The Chicago Bulls roster includes talented guards and forwards, but let's focus on the center position.
Three players—starter Joakim Noah, "super-sub" Taj Gibson and newcomer Pau Gasol—are expected to see time in the middle next season. And it doesn't appear that Nazr Mohammed, who spent the past two seasons as a reserve center, will be re-signed. Sorry, Nazr fans.
Noah, Gibson and Gasol are all quality big men whom every team would want in their lineup. While Noah and Gibson are considered elite defenders, Gasol gets it done on the offensive end of the floor.
With a healthy Derrick Rose around as well as gifted shooters like rookies Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls are ready to contend for a title. However, the team isn't going anywhere without strong contributions from Noah and Co.
Noah is set to enter his eighth season with the Bulls. The University of Florida product has come a long way, going from a solid role player earlier in his career to maybe the league's best center not named Dwight Howard.
Although he isn't capable of scoring 20 a night like Howard or DeMarcus Cousins, Noah is arguably the top all-around big man in the game today. His nickname really needs to be "Mr. Everything."
He was truly remarkable last season, averaging 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and a team-leading 5.4 assists per game. A center leading a team in assists is absolutely mind-blowing.
Actually, he's the first at the position to accomplish such a feat since Hall of Famer David Robinson during the 1993-94 season. Good grief, that was 20 years ago!
Also, Noah took home the Defensive Player of the Year Award, as he helped the Bulls shut down opponents each and every night.
Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal wrote a paragraph about Noah's play on that end of the court:
There was no better defensive player during the 2013-14 season. No one in the NBA is perfect in all three aspects of the less-glamorous end of the court (on-ball defense, off-ball defense and rim protection), but Noah is pretty darn close. Only two things work against him: a non-elite percentage allowed at the rim—largely because he's too busy doing other things—and occasional struggles against spot-up shooters.
Last season, after Rose suffered a torn meniscus and Luol Deng was traded, many believed the Bulls were done. There was no way they could reach the playoffs without two of their best players, right?
Never count out a Tom Thibodeau-coached team that possesses a healthy Noah. The two-time All-Star would transform into an MVP candidate and power his Chicago squad to the Eastern Conference's fourth-best record.
Now that the Bulls roster is insanely deep, don't look for another MVP-caliber season from Noah, as he won't have to carry the team. But, of course, expect him to remain one of the club's most important players.
Gibson was supposed to become Chicago's starting power forward, replacing Carlos Boozer, who was waived via the amnesty provision. However, Gasol will likely get that job with Gibson staying on the bench as the sixth man.
Although he'll see time at power forward, Gibson should also receive plenty of minutes at center backing up Noah.
Bulking up and improving his offensive game last summer, the Brooklyn native had a great 2013-14 campaign. He averaged a career-high 13 points per game and finished second to Jamal Crawford in voting for the Sixth Man of the Year Award.
And his 18.2 points per game led the Bulls during their disappointing playoff series with the Washington Wizards.
Standing at just 6'9", Gibson isn't a traditional NBA center by any stretch of the imagination. Yet he flourishes at the position because of his ability to put the clamps down on opponents with his outstanding defense.
Thibodeau made some kind remarks concerning Gibson's game, via Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:
The things that he does for us are all team-oriented. He plays great defense, challenges shots, guards everybody, runs the floor hard, sets great screens, does his job, gets deep post position. When the second guy comes, he makes the play. He has gotten comfortable in pick-and-roll situations.
Gibson's name was mentioned in trade rumors earlier this offseason as part of a package to acquire Kevin Love. Good thing the Bulls wound up keeping him, as giving up such a valuable piece could've eventually haunted the team.
Okay, if Gasol is the Bulls' starting power forward, why mention him in a "center position" article? Well, at times, he can slide over to the 5 when Noah is on the bench taking a breather. He may pick up a few minutes a night at center playing alongside a reserve power forward such as Gibson or Mirotic.
Failing to land Carmelo Anthony or Love, Gasol was an excellent Plan B signing for the Bulls this offseason. Like Noah, he's an exceptional passer and should make his new teammates better.
Plus, he's perhaps the team's best low-post scoring threat since Elton Brand during the early 2000s. Now 34 years old, Gasol isn't the big-time star that he used to be, but he can still help this new-look Bulls team, whether it's by putting the ball in the hoop or finding open teammates.
Look for Thibodeau to use him at center for roughly eight minutes a night.
All stats are from Basketball-Reference.com.