Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE
Can Gibson still be good enough to form a championship-level frontcourt with Joakim Noah?
That's an outstanding value for a player that, frankly, the Bulls couldn't afford to lose. Mobile bigs capable of propping up the back line of a team defense don't come around all that often, and Chicago has already let one such player go in declining to match Houston's offer sheet on Omer Asik this past summer. Joakim Noah is a quick-rotating, hard-hedging fixture in Chicago's starting lineup, but its Gibson that gives the second unit its backbone; a defense as systemically sound as that of the Bulls warrants personnel who can consistently execute its mandates, and Gibson is one of the few uniquely qualified to do so.
But he does note an important distinction with Gibson's contract as opposed to some of the other early-extension recipients from around the league this week:
All of those extended are working with roughly the same level of experience, but Gibson - a three-year college player unusually old for his class - is already 27 years old. That's a significant difference relative to the the 23-year-old James Harden or 22-year-old Jrue Holiday, and gives this extension a decidedly different context. Put simply: the Bulls, unlike the Rockets or Sixers (among others) with their respective extendees, aren't paying for potential.
This seems right to me, and why after the initial high of seeing Gibson locked up (never had a doubt!), I realized that the Bulls actually didn't get better last night. They made a very good move that avoids a bad and too-uncertain future, but Gibson probably is what he is.
But that's still pretty good. And it's not as if jumpshooting (something that can really improve Gibson's overall game) is something that can't be learned during the prime of a player's career.
And when it comes to his role on a future contender, Taj's place is viewed ultimately next to Joakim Noah. While the conventional wisdom is that you can't have a starting frontcourt of two relatively-slight players without post offense, I'm gaining hope. For one, the league is clearly moving away from traditional post play anyway, and Taj Gibson is tailor-made to defend the Miami Heat. And Joakim Noah is quietly turning into the offensive-minded big-man required to compensate for having Taj Gibson as a long-term complement.