2012-13 salary: $11,300,000 | Age: 28 | Season stats: 11.9 ppg, 11.1 rpg
Season recap: Noah spent the early part of the season playing about 40 minutes a night and worked his way into the first All-Star berth of his career. Without Derrick Rose on the floor, Noah elevated his game on several levels and played the role of leader more than ever. His year changed at the beginning of February when the plantar fasciitis in his foot crept up again and he had to miss three games. He tried to play through the injury, but admitted later that he probably shouldn't have been playing at the time. Noah gritted his way through the postseason on one foot -- delivering one of the best performances by a Bulls center of all time in Game 7 against Brooklyn in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Season lowlight: The last two months of the regular season were tough for the big man because of the injury but as far as a specific game, Noah would probably like to forget Game 5 against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. He scored just three points and had nine rebounds in 42 minutes.
Final grades: Regular season: B+ Postseason: B
Notes: Noah is in the midst of a team-friendly contract and has become one of the most popular athletes in the city. His teammates and coaches love his drive and his ability to will them emotionally. The problem for Noah is that he has dealt with a serious injury almost every season. He knows he must find a way to cure the plantar fasciitis that has plagued him recently or else it could derail his time in Chicago.
Quotes: "We're a team of fighters," Noah said after the Bulls' 95-92 loss in Game 6 to the Nets. "We keep getting punched in the face but we fight back. I'm proud of this team and we're going to go into a hostile environment in Brooklyn and we're going to win."
What's next?: Noah will spend the summer working with personal trainer Alex Perris as they continue to try and find ways to get his feet back in working order for next season. Noah proved to be in good shape for all the minutes he played, but he must find a way to make a mid-range jumper more consistently. He will have plenty of looks with Rose expected to be back on the floor -- he just has to take advantage of those chances.
"Leave him alone," Jackson said on "Mike & Mike in the Morning" on ESPN Radio. "This is a guy who hopefully ... still has another 10 years to play. Let's not put him in under duress that may not be the right time.
2012-13 salary: $2,155,811 | Age: 27 | Season stats: 8.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg
Season recap: Playing without Omer Asik for the first time in two seasons, Gibson struggled to replicate his success over the first couple months of the year. After signing an extension on opening night, the happy-go-lucky forward admitted that he was pressing a little while trying to live up to the new deal. Gibson started playing better midway through the season but a sprained MCL put him out of action for about a month, and he struggled to find a rhythm after that. His numbers ended up being about the same as his career average but this was his most up-and-down season to date for several reasons.
Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer out because of injuries, Gibson was pressed into 45 minutes of action in a Feb. 2 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. He responded with 19 points and 19 rebounds in the second night of a back-to-back.
Season lowlight: Gibson played just eight minutes and scored two points in a Game 5 loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Final grades: Regular season: C. Postseason: C
Notes: Gibson comes into next season with the expectations that come with a new deal. Over the next four years he has the ability to earn almost $40 million with his incentives in his new deal. He remains an integral part of the Bulls' bench but he must develop a more consistent outside shot to be more of a factor next season.
Quotes: "You can say a lot of different things," Gibson said of his early struggles back in early December. "Maybe the extension, maybe this new group of guys. All I have to focus on is figuring out ways to help the team. My job is to go out there and (provide) more ... I have to just do more on the rebounding, playing more defense, no matter how many minutes I get, if it goes from 17 or if I get 30 minutes a game (my job) is to always be ready and be focused and take advantage of it and just play to my strengths, just have fun."
What's next?: Gibson said after Game 5 in Miami that he was looking forward to working out with Derrick Rose over the summer in California. He has to get his knee back in order and feel confident on it heading into next season. Gibson's defense continues to be his strong suit as a player; it's his offense that he needs to work on, specifically post moves and jump shots, in order to take the next step in his development.
2012-13 salary: $1,066,920 | Age: 23 | Season stats: 8.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg
Season recap: After struggling to find a consistent place in Tom Thibodeau's rotation for the first couple months of his second season, Butler flourished toward the middle of January when Luol Deng went down with a hamstring injury. By the end of the season, Butler was being counted on to play 48 minutes a night and be a defensive presence for a Bulls team that advanced to the second round of the playoffs. In a short span, Butler has become revered in Chicago for his work ethic and has quickly become an integral part of the organization's future. He has worked hard on his jump shot over the past year and has become much more consistent from beyond the arc. He is also one of the most solid defenders on the team and is routinely counted on to slow down the other team's best player, especially when Deng is on the mend.
