Taj Gibson is still very underrated

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

[Lifted this from another TheMoon fanpost, as I think it's especially appropriate given how Gibson may be the Bulls most impressive player this preseason -yfbb]

Most people seem willing to grant that Taj is an elite defender, but I thought it might be interesting to compare him to some other well regarded defensive bigs in the league. The following table shows for each player the difference i his team's defensive effective field goal percentage when the player is on the court versus off the court (negative numbers are good):

NAME

eFG% Diff.

Larry Sanders

-3.8

Joakim Noah

-2.6

Taj Gibson

-2.5

Omer Asik

-2.5

Marc Gasol

-2.4

Roy Hibbert

-2.4

Kevin Garnett

-2.4

Tim Duncan

-2.2

Dwight Howard

-1.7

Serge Ibaka

-1.2

Andrew Bogut

-0.8

Josh Smith

-0.5

Anderson Varejao

+0.3

Tyson Chandler

+0.8

I decided to pick out eFG% from among the four factors because it has the largest estimated effect on winning. The creator of the four factors-- Dean Oliver-- estimated that defensive eFG% explains 20% of wins, while Evan Zamir estimated that defensive eFG% explains roughly 27% of wins. Either way, causing the opponent to miss shots is by far the most important thing a player can do defensively, and Taj is very good at that.

Taj's offense is less well regarded, even by people who like him a lot. But Taj has a really interesting (and strongly positive) offensive effect on perimeter players that I cannot quite explain. The following table shows the offensive efficiency of the Bull's perimeter players with Taj on and off the court:

NAME

PPP Taj On

PPP Taj Off

Nate Robinson

1.09

1.04

Jimmy Butler

1.22

1.12

Luol Deng

1.12

0.97

Marco Belinelli

1.07

1.01

Kirk Hinrich

0.89

0.93

Choosing the perimeter players for this table is not arbitrary on my part. It really does seem to be the case that the Bulls' perimeter players benefit from Taj while Noah, Boozer and Nazr suffer from Taj's presence (though less than the perimeter players gain). How is this explicable? I am not sure. Perhaps Taj's superior discipline as a screener relative to his "backup" (Boozer) is part of the reason?

Part of the difficulty in explaining Taj's effect is that everything seems the basically same on offense whether he is on the court or not, except that when he is on the court it gets more efficient. For example, take a look at the shot-distance profile with Taj on the court versus when he is off (% of total FGAs from each distance):

Distance

0-3 ft.

4-9 ft.

10-15 ft.

+16 ft.

%Corner 3s

Taj On

32.2%

11.5%

11.2%

25.0%

11.4%

Taj Off

32.4%

11.3%

13.0%

24.5%

15.5%

Why should one of these distributions out-perform the other? I have no idea. Again, it really does seem like the only thing that changes when Taj gets in the game is the usual stuff just works better.

Some final offensive notes about Taj:

  • With Taj the Bulls' ratio of three point attempts to field goal attempts jumps from 0.188 to 0.200
  • With Taj their TOV% drops to 12.9 from 13.7
  • With Taj their OREB% jumps from 28.2 to 31.2
  • With Taj their eFG% jumps from 46.6 to 47.9
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