Over the next few weeks, we'll take a closer look at each player on the Bulls roster and see where they fit in for the future. Let's take a look at one of the most talkative, and talked about, players on this team ...
2010-11 salary: $3,128,536
Season recap: Up and down. For the first month of the season, Noah played the best basketball of his career. He was in the best shape of his life and racked up a double-double almost every night. But he tore a ligament in his thumb in November and was never the same. After having surgery in mid-December, he was never quite the same when he returned after the All-Star break. He and Carlos Boozer never meshed particularly well together on the floor, and Noah became frustrated at the end of the year when he couldn't play the way he had earlier in the season. He was the first one to admit after the Eastern Conference finals that he must play better for the Bulls to win a championship.
Season highlight: Noah scored in double figures in every game he played in the first month of the season and was dominant on the glass. He averaged 16 points and 15 rebounds in October/November. Had he not gotten hurt, Noah probably would have been on his way to the first All-Star berth of his career.
Season lowlight: The fourth quarter of Game 5 against the Heat. Noah sat on the bench and watched it all. Veteran big man Kurt Thomas played the final 12 minutes as Noah watched. Noah had just five points and eight rebounds in the game.
Final grades: Regular season -- B- | Postseason -- C-
Notes: Noah's new contract kicks in after the lockout, and he will face even more scrutiny to produce when it does. He is scheduled to make almost $60 million over the next five years and there are two questions he must overcome in the coming months in order to prove his doubters wrong. First, he must fight the tag that he is injury-prone. He missed large chunks of the past two seasons (plantar fasciitis and thumb surgery). Secondly, he must show his critics that he is well-rounded enough to be the starting center on a championship caliber team. He is solid defensively and as a rebounder, but he still has not developed much of an offensive game. He shot a jumper (the "tornado" as he calls it) with confidence early in the year, but didn't take it much after he got hurt. He is aware of his offensive shortcomings and acknowledged that he must work over the summer to improve his game.
What's next?: Noah will spend a large part of his summer working with trainer and close friend Alex Perris to improve his overall conditioning. It's a sure bet he will be back in the gym working on his post moves as well. Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recently told ESPN 1000's "Waddle and Silvy" that he thought Noah could be a "monster" if he developed offensively. It will be interesting to see who Noah decides to work with and how the progression goes. He is still a huge piece of the Bulls' puzzle, but if he doesn't play better in the big games, a faction of the fan base may start to turn on him.