw line when he played in Turkey, Bulls fans got a first-hand look at his woes from the charity stripe, where he shot a paltry 50 percent.
Expectations for 2011-12 season: After averaging nine points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks for the Turkish national team this summer, Asik should have plenty of confidence heading into the new season. Whether or not the Bulls re-sign vetern center Kurt Thomas, Asik will most likely see increased minutes and slightly improve on last season's averages of 2.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. Thibodeau will depend on him to remain the defensive anchor for the reserves, dubbed the "Bench Mob." But he could get chances to start and play big minutes considering that Noah has missed large chunks of the past two seasons, including 34 games in 2010-11. Nevertheless, if the Bulls two-guard situation continues to be a question mark this season, and general manager Gar Forman feels he can address it through a deal, expect to hear more trade rumors involving Asik. Although, management will have a hard time trading him if he develops the way they expect in his second season.