2014-2015 Season In Review: Taj Gibson
Just like the Hawks won Game one of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals internally, last year Taj Gibson also won Sixth Man of The Year internally. The Secretary of Defense entered last year equipped with a consistent jump shot, a multitude of post-moves, and a classic poster guaranteed every game, with all these improvements Taj dominated opposing big men both from the bench and occasionally from the starting lineup. It seemed as if nothing could stop Gibson from getting his every game besides his teammate Carlos Boozer. In fact in the eight games Taj played as a starter he averaged 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks. With the Booz-Cruise departing due to amnesty fans were rightfully excited for Taj’s play in the 2014-2015 season. However the signing of Pau Gasol and an assortment of injuries hindered Taj’s ability to capitalize on a phenomenal performance the season before.
Before we dive into Taj Gibson’s offensive performance this season let’s compare his shot chart from this season to last season.
Last season Taj was incredibly efficient across the floor, we saw a consistent mid range jump shot especially on the wings of the floor which helped Taj space the floor exceptionally well and improve the driving lanes of the ball-handlers on our team, namely DJ Augustin and Jimmy Butler.He was considered to be a legitimate Sixth Man of The Year candidate and one of the best two-way players coming off the bench in the league. Also he was still incredibly efficient in the paint, shooting about 2% better than the league average. With his improvement in post-moves and his ability to dunk the ball in traffic he was nearly unstoppable near that area. Considering all of the improvements Taj made many experts and fans expected him to make another giant leap next season, regardless of if he was coming off the bench or starting along side Joakim Noah.
This season Taj was extremely limited offensively compared to last season. The jump shot that helped space the floor for Augustin and would’ve been extremely helpful for Derrick was non-existent. Taj took an extremely lower percentage of shots from the mid-range area of the floor and his shots from the wings were nowhere to be seen. Luckily Taj was still effective in the post but his lack of improvement from last year leaves a lot to be desired. Now this could be due to a multitude of issues: lack of touches, a different role in the offense, and (probably the main issue) injuries. With all of these problems converging Taj stayed stagnant in areas of his offensive game and regressed in others.
Every offensive statistic has declined for Taj except for FG% which is more a result of him taking less shots rather than him necessarily being more efficient. Unfortunately Taj just wasn’t as effective as he was last year and due to his stagnation and decline in areas of his offensive game one can consider his performance this season to be relatively poor on the offensive end.
Where Taj failed to impress offensively, he more than made up defensively. Although he wasn’t as good as he was a year ago, Gibson was still incredibly effective. Even though he lost a bit of athleticism due to his various ankle injuries, Taj was able to negate most of those negative effects through smart footwork and a high-level of defensive basketball IQ. Throughout this season Taj became our most consistent low-post defender and with Joakim looking like a shell of himself Gibson became incredibly valuable in anchoring our team defense. Let’s take a look at some of his impressive stats from this season.
Taj Gibson consistently neutralizes opposing big men as he routinely forces them to take bad shots. Whether it’s bodying his man up relentlessly in the post, or forcing his man into tough and uncomfortable situations, Taj Gibson is among the elite post defenders in the league. Although his Defensive Rating has regressed (from 100 to 104) and his Defensive Win Shares have decreased (from 4.4 to 2.1) Gibson is still a phenomenal defender and has shown that he is still a capable anchor even while dealing with a multitude of injuries.
Taj’s improvements on defense still make him an incredibly valuable player for the Bulls, however many believe that his regression on the offensive end is enough justification for a trade. Gibson would be a perfect player in Hoiberg’s system, he can run the floor along side Butler and Rose and he can help make Hoiberg’s transition to coaching an NBA defense easier. If Taj is traded however, there are many potential trades that can help the Bulls win.
For example a trade with the Blazers could consist of the following:
Bulls receive: Nicolas Batum, CJ McCollum
Blazers receive: Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott, Sacramento protected 1st
Why the Bulls do it: The Bulls receive a great shooter and defender in Nicolas Batum. After coming off a rough season in comparison to his others, Batum’s trade value has dipped quite a bit. The Bulls can capitalize on this and get a young athletic player who can help glue both the offense and defense of the team. They also receive a high upside combo-guard in McCollum. The Bulls have been searching for a long term player to back-up Derrick and if they receive CJ the Bulls can finally stop picking up undersized guards like Brooks and Robinson.
Why the Trail Blazers do it: The Blazers receive a phenomenal low-post defender in Taj Gibson who can help replace the possible loss of LaMarcus Aldridge. With a higher usage rate there is no reason to think that Taj can’t improve his statistical output offensively. Being paired with another great defender in Robin Lopez will help improve the Blazers defense immensely. They also receive a NBA ready shooter with Dougie Fresh. Although he’s had a rocky start in his rookie season there is a high possibility that he flourishes in the Blazers’ great offensive system. The Sacramento pick also has great value as well. With the Kings possibly improving a decent amount over the next couple of seasons, the Blazers could potentially receive a pick in the 12-14 range.
Regardless of what happens to Taj over this off-season Bulls fans should know that he’s been phenomenal during his tenure as a Bull. With his cap friendly contract, and his consistently elite defense, Taj will continue to contribute towards the Bulls’ championship hopes. One thing that is slightly concerning is Taj’s age. The man is already 29 and nearing the tail-end of his prime. If there is any indication of how Taj dealt with his injuries and still played phenomenal defense, Bulls fans should feel secure knowing that even with declining athleticism Gibson can still contribute defensively.
In Free Cheese & Hot Sauce “Season in Review”, Ayush looks at each player’s 2014-2015 season, compares it to their previous year, and evaluates their performance. 2014-2015 statistics include both regular season and post season as well. By no means do these posts reflect other podcasts/blog members opinions of each player.