The Chicago Bulls have been all over the NBA rumor boards. First, they appear to be the frontrunner of landing Carmelo Anthony, but within the last day there have been rumors of them trading assets for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love. One of those assets is Taj Gibson, a player who is one of the more consistent Chicago Bulls players. Despite these rumors, the blossoming player should not be dealt. He is a player that went through great improvements, and if the franchise unloads him, it may be a move they regret down the road.
Without a doubt, the biggest problem that faced the Bulls last season was their offense. This never was more evident than in their first round matchup with the Washington Wizards, where Chicago went through stretches completely unable to make a shot. However, one of the more consistent scorers was Taj Gibson. For too often in the series, he would be the only one hitting his shots, whether it was a layup or dunk underneath the basket. Additionally, he was one of the better offensive rebounders, which often resulted in shots that brought Chicago back into the game.
Gibson proved in the playoffs that he can be a force to be reckoned with. In Game Two, he put up 32 points and seven rebounds, and in Game Four, he put up 22 points and 10 rebounds. Yes, the other three games he only averaged 12 points, but he also only averaged 30 minutes a game, where he often is not the focus of their offensive sets. What Gibson showed last season is that he can be a force to be reckoned with, but in order to do it on a more consistent basis, he needs a chance. In other words, he needs to start instead of Boozer and be given more minutes.
If Chicago trades Gibson for Kevin Love, they are essentially trading off one of their more efficient offensive players for another. Yes, Love is a better player. He is a franchise-potential player. However, instead of signing an offensive player like a Carmelo Anthony alongside Gibson, they will be stuck by pitting Love in a worse situation than he is in with Minnesota — having to carry more than his fair share of the Bulls’ offense. Love certainly is a better rebounder too, but Gibson is not chopped liver either. At the end of the day, trading Gibson in a package for Love will not do much to advance Chicago from a first-round exit.
Worse yet is the fact that Love is not the best defender. He is one of the best offensive players and is probably the best rebounder in the league, but much like Carlos Boozer, he is a defensive liability, particularly at the end of games. Love will be exactly the same for Chicago. This is where Gibson is the better asset. He helps anchor the Bulls defense when he is in, which was never more evident than in this year’s playoffs where he totaled 12 blocks in five games. In essence, Gibson is a better player on both sides of the court than Love. Furthermore, if Tom Thibodeau gives Gibson a chance, at only 29, he may improve upon last season in a cheaper, more well-rounded version of Love.
More importantly, Chicago needs help at the small forward position more than at power forward. Dunleavy is a decent player, but saying he is worthy of being a starter is a questionable assertion with his 11.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg and 2.3 apg total. Considering Chicago has the ability to amnesty Carlos Boozer’s almost $17 million contract, they have the financial flexibility to sign Carmelo Anthony, which would create a robust front court of Anthony, Gibson and center Joakim Noah. If they do this, they can improve the squad without losing a player with as much upside as Gibson has.
At the end of the day, Chicago is putting themselves in a risky situation. They can get one of the league’s best players in Kevin Love, but in doing so, they may not improve by unloading one of their best players, resulting in a wash. Taj Gibson is a player on the rise, and if the Chicago Bulls have any sense at all, their sixth man should not be dealt to the Minnesota Timberwolves by way of a packaged trade. If they do, they could be victims of regret when the Timberwolves start the power forward, resulting in vastly increased numbers.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey