Is Taj Gibson the Answer?
(Photo credit interaksyon.com)
Taj Gibson was recently told to prepare to start next year. The second place finisher for the NBA sixth man of the year may get pushed into the starting lineup full time. That creates an interesting question among Bulls fans, Is Gibson a starting caliber power forward?
Gibson saw an increase in playing time this season. Unlike teammate Jimmy Butler, Gibson has made the most out of his increased playing time. Gibson has taken steps forward offensively by learning post moves, and the stats prove it. Gibson has increased his offensive output in all categories. He made the transition from just being a spot up shooter to being able to create shots in the paint.
Gibson impacts the game more on defense. Gibson is very athletic, and he is able to switch pick and rolls easy. The quickness he has makes it difficult for players to take advantage of the pick set for them. Gibson then forces players to pass the ball, because they do not have a clear lane to the rim. The Bulls defensive scheme allows Gibson to help deter layups and other shots in the paint.
The pairing of him and Joakim Noah was the Bulls best lineup in the forth quarter of games. The Bulls would often rely on their ability to rotate quickly to open shooters to frustrate the opposition in close games. The duo is also great in rebounding as a team. One player would block out a player, while the other focuses on the defensive rebound.
The only issue Gibson has on defense is that he struggles guarding the stronger big men in the NBA. Gibson is 6-foot-9 and weighs 225 pounds, which means he weights 20 pounds less than LeBron James. His slender frame allows for him to give up post position to bigger or more skilled centers. That seems bad, but the Bulls help a lot of defense so he is hardly isolated with a great center.
The NBA collectively, with the exception of the Indiana Pacers, are playing smaller. The smaller lineups allow for Gibson to play the role of a power forward/small forward hybrid. He can guard some small forwards with success without needing a lot of help, and he is comfortable enough outside the paint to not foul players on the perimeter.
Despite the fact that other players are available that will boost the Bulls at the power forward position, outside of getting Kevin Love, Gibson is the best option to start next year at power forward. The only question that remains is will Gibson keep improving or have the Bulls witnessed his maximum potential?