Season lowlight: Butler scored just four points and missed two crucial free throws in the waning seconds in a loss to the Dallas Mavericks on March 31. He was just 1-for-8 from the field in 44 minutes.
Final grades: Regular Season: B Postseason: B+
Notes: The Bulls don't want to move Butler, especially given that he has a couple more years on his rookie deal before an extension is likely hammered out, but he has become one of the team's most valuable assets. The Bulls don't want to move him but they would if it was part of a package that brought another star to Chicago.
Quotes: "It brings a smile to my face, obviously," Butler said in April of being a possible two-guard of the future. "But I try not to get too caught up in the future because it's not promised. You never know what could happen. Right now I live for the moment and I praise every moment that I'm given because it's a blessing. But knowing that they want me to be here alongside Derrick (Rose), (Deng) and all these other guys, that makes me smile."
What's next?: Butler has to continue to work on his jump shot and become more consistent from the outside. His teammates and coaches love him because of his work ethic. If he wants to improve his game he'll have to live in the gym again this summer and try to make the next step in his progression.
The idea of trading Deng would have seemed preposterous just a few months ago, but then Deng got injured and Jimmy Butler stepped in to fill his role. In many ways, Butler is a Deng clone -- just younger. Butler is a solid defender who has the ability to play heavy minutes night after night and his offense continues to get better over time. Obviously, Deng is a two-time All-Star and his offensive game is much more polished than Butler's, but Deng is 28 years old, he's dealt with several major health scares recently and he may have to have surgery to fix his ailing wrist this summer. Most importantly, Deng is heading into the final year of his deal worth more than $13 million. Butler will be heading into the third year of a team-friendly rookie contract that has him locked up for a couple of more years for a fraction of Deng's salary. He is the perfect type of player to build around because he is young, cheap and only getting better.
"The coaching staff is going to have to dial down a little bit during the regular season," King said Thursday on "The Carmen & Jurko Show" on ESPN 1000. "Because I think now three years in a row you've seen the Bulls players ... they had the best record the first two years (of coach Tom Thibodeau's tenure), and then at the end of the season they're breaking down.
"That can be attributed to a lot of different things, but I think that's extended minutes. I think they're going to have to dial back on playing time on some of these guys, Luol Deng, your veteran players, Joakim Noah, playing 44, 45 minutes a night, you just can't do that."
Deng led the league during the regular season at 44.8 minutes per game. He has a wrist injury and missed the Eastern Conference semifinals after complications arose from a spinal tap designed to detect spinal meningitis.
Noah was 43rd in the league at 34.1 mpg and has dealt with plantar fasciitis throughout the season.
The theme already started in earnest Thursday, one day after the team's season ended with an Eastern Conference semifinals defeat at the hands of LeBron James and Co.
Coach Tom Thibodeau made that very case a part of his final address to the team at the Berto Center, especially since the Heat eliminated the Bulls from the playoffs two of the past three seasons.
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireTom Thibodeau hopes Marquis Teague can have as productive a summer as Jimmy Butler had last year.
"I'm looking forward to next year. It just depends on who we have coming in. If we have the same guys back that would be great and we would have a strong case for beating them. That's the main thing Thibs mostly said, just get guys back healthy and motivated to make a strong comeback. He believes we can beat them."
Despite free agents like Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, Nazr Mohammed, Vladimir Radmanovic and Daequan Cook, the Bulls will still return a solid starting five. Derrick Rose will be joined by Jimmy Butler in the backcourt, while Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah will line the frontcourt.
"We'll have to see," Thibodeau said when asked if the Bulls can overcome the Heat. "We have a lot of work to do to do with that. Miami, you have to give them a lot of credit. They are the defending champion, they are playing at a high level, and it takes a big-time commitment to beat them."
