Feb 4, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) reacts on the court against the Phoenix Suns in the first half at US Airways Center. The Bulls won 101-92. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Season in Review: Taj Gibson

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The 2012-13 season Taj Gibson had was a bit of a disappointment, and it didn’t help that the contract extension he signed came with higher expectations; however, this past season, Gibson proved to be one of the Chicago Bulls’ best and most important players, as he played the best season of his now five-year career.

Pre All-Star Break

Gibson played in all 52 games prior to All-Star weekend, eight of which he was fortunate to start. Despite coming off the bench, he played nearly as many minutes as Carlos Boozer with 29.4 minutes per game while Boozer averaged 29.9 minutes. This is due to the fact that not only did Gibson backup Boozer, but he also backed up Joakim Noah at the center position. Technically speaking, Nazr Mohammed was the backup center, but Gibson still received the primary minutes as the backup center.

In those 29.4 minutes, Gibson also averaged 12.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.5 blocks. He shot 48.4 percent from the field and 72.5 percent from the charity stripe.

As a starter, Gibson saw an increase in playing time, which then led to more production. He averaged a near double-double of 19.3 points and 9.8 rebounds to go along with 1.8 blocks. His free throw shooting took a hit by decreasing to 70.6 percent, but, from the field, he was more efficient at 49.6 percent.

Post All-Star Break

Gibson’s role remained the same as the regular season came to a close: come off the bench to backup Boozer, then backup Noah and, to finish it all off, close the game. He was also pretty consistent with the numbers he produced in the first 52 games regardless of a small decrease in playing time. He shot less efficiently at 47.0 percent, but he was able to increase his scoring and rebounding averages to 13.3 points and 7.1 rebounds. He also maintained his free throw attempt average of 3.4, but his percentage increased from 72.5 percent to 79.6 percent.

Playoffs

As if the regular season success wasn’t enough, Gibson stepped up his game even more come postseason. He led the Bulls in points per game and total points at 18.2 and 91, respectively. In fact, Gibson led both categories by a significant margin, as Jimmy Butler came in second with 13.6 points per game and 68 total points.

He also shot an incredible 56.1 percent on field goals and averaged 2.4 blocks per game, which still ranks fourth best for the postseason. Had it not been for Gibson, the playoffs very well could have been a lot more painful than they were already.

Season Highlight

The month of February treated Gibson well. In 13 games, his averages of 16.9 points and 8.2 rebounds were the highest amongst the other months. He had more efficient months in terms of scoring with a field goal percentage of 46.7 percent, but he had his best month for free throws at 80.0 percent.

Six of those games featured a double-double from Gibson, and he even had back-to-back double-doubles of 15 points and 10 rebounds and 20 points and 10 rebounds. The most impressive of the six double-doubles came during Chicago’s 102-87 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Feb. 6. Gibson led his team with 26 points off of 9-of-23 shooting from the field and 8-for-8 on free throws. Along with that, he also grabbed 13 rebounds to lead all players.

Season Lowlight

There weren’t many disappointing performances from Gibson this season, but the one he had in the Bulls’ 91-86 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats on April 16 has to be one of them. He came off the bench to play 33:37 and went 2-for-10 from the field. He had four points and five rebounds, but managed to outdo both of those with six turnovers.

Overall

Gibson finally had the breakthrough season Bulls fans knew he was capable of having. He averaged a career high in points (13.0 per game and 1,069 total for the regular season) and had a career-high 75.1 percent shooting on free throws. Never before had he scored over 1,000 points in the regular season or averaged double figures for points. His 6.8 rebounds per game were his best since his rookie campaign, and he also played all 82 regular season games for the first time since his rookie season.

Defense remained Gibson’s specialty, but his offense finally developed to the point where he could be relied on to handle scoring and not just acting as a defensive presence. This breakthrough as a bench player also earned him second place in voting for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award. He was snubbed from making either NBA All-Defensive Teams, but he still received 21 total points in the voting for that with two first-place votes.

Final Grade: A

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