With the Bulls going Rose-less and Deng-less, Joakim Noah stepped up and has done a great job keeping the team alive. Even with Noah’s superb efforts, there was a need for a strong second, and one man stepped up-Taj Gibson.
Gibson has seized his moment. He is averaging career highs in points (13.3), assists (1.2), blocks (1.4), free throw percentage (.743) and minutes (29.1). His play has been so good coach Tom Thibodeau prefers to bench the starting power forward, Carlos Boozer, in preference to Gibson.
Eyes around the league are opening. Gibson was the topic of a few trade discussions before the deadline, but the Bulls were not looking to part ways with him.
Gibson has been a dependable player for the Bulls this season. Since the Deng trade, he has averaged 14.9 points and 7.1 rebounds in about 31 minutes per game.
The knock on him has been his shooting, but his .489 shooting percentage is his highest since his rookie season.
Gibson is making a case for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award. Like typical candidates for the award, Gibson can be counted on to start. In eight starts this season, he has averaged 19.3 points, 9.8 rebounds.
Gibson has been a Thibodeau-type player. He plays good defense, gets his points within the confines of the offense, and plays hard every second of every minute of every game. It seems Thibodeau is assembling his own robots to play in the NBA.
In the basketball world of the one-and-done college players, Taj Gibson is a throwback. He played three seasons at USC and the maturity he has shown from day one in a Bulls uniform has helped him on the court. He understands the game better than some of the young kids who come out and just depend on their athletic abilities. Some of those young guns who came into the league before Gibson are now watching him on television.
At this point of the season, Gibson is the front-runner for the Sixth Man award. His main competition is Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Crawford is averaging 19.0 points, 3.2 assists, 2.4 three pointers and 2.3 rebounds in 30.7 minutes per game this season. The advantage Gibson has is that Crawford has made 23 starts in the 60 games he’s played. He is approaching the limit to qualify for the award.
If the Bulls continue their winning ways, we could be seeing Taj Gibson’s name coming up when the award winners are announced.