Which leads to another theme of Thibodeau's final address to the team. This summer will play as crucial of a role as any in next year's success.
"Jimmy, I thought, had a terrific year and it started last summer," Thibodeau said. "His commitment to work and improvement was special. Actually, I spoke to him for a while, and he's already talking about this summer and what he wants to do, and he'll be back here shortly. He'll take a brief vacation. You just love his attitude and approach."
Thibodeau hopes that the next young player to take advantage of the offseason and make himself productive the following year is guard Marquis Teague, who is scheduled to participate in the summer league.
Perhaps good health and improved youngsters will give the Bulls what it finally takes to get past the Heat, because it will take more than they had this season. Thibodeau, though, still wasn't backing off his claim that his team still had enough to beat the defending champs, even shorthanded.
"As I said, I wish we could have played a little better in this series," Thibodeau said. "I thought [Wednesday] night's game was very winnable, couldn't close it out. I thought we played well in Game 3, couldn't win that one, but it gives us something to work toward."
Rose and Joakim Noah had permission to skip coach Tom Thibodeau's final meeting and both reportedly remained in Florida.
Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsTom Thibodeau hopes surgery won't be necessary for Joakim Noah, who was plagued with plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
Coach Tom Thibodeau seemed most concerned with the health of Noah and Deng. Asked if Noah would need surgery for plantar fasciitis that has affected both of his feet since coming into the league, Thibodeau said that route hasn't been determined.
"Obviously, we'd like to avoid the surgery," Thibodeau said. "He has responded a lot better. He has found something that has worked. Hopefully the surgery won't be necessary."
As for Deng, who was never able to get completely healthy after the spinal tap before the final series of the season against the Miami Heat, rest will be the key.
"He's actually feeling better," Thibodeau said. "But he's de-conditioned. It was a very unusual circumstance. We have to make sure that he's completely healthy."
In addition, Taj Gibson will have a knee and ankle injury checked out as the summer moves forward.
It all made for Thibodeau's toughest coaching challenge.
"I think every year you're faced with new and different challenges," Thibideau said. "The Derrick part, we had an opportunity to prepare for. We had no idea going into the season what would happen. Would we get him back after the break? Would he miss the whole year? We knew that was a possibility. You hope for the best and plan for the worst. There were a number of other injuries we had to deal with. I loved the fight in the team."
Please don't touch or do anything that would have any significant impact on this team.
We all know that it's almost by nature that general managers make serious changes or drastically "tweak" their teams in the offseason if they don't win their last game, but just once let this team be the exception to that rule. Gar, you've gotta let this one ride.
Nick Friedell grades the Bulls, and ESPN Chicago gives you a chance to vote on which players you would keep, and which you would let go.
The Bulls' core, led by a presumably healthy Derrick Rose, will be largely intact barring a major trade this summer. The same cannot be said about the bench. With that in mind, let's take a quick look at the Bulls roster and see who will likely be returning next year. And decide for yourself with our Take Him or Trash Him.
Derrick Rose: After sitting out the entire season as he recovers from a torn ACL, the 24-year-old superstar will have a lot of pressure on him to produce. As long as he is mentally ready to go, he should be fine. He's also the only untouchable on this roster.
Joakim Noah: The emotional big man enters into the third year of his $60 million contract. He played at an All-Star level this year but he knows he must find a way to get his foot problems in order.
Rose is a former MVP who contributes more than scoring and assists, although added scoring alone would have made a difference. But he also creates better spacing for his teammates, drawing in defenders with penetration and freeing up shooters. He's a better on-ball defender than Nate Robinson. He's also an inspirational leader, and while motivation or inspiration wasn't a problem for the Bulls, the presence of Rose would have added another element.
Tom Thibodeau knew this, which is why he consistently maintained it wouldn't have been be a problem integrating Rose into the lineup after such a long absence.
Can anyone argue Rose wouldn't have been an upgrade over 20-year-old rookie Marquis Teague, who gained valuable experience this postseason and has flashed moments of potential after sitting out most of the regular season?
Rose would not have been just another warm body while Kirk Hinrich was out with a calf injury, Luol Deng recovered from an illness and complications from a spinal tap and Rip Hamilton was glued to the bench.