Joakim Noah was arguably Chicagos best performer in 2011-12, averaging 10.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 30.4 minutes. He played in 64 games, and while his numbers were slightly down from last year, it was more a product of Omer Asiks improvement than anything Noah didnt do. A sprained ankle cut his 2012 playoff run short, but Noah will need to shoulder quite the scoring load with Derrick Rose and Luol Deng out to start next season.
Asiks numbers were up from last year, averaging 5.3 rebounds per game in 14 minutes per game. The 25-year-old Asik has shown enough to apparently make him priority No. 1 this off-season for upper management, and he looks to be a significant part of the Bulls long-term future.
Bulls history: Since 2000, the Bulls have made 29 draft selections. They have spent six of those selections on centers: 2000: Chris Mihm (Texas), Dalibor Bagaric (Croatia), Jake Voskuhl (Connecticut); 2001: Eddy Curry (Thornwood H.S.); 2007: Joakim Noah (Florida), Aaron Gray (Pittsburgh)
What the Bulls need in a center
The Bulls have ranked first, second and first in rebounding the last three seasons, respectively, in large part due to progression of Noah. Asik averaged 5.3 rebounds in 14 minutes per game, so its no secret the Bulls love their rebounding bigs. Any rebounder in Chicago will need to get after it on the glass, and with Gibson, Boozer and Noah handling the scoring load in the paint, any points from another center would be an added bonus.
Top 11 2012 Draft prospects
1. Andre Drummond, Connecticut Work ethic is a real question with the 6-foot-11 freshman, but he has plenty of upside at just 19 years old that should keep him in the lottery.
2. Tyler Zeller, North Carolina The most NBA-ready center has solid range and is an above average defender that could hear his name called in the top-10, potentially paired up with Anthony Davis in New Orleans.
3. Meyers Leonard, Illinois Leonard will need a few years to get ready at the next level, but when hes ready he has the skills to become a very solid pro.
4. Fab Melo, Syracuse Melo did not start playing basketball until the ninth grade so hes raw, but he was an elite shot blocker in his two years at Syracuse and could be a valuable project with a solid long-term future in the NBA.
5. Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt The 7-foot senior is a tough, back-to-the-basket defender who needs work on his offensive game, but could serve well as a back-up in the NBA.
6. Kyle OQuinn, Norfolk State Last Marchs NCAA Tournament hero in a win over then-No. 3 Missouri, OQuinn is strong inside and an impressive rebounder.
7. Henry Sims, Georgetown Sims was a classic Georgetown center: range to 18 feet, an excellent passer and a below-average rebounder. He could stick as a second rounder.
8. Garrett Stutz, Wichita State Stutz made significant improvement his senior season, but he doesnt have great athleticism and struggles inside at times.
9. Robert Sacre, Gonzaga The Bulldogs senior leader was a superb defender and shot blocker, but he needs work on his offensive game to make it at the next level.
10. Bernard James, Florida State At 27 years old, James would be ready to play right away but lacks upside that rightfully causes his draft stock to take a tumble.
11. Justin Hamilton, LSU Hamilton is not an elite athlete, but he is well-seasoned around the basket and could be a nice second unit scorer in the right system.
Much of what the Bulls do or not do at the center position on Thursday will stem on how they believe Omer Asiks contract situation will play out. Management does not have the luxury of knowing what interest Asik will garner in free agency, but Gar Forman insists the team will match it.
If thats the case, center is the least of the Bulls worries on Thursday. But, again, if Forman is also insistent on taking the best player available, Melo or Ezeli could be options, depending on where the Bulls have each on their draft board. Still, it would be surprising to see the Bulls go center with the needs of an outside shooter so prevalent.
If the Bulls do trade into the lottery via a trade of Joakim Noah -- a rumor that has been floated around -- Asik would almost certainly be back. The Bulls would then have to address a back-up center position, potentially in the lottery they trade up to but more likely in free agency.