Chicago Bulls: Roster breakdowns
Role for Bulls in 2011-'12: Asik is expected to improve as the Bulls' backup center. The organization believes he still has a lot of room to improve on the floor and management expects him to make another step in his progression this season. Asik is a large insurance policy the Bulls can cash if Joakim Noah goes down with another injury this year.
What happened this summer?: Asik spent the first portion of the summer recovering from the broken fibula he suffered against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. After recovering, the seven-footer played for Team Turkey in the European Championships. In the process, he clearly added some muscle, as evidenced by his bulked up physique.
Best-case scenario: Already considered one of the best defensive players on the team, Asik becomes more of an offensive threat and gives Tom Thibodeau yet another option off the bench.
"He says he's pain free," Thibodeau said after Friday night's win over the Indiana Pacers. "He's not in great shape yet. And normally he is in great shape. That's who he is. He's a great worker, but he had to stay off the foot for a while. He says physically he feels fine. He just has to get his conditioning up."
Worst-case scenario: Asik struggles to stay on the floor because of injury issues and continues to have issues with foul trouble. He doesn't improve and loses a lot of the trade value the Bulls believe he has.
Bottom line: Like Taj Gibson, Asik is going to be looking for a contract extension at the end of the season. If he continues to improve and be a defensive force, he will get one. If he develops any kind of offensive game, he will be once of the most valued young trade chips in the league.
Role for Bulls in 2011-'12: Gibson is going to be asked to do exactly what he did last season. He served as a defensive anchor for Tom Thibodeau's second unit and played his role extremely well throughout the year, averaging seven points and six rebounds a game.
What happened this summer?: Gibson spent a lot of time training with fellow NBA players in Los Angeles. He appears to have come back in even better shape this season and is clearly maturing as a player. He obviously spent a lot of time working on his low-post game, among other things.
"I just want to be patient," Gibson said, after Friday night's preseason win over the Pacers. "Even if it's not going your way, just have patience, push through. Try to rebound, try to play solid defense. And the main thing is to just have confidence. I got more and more confidence as the game went on."
Best-case scenario: Gibson becomes even more of an offensive threat to go along with his defensive prowess. He also serves as a solid insurance policy in case Carlos Boozer goes down with an injury for an extended period of time.
Worst-case scenario: Gibson has been extremely durable over his first two seasons in the league, missing just two games total. He has struggled with various nagging injuries throughout his short career though. If he goes down for an extended amount of time, the Bulls will struggle to replace his consistency.
Bottom line: Gibson is going to want a contract extension in the near future. He really seems to like it in Chicago, but if he becomes a consistent double double threat, there will most likely be some team which will offer him a big contract and a starting role. He doesn't want to leave Chicago, but he may be the Bulls' best trade bait if they decide to make a deal later in the season.