With the “retooling” moves that the Bulls front office has made in recent weeks to clear cap space for the 2014-2015 season, its reasonable to take a look at how the franchise may continue to tweak things in order to build the best contender possible around superstar Derrick Rose.
With Deng gone and Boozer almost certain to be on his way out under the amnesty provision, the Bulls are obviously planning for the future now. Will the Bulls move Gibson next? Between Rose, Noah, Gibson, Dunleavy, Snell, Butler and Teague, the Bulls are on the hook for roughly $39.7 million in salary for next season. With the 2014-2015 salary cap projected to be set around $62.1 million, the Bulls look to have around $22.4 million to play with in free agency. Remove Gibson’s salary and you’re looking at over $30 million that the Bulls would be able to spend to add pieces.
The biggest reason that the Bulls may look to move Gibson, either this season or before the beginning of the next, is Nikola Mirotic. The twenty-two year old is currently under contract with Real Madrid, and has been one of the shining stars of European basketball. The Bulls hold his draft rights, and will certainly be looking to bring him over as soon as possible. Mirotic would occupy the starting PF spot, as he provides far more versatility on offense than Gibson does. While the twenty-eight year-old former Trojan has done a great deal to improve his game, having all but copied Carlos Boozer’s somewhat unique jump shot, Mirotic’s vast array of moves, plus his ability to stretch the floor, would see Gibson forced to continue coming off the bench. The talented Euro player is set to make approximately $4.7 million next season if he stays with Real Madrid, so the cost to the Bulls would include buying out that contract as well as whatever they wind up signing him for.
As I discussed in my piece on the Luol Deng trade, Mirotic would immediately give the Bulls one of the most balanced starting line-ups in the league. Gibson is a tremendous asset to Chicago. His defense and work ethic have, like Luol Deng’s, mirrored the hard-nosed approach of coach Tom Thibodeau and the attitude of the city itself. He is a much-beloved player among fans and, in the interest of full disclosure, of yours truly. I have been a huge fan of Taj Gibson since watching him while we were both at USC. A brief anecdote: I once ran into him in the line for Jamba Juice after a particularly tough loss and told him how much I admired his effort and that he had nothing to be ashamed of. Taj thanked me humbly, and apologized that he couldn’t talk because he had physics homework to do. That’s just the kind of guy he is. Self-effacing, hard working, and devoted to doing all the little things (like physics homework) necessary to succeed.
The team would surely miss him, but $8 million is a lot to pay for a backup power forward and Gibson has proven that he is a starting-calibre player in this league. If the Bulls do decide to move him, they will surely find more than a few teams interested in the services of the player who Bulls color commentator Stacey King calls “The Secretary of Defense”.