In Contract Year, Taj Gibson Set To Break Out In 2012-2013

By Randy Holt
Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIRE

Until the return of Derrick Rose sometime in January or beyond, this is a Chicago Bulls team really lacking major storylines. You have the health of Joakim Noah and an almost entirely new bench. Nate Robinson might be good for doing something really stupid over the course of a game. But outside of that, where’s the buzz?

If it’s buzz you want with this team, look no further than Taj Gibson. Gibson has been a fan favorite for much of the time he’s been with the Bulls, but it’s this season that could see him truly break out as a player in this league.

Gibson has provided a spark off the bench in his three seasons in Chicago, but this year he’ll be taking on an even bigger role. He’s already serving as a backup to Carlos Boozer, which has proven to be a much-needed spot, but will now see minutes behind Joakim Noah as well, with Omer Asik having departed this summer.

In just over 20 minutes a game last season, Gibson averaged just under eight points and about five boards per game. An increased load will bring increased minutes and those numbers should head up into the double-double range. If it pans out as expected, he could be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate.

That’s just one goal that Gibson has planned for this season. First on his list, however, is getting a new contract. The Bulls let Asik walk this summer, mainly because of how absurd the money that the Houston Rockets are paying him actually is. But Gibson being in a contract year also likely played a part in that.

Gibson is going to get a nice chunk of change from the Bulls, and rightfully so. He’s proven to be a key piece of this team and this front office believes he’s part of their core. Tom Thibodeau says he can defend all five positions, and with his steadiness in the offensive end, he’s extremely valuable to this team.

It’s just a matter of putting an actual number on it. The Bulls are planning to get an extension done prior to October 31st before talks get shelved and Gibson heads to the market, where a team will likely pay him the big bucks to be a starter somewhere.

Big things are expected from Taj Gibson in 2012-2013. Will he go as far as supplanting Carlos Boozer as the team’s starting power forward? Probably not. But he could make the future decision to cut Boozer loose, in the event of another disappointing season, that much easier.

With Derrick Rose out, Taj Gibson might be the most exciting player on this team to watch for the time being. It’s a big year for him and he knows it. Look for his name right in there for the Sixth Man award towards the end of the season, with a nice new contract already in hand.

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