Should Chicago Bulls’ Taj Gibson Get a Crack at Starting Next Season?
In a Chicago Bulls season full of injuries that ultimately ended up in bitter disappointment, Taj Gibson was one of the few consistent bright spots throughout. Night in and night out, Gibson endeared himself to fans with his defense and rebounding. He may not be the most talented guy in the world, but he makes up for that with his never-ending motor and toughness.
Gibson is set to become a restricted free agent after next season, but as of right now, he has zero plans to leave Chicago.
“I believe my future is here. Either mid-July or next year (for an extension), just have to be patient and wait and see.” (ESPN Chicago)
Gibson’s agent Mark Bartelstein told ESPNChicago.com that there have been initial conversations regarding an extension for Gibson. It could be a good idea for the Bulls to hammer something out with Taj this offseason, because a strong 2012-13 could drive up his price. If the Bulls were able to extend him for somewhere around the MLE or a bit above, I would consider that a steal.
On the other hand, could the Bulls possibly hesitate to commit long-term to a 27-year-old who has been nothing more than an excellent role player in his career? Could the Bulls want to see more out of Gibson in an expanded role next season? This ultimately could make him a bit more expensive, but perhaps it would help reassure the Bulls that a long-term extension on Gibson would be money well spent.
But for Gibson’s role to expand, Carlos Boozer’s would have to shrink. I’m sure many would be fine with this, as the Gibson/Boozer debate has gotten heated at times over the past couple of years. Almost every night that Boozer stunk up the joint and Gibson came in to bail him out, fans were screaming for Taj to be placed in the starting lineup. These people would get even louder when it would be Gibson finishing off games with Boozer on the bench.
When you look at some of the numbers, they do justify at least giving Gibson more minutes, if not starting him altogether. With Gibson on the court this regular season (the numbers were pretty ugly for both guys in the playoffs), the Bulls posted a 103.7 offensive rating and a 88.6 defensive rating. That’s a whopping net rating of 15.1. With Boozer on the court this season, the Bulls had an offensive rating of 104.7 and a defensive rating of 98.9. That’s a net rating of just 5.8.
Now, while it would be easy to look at this and say Gibson is better, there are obviously other factors that explain the huge difference in these numbers. As a starter, Boozer usually went against the opposition’s top players. And although Gibson is most definitely the superior defender, his numbers were boosted by playing with a defensive minded “Bench Mob” group that feasted on weak second units. However, Gibson did acquit himself nicely when playing those big fourth quarter minutes. In the clutch this season, the Bulls had a 116.8 offensive rating and 91.8 defensive rating with Taj on the floor. So yeah, pretty damn good (the numbers with Boozer were not nearly as good).
Of course, there are several reasons why we likely won’t see a switch made in the starting lineup. One, there’s that huge Boozer contract. And two, the injuries to Derrick Rose and Luol Deng will put offense next season at a premium. Boozer has many faults, but he still is a pretty darn good offensive player. The Bulls will probably look to Boozer to carry the offense for the first few months of the season before Rose and Deng return. As much as I love Gibson, he has never shown the ability to put an offense on his back like Boozer has at times.
So ultimately, barring an injury, we will see Mr. Boozer in the starting lineup for all of next season. But if Gibson’s minutes increase and he continues to play well in a good number of fourth quarters, Bulls fans should be very happy.
Thanks to our friends at Sports Media 101.