Chicago Bulls Profile: Taj Gibson


The Chicago Bulls media day has come and gone and training camp is now underway. Preseason is about to start and the Bulls already may be without two of their starters when the regular season comes around.

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However, Taj Gibson is healthy and ready to go after some people didn’t know when he would be ready after having ankle surgery this offseason. Gibson participated in a full practice a couple of days ago and should be ready for the regular season.

Gibson was Chicago’s second selection, after James Johnson, in the 2009 NBA Draft, but has stuck around and developed into a key bench player for the Bulls. He has become one of the best bench players in the league and is the next Chicago Bulls profile.

NBA Career: 434 GP, 119 GS, 24.7 MPG, 9.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 48.6 FG%, 69.2 FT%

Coming out of USC, Gibson was seen as a defensive force, but people weren’t sure how much of a force he would be on offense. He became a good defensive player down low for the Bulls right away and although his offensive game took some time, it has improved every year.

Gibson has been relatively healthy during his career, especially for Bulls standards. He has played in at least 80 games three times and has never played less than 60 games in a season. He started his career out strong when he was named to the All-NBA Rookie First Team for the 2009-10 season.

Offensively, Gibson doesn’t have any go-to moves down low; a big reason his post-up game isn’t something he can rely on. His offensive game mostly consists of him trying to face up a defender for a mid-range shot or dunk the ball. He does a good job cleaning up around the rim, but he struggles if you force him outside of the paint.

Gibson shoots at a 48.6 percent clip from the field, which is nothing special for a big man. Gibson has been able to shoot 62.9 percent from under three feet away during his career, but his mid-range game has not been as successful. He was only able to shoot 34.7 percent from 3-10 feet away last year and a lot of that may be because he was dealing with injuries all year. But, he has yet to shoot 40 percent or higher from 3-10 feet away since his rookie season, according to Basketball-Reference.

The good news for Gibson is that the Bulls don’t rely on his offense. His defense has always been the strong point in his game, as he has averaged at least a block per game in each season. He’s a force down low and plays with a lot of energy, making him a perfect backup for Joakim Noah. It’s great to have another spark plug like Noah coming off the bench.

For a while, a lot of people wanted Gibson to start over Carlos Boozer, and his chance almost came until the Bulls signed Pau Gasol last offseason. Gibson has never been a starting-caliber player in my opinion. He is average offensively and is a good defender, but not great. Gibson’s lack of offensive game hurt his chances of ever starting, and while Boozer was never great offensively, he was able to knock down a mid-range shot more consistently than Gibson.

Coming off the bench during his 315-game career, Gibson has averaged 22.8 minutes per game, 8.8 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game. That’s good production from a bench player. His role has increased a lot the past couple of seasons. His two highest minutes per game averages have come during the past two seasons, cementing him as Chicago’s sixth man.

Gibson has become one of the better bench players in the NBA and should continue to be a big part of the Bulls success. He is a hard-nosed player that plays through injuries and is a perfect example of Bulls basketball the past couple of seasons. However, his one-dimensional play has caused him to stay on the bench for Chicago.

2014-15 Season: 62 GP, 17 GS, 27.3 MPG, 10.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 48.6 FG%, 71.7 FT%

It’s hard to be too tough on Gibson since he was playing through so much pain, but it’s also easy too, since relatively all his numbers went down from the previous season. His breakout 2013-14 season may have set the bar too high, However, he didn’t play well and the Bulls need him to produce.

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  • Getting over 10 points per game out of Gibson was unheard of before a couple of seasons ago, but his 10.3 points per game last season still seemed low for him. A big positive was that Gibson was able to shoot over 70 percent from the free throw line (71.7 percent) for only the second time in his career.

    Gibson shot 50.2 percent from the field; a career high and one of his only improved stats from the previous season. It was nice to see his field goal percentage go up, but it wasn’t all good news. Gibson still shot a career low from 3-10 feet away (34.7 percent), and shot a career-low 34.1 percent from 10-16 feet out. His mid-range game was tough to watch last season and showed that it still needs a lot of improvement.

    He was still a good defensive player last season, but lost a step. His 1.2 blocks per game was a career low and it was a little concerning. We now know that he was barely able to jump off his ankle, so hopefully that was the reason for his loss of a step. The ankle issues didn’t affect his rebounding too much, as he was still grab 6.4 rebounds per game, only 0.4 rebounds less per game than the previous year.

    It was a rough season for Gibson and a lot of it can be blamed on his major injury. However, it seemed like he lost a step and since he’s approaching 30 years old, questions will be flying around about whether his game is starting to decline.

    Only time will tell with Gibson, but expect him to be a big part of this year’s team once again and his numbers should go up, even with Nikola Mirotic emerging at the end of last year. It may have seemed like a disappointing year, but three years ago, the city of Chicago would have loved the numbers Taj Gibson put up. The expectations are higher now and he has to live up to them.

    Expectations for 2015-16 Season

    Taj Gibson was the main big man coming off the bench for Tom Thibodeau, mostly because of his defensive intensity. Fred Hoiberg isn’t going to abandon the defensive culture Chicago has created, but rather going to try to add a faster-paced offense to go along with it.

    Gibson can’t shoot well from more than a couple of feet away from the basket and I doubt he’ll add that to his game this late in his career. But, the thing he does well on offense is running the floor and finishing with big dunks. No Bulls fan can forget the dunk he had over Dwayne Wade during the 2011 playoffs; a prime example of the type of finisher he is at the rim.

    He has been a huge part of the Bulls success since joining the team in 2009 and that should continue this year. The emergence of Mirotic at the end of last year and the addition of Bobby Portis could take some minutes away from Gibson, but that may not be the worst thing. Chicago needs Gibson in the playoffs if they want a chance to make the NBA Finals and after ankle surgery, the best thing for both sides would be to give him a lot of rest.

    Even with more rest, Gibson should be a key player during big games and expect him to be used in a transition offense and as a defensive specialist down low.

    What To Watch For

    Coming off a serious injury, there’s a lot to watch for when it comes to Taj Gibson. How much will he play early in the season? Will he start or continue to come off the bench? Has Nikola Mirotic passed him as the Chicago Bulls sixth man? Could he be traded?

    Personally, I think Taj Gibson should start for the Bulls along side Pau Gasol. Joakim Noah wasn’t effective when playing with Gasol last season. No one knows what Fred Hoiberg plans on doing this season, but a lot of people think the starting lineup could look different this year. Gibson may finally get his chance to show what he can do as a starter.

    Whether he is coming off the bench or starting, Gibson should be a big part of the team’s game plan. Before the past two seasons, Gibson was averaging less than 23 minutes per game during the past three seasons. He may not see that big of a drop but seeing Gibson only getting around 25 minutes per game is very possible.

    There’s a lot of questions surrounding Gibson, but having him go through a full practice on the first day is a great sign. There is a chance that Gibson might not be on the team next year, but as long as he is, he should be a key contributor for the Bulls.

    Next: Derrick Rose to return to basketball activities two weeks after facial surgery

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