Throughout Chicago Bulls history, several talented players have occupied the center position. Hall of Famer Artis Gilmore, Tom Boerwinkle (cool name by the way), Bill Cartwright and Dave Corzine all handled the paint admirably.
Today, Joakim Noah serves as the "Man in the Middle." He and Nazr Mohammed are the only two centers on Chicago's current roster.
The Bulls were expected to take a center in this year's draft. Big men prospects, such as Louisville's Gorgui Dieng, Duke's Mason Plumlee and France's Rudy Gobert, were available, however, the Bulls passed them up in favor of New Mexico swingman Tony Snell.
Chicago may still add a third center to the roster. Free agents Cole Aldrich and Chris Wilcox would both be nice, inexpensive pickups.
In the meantime, the Bulls will have to make do with the Noah-Mohammed combination. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each player? And what are their expectations for the upcoming 2013-14 season?
Starter: Joakim Noah
The Bulls selected Noah with the seventh overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft. That has proven to be one of the best decisions in franchise history, no doubt about it. A first-time All-Star last season, Noah is widely considered a top-five center in the league as well as Chicago's emotional leader.
Noah brings elite defense to the table. According to basketballreference.com, his defensive rating (98.6) ranked seventh in the league last season, and his defensive win shares (4.7) were good for 11th-best.
The former Florida Gator was also the Association's sixth-best shot-blocker, averaging a career-high 2.1 per game. During a February contest versus the Philadelphia 76ers, Noah erased a ridiculous eleven shots. And he recorded seven blocks against the Denver Nuggets back in March.
2012-13 was easily the best season of Noah's career. He reached career-highs in various categories, including scoring (11.9 points per game) and rebounds (11.1).
He also dished out four assists per contest, which is truly amazing for a 6'11" center. With starting point guard Derrick Rose sidelined all season long (ACL), Noah obviously stepped up in terms of the offense.
Noah is a phenomenal player. It's just too bad he struggles to stay healthy. He has missed 80 games during his six-year career, including 16 last season. The Bulls are going to need him if they want to win it all in 2014.
Look for Noah to have a stellar 2014 campaign, earning a spot on his second straight All-Star team. Don't be surprised to see roughly 11 points, 12 boards, two blocks and two assists per game.
Primary Backup: Nazr Mohammed
The Bulls made the right call by re-signing Mohammed this summer. Although some fans would rather have Samuel Dalembert or Chris "Birdman" Andersen on the roster, Mohammed is a solid backup for Noah.
Mohammed averaged 2.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game last season. While those numbers aren't very spectacular, his stats per 36 minutes (8.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks) are a lot more impressive.
He didn't play much during the first part of last season. However, he was given a chance later on, filling in for the injured Noah.
Every team needs an enforcer, and that's apparently what Mohammed is for the Bulls. Just ask LeBron James. During Game 3 of Chicago's playoff series with the Miami Heat this past season, Mohammed shoved James to the floor, completely losing his cool. Check it out here.
It sort of looked like a Detroit "Bad Boy" Pistons play from back in the day.
When Mohammed isn't tossing around four-time MVPs, he's playing hard-nosed defense off the bench. You're automatically a favorite of Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau if you play D. Coach Thibs loves defense, as every Bulls fan knows.
Perhaps Mohammed's biggest weakness is field-goal shooting. The Chicago native shot just 36.7 percent from the floor last season.
Noah played a whopping 36.8 minutes per game last season. It would be ideal if those minutes were reduced a great deal, keeping him fresh for the playoffs. If the Bulls do not sign another big man, Mohammed will have to play quality basketball, giving Noah a chance to get more breathers.
Expect Mohammed's 2013-14 stats to be about the same as last season's. Averages of 2.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game sound realistic.