Everybody, meet Taj.

TAJ

Playing in his 5th season as a Chicago Bull, odds are you already know who Taj Gibson is. He’s been playing meaningful minutes since his first season, when he started nearly the entire year and played well enough to be named to the NBA’s All-Rookie 1st Team. He averaged 9 points and 7 rebounds, played excellent defense, and proved to be an important piece of the puzzle moving forward as the Bulls would continue to build into a championship contending team.

The Bulls would also sign Carlos Boozer in 2010, which would mean Taj would be delegated to coming off the bench, something he’s been doing since his 2nd season. Since Boozer has been with the Bulls, there’s been a lot of criticism about his production and whether he’s really worth the near $80 million. Some think the Bulls should even amnesty him from the team after the season. Regardless, it’s difficult to bring someone off the bench who’s earning as much as Carlos does, so what do the Bulls do? Start Carlos, bring in Taj halfway through the first quarter, and go from there. If Boozer starts off well, his confidence usually carries him throughout the game (or at least for the rest of the half). If he starts slow, he will most likely be non-existent and his minutes will be down for the rest of the game. Coach Thibodeau knows it, Bulls fans know it, and I’m pretty sure Carlos does too.

Either way, we all know what we’re getting from Taj each time he’s on the court, and that’s nothing but constant effort, and occasionally outrageous plays like this.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Taj chose to attend high schools in California before eventually landing at USC, where he played meaningful minutes all 3 years. In his last year as a junior, the Trojans won the Pac 12 Tournament, and Taj was named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. After a very successful 3 years, he chose to enter the draft and was selected as the 26th pick in the 1st round by the Bulls.

After a strong and productive rookie season, some people may have made the mistake in thinking that Taj hadn’t improved much, but numbers are misleading. As a rookie he played about 28 minutes a game, but since he was delegated to the bench his minutes had gone down to about 21 mpg the following 3 seasons, which is why there was not much improvement in his offensive production, statistically speaking. Times have finally changed, and while he still continues to come off the bench, Taj is back to playing starting-lineup-like minutes (about 29 mpg) and is averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds a game for a team most people took for granted (again) with the absence of Derrick Rose. At this point, it’s commonly known to other teams and fans everywhere that if you go up against the Bulls, expect a fight, and while you’re there, expect to see Taj squaring up every time.

In a (big) recent win over the Indiana Pacers, Taj had one of his best nights of the season, scoring 23 points, grabbing 8 rebounds, and completing this putback. These kinds of plays have come to be expected of Taj, and I can gladly say that he lives up to it very often. (His reaction alone is worth watching.)

After the game, this is what Gibson had to say:
“We’re not scared of anybody, really. We’re really not. It just comes down to guys just playing hard. People don’t understand we like a dogfight. We like to be physical…We’re going to wind you down and we’re going to fight and you’re going to be feeling it the next day. And that’s what kind of game it was tonight: It was a dogfight.”

taj over lopez

Taj Gibson is not an All-Star, and he may never be one, but there aren’t many big men in the NBA I’d rather have on my team.

photo credit 1 2

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