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Thursday, February 22

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Bulls Mon Jun 25 2012

Big Men Hold Key To Bulls Future

Bulls_200.pngWith the NBA Finals in the rearview mirror, Bulls fans can now stop praying the entire Heat organization comes down with food poisoning and get back to worrying about their own team. And despite the season seeming like an unmitigated disaster, there were some positives that can be pulled from it - most of which coming from the front line.

Carlos Boozer's Improvement

Before you puke, Google my name, and hunt me down to beat me senseless, hear me out. Sure, his points, rebounds, and assists per game fell slightly along with his minutes being trimmed (mainly in the fourth quarter), but if you watched the Bulls every night, you could notice two things. First, Boozer played in every game for the first time in his career. Second, he actually made some strides defensively.

There's no doubt you threw a beer bottle at the television every time Booz fouled a guy taking it to the rack because his feet were stuck in concrete, but it happened far less than it did last year. Also remember that he still hasn't had a full training camp with the Bulls (duffel bag injury first year, lockout this year). Oh - and his player efficiency rating was nearly a point higher than last year. But his improvement was at times overshadowed by ...

Taj Gibson's Rise

If you compare Gibson's stats the last two years, he really didn't seem to make a jump. In fact, he played less minutes and saw his rebounding rate decline. But there's no doubt the Bulls were a different team when he was on the floor, and his sudden rise in fourth quarter playing time was proof. His efficiency rating was nearly 20% higher than it was the year before thanks to his defensive consistency

He won't be a starter as long as Boozer's in town (and he's not going anywhere for the time being), but it's nice to know the Bulls have three guys in the frontcourt (along with Joakim Noah) that are legitimately talented enough start in the NBA. And with the team being without Derrick Rose and Luol Deng for a good chunk of next season, Gibson will need to be even better.

Omer Asik's Ceiling

Asik was another Bulls player who saw his efficiency rate take a step in the right direction this season, but he seemed to regress offensively. You may be asking yourself why this is a positive for the Bulls then? Simple - nobody will overpay for him.

Asik is a restricted free agent this year, and can't be offered more than the mid-level exception of four years starting at a bit more than $5 million per season. Asik is a force defensively (though his foul rate is staggeringly bad), but he has shortcomings that I don't see him improving drastically anytime soon.

Asik will never be a starting-caliber center in the NBA because he doesn't have the stamina to handle 25 minutes a night. His offensive game will never be much because he has stone hands, holds the ball below his waist way too much for a 7-footer, and can't shoot a lick at the free throw line. He's a really solid NBA player, though, and was a key contributor to the Bulls' success the past two seasons, but it's good that everyone knows his value so he doesn't receive a blank check.

The Bulls will need major contributions from all three of these guys to have a shot at a playoff spot next year without their top two players in Rose and Deng. They struck it big with both Gibson and Asik in the draft, and they hope to score just as well in the 2012 edition on Thursday night.

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