With a barrage of new additions to the Bulls bench at the expense of cutting ties with nearly all of last year's second unit rotation players, Taj Gibson will be the only familiar face left of last year's group nicknamed the "Bench Mob" to return for 2012-13. The upcoming season marks the final year of Gibson's rookie-scale contract, but from what we've recently heard, Chicago has turned their attention toward extension talks.
Gibson joins Luol Deng, Derrick Rose, and Joakim Noah as veteran players who have remained with the Bulls since being drafted, and he appears to have carved out a comfortable role on the team. Along with an impressive rookie 2009-10 campaign in which he averaged 9.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.3 BPG, and shot 49.4% from the field, Gibson has produced career averages of 7.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.3 BPG, and 48.5% FG shooting over his three seasons in Chicago. There haven't been any significant drop-offs in his numbers over a total of 27 playoff games (7.0/5.2/1.3/50%), which demonstrates his ability to remain consistently productive in meaningful games as well.
For strictly basketball reasons, it makes absolute sense that the Bulls would want to retain Gibson for the long-term. The determining factor lies in the type of contract extension that they believe the former USC Trojan should receive. I would say a good approach would be to look at some of Gibson's contemporaries to propose a fair number.
Omer Asik, whose contract with Houston will pay him about $8.36MM per year over three years, played a total of two seasons with the Bulls and averaged 2.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 0.8 BPG while shooting 52.9% from the field. Brandon Bass, who appears to have found his niche in Boston, just signed a three-year, $20MM extension to stay with the Celtics after posting career highs of 12.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and nearly one block per game last season. Lakers forward/center Jordan Hill, who was drafted 18 spots ahead of Gibson in 2009, had recently signed a two-year, $8MM deal to remain with the Lakers. While I would not expect a potential extension to be as low as an average of $4MM annually, I would think that the Bulls would at least be willing to entertain negotiations at a number starting above that. I'd say a two or three year deal for around $6MM annually would be very reasonable.
Even with their new additions, the Bulls are still slated to have a decent amount of cap space for the 2014-15 NBA season, as the contracts they've handed out this summer have either been one or two-year deals. As of today, Chicago only has Rose, Deng, and Noah under guaranteed contracts for 2014-15, totaling to about $48.8MM. Depending on the salary number, a deal that starts at two years for Gibson could significantly cut into the team's flexibility in that second year. However, that number may not be considered as hindering in 2015-16, when the payroll is only currently committed to Rose and Deng for a total of $32.4MM.
Gibson just turned 27 last month, and I feel that what you've seen from him is what you will continue to get. He's as solid a role player you can find in the NBA, rebounds and defends well, has shown his ability to finish strong at the rim, and can hit the mid-range jumpshot at a decent rate. His 7'4'' wingspan allows him to play much bigger than his listed height of 6'9'' and he displays fluid athleticism. Although his numbers could most likely reach double-double territory with more playing time and/or a starting role, I think it's quite possible that he's hit his ceiling in terms of his abilities. It appears that a player like Asik was paid for what he could become, whereas Bass was paid for what he will continue to be. I'd say Gibson fits in with the latter.