Every offseason the past couple years, we get quotes and articles saying Taj Gibson is primed to play a bigger role for the Bulls. Then Gibson goes on to play essentially the same amount of minutes as the year before. After playing a shade under 27 minutes per game as a rookie when he started a bunch of games, Gibson has never averaged more than 22.4 minutes per game.
Sure enough, heading into this year, we got articles like this one from Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times saying that a bigger role was expected for Gibson. It especially made a ton of sense this season with the lack of quality frontcourt depth, and Gibson entered training camp having added a bunch of muscle and an allegedly improved jumper.
Gibson looked great in preseason, and while preseason results can be deceiving (hello, D-Rose), there seemed to be little reason the big man wouldn't see a significant uptick in minutes.
But sure enough, that significantly bigger role hasn't come. At least not yet. Gibson is playing a bit more than past years, but barely, as he's only at 24.3 minutes per game. This despite Gibson looking good, Joakim Noah looking like a shell of himself as he regains his conditioning and Nazr Mohammed seeing spotty minutes. Carlos Boozer has played pretty darn well for the most part, but Tom Thibodeau needs to figure out a way to carve out more minutes for Gibson.
The past couple games are examples of where Gibson should be seeing more minutes. Against the Sixers, he had 12 points and seven rebounds while shooting 6-of-9 and posting a +8. He played just 24 minutes.
In the loss to the Pacers, Gibson was one of the few guys to play relatively well, and both Boozer and Noah were god-awful. Boozer was swallowed up by the Pacers' frontline, while Noah was a non-factor besides a few flurries of effort on the offensive glass. Gibson did struggle with his shot in the second half, but he did have nine points and six rebounds while again finishing a +8. He played 23 minutes.
On the season, Gibson is averaging 9.5 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 53.3 percent from the field. He's one of three Bulls (essentially just two) with a positive net rating. The defense has been 14.5 points per 100 possessions better when he's on the floor, per NBA.com. This is the kind of stuff we've come to expect over the past couple years with Taj.
Even more interesting, the Gibson/Boozer frontcourt has been really successful thus far after being pretty awful last year. In 37 minutes together, that duo has produced an offensive rating of 105.4 and a defensive rating of 91.0, per NBA.com. Both REALLY good marks. Small sample sizes and all, but if those two can be effective together, there's even less of a reason for Gibson to not be getting nearly 30 minutes a night.
With Boozer playing mostly well, it does get a bit tougher to get Gibson those high minutes. But with Noah being a train wreck at the moment and Mohammed basically just being a big body, perhaps it shouldn't be as hard as it seems. And even when Noah does come around, Gibson should probably get nearly all of Nazr's minutes unless the situation says otherwise. There's obviously still plenty of time to remedy this, but the early trends aren't encouraging.