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Trade Candidate: Taj Gibson

Kamil Krzaczynski / USA Today Sports Images

Kamil Krzaczynski / USA Today Sports Images

Taj Gibson provides old-school skills at a position that has become increasingly more perimeter-oriented. The Bulls veteran is the antithesis of a stretch four — he doesn’t spread the floor by hanging around the 3-point circle and waiting for a kickout pass.

Gibson’s game is based upon power. He’s a solid rebounder, a superior rim protector and an above-average mid-range shooter.

The Bulls apparently hope that another team that needs a player fitting that description will give them a call. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports raised that possibility last month, reporting that the Bulls are looking to acquire the best possible wing player available, with Gibson or Joakim Noah being the bargaining chip. The Bulls believe they need another shooter at the wing alongside emerging franchise player Jimmy Butler, according to Wojnarowski.

On the surface, that’s surprising since Chicago currently ranks fourth in the league in 3-point percentage. But in their quest to reach the NBA Finals, the Bulls will need all the firepower they can muster to prevent the Cavaliers from making a return trip.

Chicago is hopeful of getting Mike Dunleavy back in action during the second half of the season, which could fill that need. There’s no guarantee that Dunleavy will regain his old form once he completes his rehab of a back injury that has sidelined him all season, so the Bulls could opt for a healthier, younger wing man.

Noah’s return from a shoulder injury on Monday gives the Bulls plenty of frontcourt depth. They have one of the league’s top centers in Pau Gasol, a defensive stalwart in Noah and a stretch four in Nikola Mirotic. They also have an emerging rookie in Bobby Portis, who has skills similar to Gibson’s.

Gibson had been starting and playing heavy minutes in Noah’s absence but the Bulls could easily plug Portis into Gibson’s role if they swing a deal. Sam Smith of recently provided a compelling argument against trading Gibson, opining that he’s simply too valuable and reliable to send packing. Moreover, Smith points out, the Bulls’ frontcourt could be thinned considerably following the season. Noah becomes an unrestricted free agent and Gasol, woefully underpaid by NBA standards, will almost certainly opt out of the final year on his contract.

By the numbers, Gibson remains as effective as he’s ever been. His PER has exceeded the league average in three of the last four seasons and it’s currently at 15.54 this season. He’s shooting a career-best 52.8% from the field, his 6.8 rebounding average is as high as it’s been since his rookie season and he’s averaging a career-high 1.5 assists.

According to’s advanced stats, Gibson has made 45.5% of his mid-range shots. Gibson has actually had more trouble finishing at the rim (40% on layup attempts), so his offensive production could increase if he can get that straightened out.

Make no mistake, Gibson’s calling card comes on the defensive end. His Offensive Box Plus/Minus Rating, according to Basketball-Reference, has been below zero every season of his career but it’s been more than offset by the positives he puts up in Defensive Box Plus/Minus Rating. His current 2.4 Defensive Box rating is better than it’s been since his second season.

Gibson’s strong season can be attributed in part to improved health. He had offseason surgery that uncovered and repaired a torn ligament in his left ankle and he told K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune that his mobility is much improved. “I’m completely stronger as far as my lateral movement and being able to switch more to guards,” Gibson said. “I feel a lot faster.”

Noah’s $13.4MM salary, plus his injury history and impending free agency, makes him tougher to deal than Gibson, a Western Conference GM recently told Sean Deveney of The Sporting News.

Gibson is making $8.5MM this season and is locked into an $8.95MM contract in his walk year of 2016/17. Thus, it makes sense that any team dealing for him would want him in its rotation beyond this season. It also figures that his suitor would be a playoff contender, since Gibson doesn’t fit the mold of a young, developing player with upside.

Which playoff contenders need another rebounding big? Start with the Hawks, who rank last in rebounding differential. They have one of the league’s most feared 3-point shooters in veteran swingman Kyle Korver, who is shooting a career-low 36% from long distance. Perhaps a change of scenery could energize Korver.

The red-hot Clippers may not be inclined to do anything at the moment but their team rebounding numbers are surprisingly poor despite the presence of DeAndre Jordan and currently injured Blake Griffin. Another big body could help them down the road and they could offer veteran wing Jamal Crawford, a proven bench scorer.

