NBA.com's Steve Aschburner was at Bulls Media Day last week and recently posted his feature on the crossroads season for Taj Gibson.
He makes the case that Gibson may be the most intriguing player this year for the Bulls. In the wake of Omer Asik's departure and Carlos Boozer's descent (that last bit is my editorializing), it's possible this year for Gibson to break out. But unless a deal is reached by the end of the month, it's also a chance to break away from the Bulls salary range:
Letting Asik go to Houston, thanks to the back-loaded, three-year, $25.1 million offer he got as a restricted free agent, was the first of multiple summer decisions dictated more by money -- and projections of their competitive arc, filtered through Rose's recovery -- than by X's and O's.
Getting Gibson locked up now seems like a basketball no-brainer, too, except for the $58.2 million the Bulls have committed to Rose, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah for 2013-14. Setting Gibson's value could be tricky -- somewhere between Asik's average salary of $8.3 million but below Noah's $12 million? -- given his bench role with the Bulls but starting chops for many teams. Plus, he's a double-double man, easy (13.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.3 bpg on a 36-minute basis last season).
Though he'll likely not start (and even mentions relishing a chance to go for 6th man honors), Taj should be seeing more minutes as well as an increased emphasis for him offensively. He definitely has room for improvement in finishing post moves and the mid-range jumper, and if he does he'll have proven even moreso to be starting-caliber.
But the then Bulls face the same decision with Taj as they did with Asik last year. And as Aschburner points out, 'basketball' can take a back seat in that decision. Hopefully one reason the Bulls didn't match Asik was knowing that they already earmarked keeping Gibson for a long time.