Staying healthy during a condensed 66-game schedule will be the biggest challenge for Joakim Noah.
Salary: $12 million (Noah starts a new five-year deal worth close to $60 million this season.)
Role for Bulls in 2011-'12: The defensive anchor. Sure, the Bulls would love for Noah to expand his offensive game and expect him to take another small step in that direction this year, but they need him to continue to be a huge defensive presence down low for the Bulls. Most of all, they need the young center to stay healthy. Noah has missed 52 games over the past two seasons because of various injuries. If he doesn't stay healthy this season he is going to have a hard time fighting the "injury prone" tag throughout the rest of his career.
What happened this summer?: As usual, Noah traveled all over the world. He spent a chunk of time playing for Team France in the European Championships and was quite proud of the fact his country qualified for the 2012 Olympics. He also spent some time in Southern California training with Derrick Rose and his personal trainer/friend, Alex Perris.
Best-case scenario: Noah stays healthy and finds a way to play better with Carlos Boozer, especially on the defensive end. Noah returns to the form he found at the beginning of last season when he averaged almost 15 points and 13 rebounds a game. Noah makes his first All-Star appearance and leads the Bulls to a title. Noah seems very confident his team will grow from its loss in the Eastern Conference finals last season. "We've experienced a lot when you talk about what we did last year," he said recently. "Coach [Thibodeau] always talks about going through the fire together, and I think we did that last year, and I think it's going to help us. You learn from your experiences, good and bad, and that's what makes your unit stronger. At the same time, last year was last year. We're just staying focused on a good training camp and that's really it."
Worst-case scenario: Noah gets hurt -- again -- and can't be the player the Bulls need him to be. He struggles to find his confidence after returning from another injury and can't play to the level he wants to in the postseason.
Bottom line: Noah must find some way to stay healthy. He knows there is a lot of pressure on him to produce this season, especially because of the contract extension which kicks in this year. He says he feels great and is ready to help the Bulls win a title. If he does that, he will continue to be one of the most beloved athletes in the city. If he gets hurt again, that love may start to wane a little this season.