The Grizzlies are one of the league’s worst 3-point shooting teams but could also use someone to fortify their frontcourt behind Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Courtney Lee is struggling with his shot this season but is a 38.1% career shooter from long distance, so that might interest the Bulls.

These trade proposals are pure speculation on my part but offer a glimpse as to what type of player the Bulls might get back for Gibson. Bear in mind that Chicago is a taxpaying team, so the Bulls can only take in 125% of the salary they trade away, plus $100K, unless they bring in players with contracts that fit within the minimum salary exception.

Don’t forget the Bulls rarely go the trade route to improve their team — they haven’t made one since July 14th, 2014, and lack trade exceptions. But if the Bulls truly want to get another shooter for their playoff run, dealing Gibson would seem to be their best option.

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16 thoughts on “Trade Candidate: Taj Gibson

  1. Chuck Myron

    Gibson is an underrated reason for Chicago’s success, and this year is certainly no exception. I think the Bulls would be foolish to trade him unless they get an overwhelming offer (a distinct possibility). If Gasol and Noah both walk in free agency this summer and they end up with only Gibson, Portis and Mirotic, they’d be just fine.

  2. 123Redsox

    Gibson for Olynyk and a draft pick? Celtics get their much needed big rim protector and the Bulls get a young big with potential who can stretch the floor

    • J Hill

      Taj isn’t really a rim protector though.

    • BullySixChicago

      That sounds like a nice deal but knowing the Bulls front office they will trade Gibson to a west team for a wing they have s team full of 4’s

      • Dana Gauruder

        Their needs have changed quite a bit now that Noah is out. Would be tougher to trade Gibson unless the get a center in return.

  3. Bulls are going to trade Gibson for a good wing for a year that will help them win and then ,Paul, Noah, and Gibson will be off the books next year and go for a max player like Durant, Howard, Horford, Whiteside, Derozan, or even Wade and Batum,

    • Dana Gauruder

      Could be the strategy they’ll employ; trouble is, pretty much everyone will have ample cap room next offseason because of salary cap jump.

    • I realize how unpopular the comment is, but how nice would it be to see Rose’s 20M salary off the books at the end of the season? Not that I dislike Rose, but he is significantly overpaid for what he delivers. If they were somehow able to unload Rose and move possibly Gibson and maybe Dunleavy; that would leave them of somewhere between $38M and $43M. Could the remaining players be enough to bring in Durant and a strong PG? Yeah, I know, it’s never going to happen.

      • Dana Gauruder

        Don’t think that’s a bad idea, it’s just that Rose would be nearly impossible to unload with his injury history and his desire to be an unrestricted free agent.

      • Steve in Chicago

        I agree. Tired of tix price up every year to pay for a rarely healthy guy who really doesn’t improve the team at this point any more than 2 other guys they could get with 20 mil. Nice guy but time for a change.

  4. We can afford a lineup of Rose/Wade/But;er/Mirotic/Jefferson or Noah with a bench of Brooks/Snell/Dcdermott/Dunleavy.Portis, if Pau and Noah and Gibson leave or get traded.

  5. J Hill

    Can you imagine how mad Taj Gibson was when he saw the player that is basically the same as him get like 85 million dollars. Tristan Thompson should trash talk that dude all day.

  6. Bulls need a shake-up. As a Bulls fan, we’ve seen this movie too many times. It comes down to this question…Does this team have what it takes to beat a HEALTHY Cavs team in the EFC. Not sure you could convince me they do. Need a little more athleticism on the wing, and a big who can pound inside with TT/Moz…but maybe that guy is Portis. My point is they need to try something, it’s been the same thing year in and year out, and unless Rose returns to absolute MVP level, pairing w/ a superstar in Butler, this team aint doing nothing in June.

    • Dana Gauruder

      They will definitely need a huge postseason from Butler and Gasol to challenge the Cavs.

  7. Thebare54

    Trade Gasol why get nothing and he could play with his brother wow for them and we can make it a 3 way trade we get Kolver who can develop McDermitt Wow and Atlanta get both teams 2 nd rounder and Memphis gives up a big man to make room for Pau Gasol and Mark to play with Randolph so they trade Courtney Lee to the Hawks

    • Steve in Chicago

      Seems like they would regret losing Taj but Crawford is the only return available that might make sense.

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