During the NBA off-season, one thing on the Chicago Bulls‘ to-do list was to re-sign power forward Taj Gibson to a multi-year contract. Through several negotiations, they finally did. Gibson signed a four-year, $38 million contract and entered the regular season as a long-term Bulls player. However, through 12 games, Gibson has failed to live up to the expectations that this contract has brought upon him. In fact, his lack of offensive productivity has left some fans wondering if Gibson is becoming an overrated player.
Gibson was re-signed for good reasons: he has a high productivity rate last season as a bench player and his defensive tenacity is exactly the type of characteristics that the Bulls look to keep on their team. Plus, he is young. But Gibson’s re-signing came amongst a face lift of sorts for the Bulls as they saw the majority of their bench sent or signed elsewhere. No bigger name was released than that of backup center Omar Asik, who was the foundation of the bench mob and provided solid defense and hard work off of the bench. He was a big reason that coach Tom Thibodeau had such confidence in the second unit. The debate was between whether to sign Asik or Gibson to a new contract. Unfortunately, Chicago could not have both. When the Houston Rockets offered Asik a deal, the Bulls had the chance to match the offer. They declined, opting to spend the money instead on Gibson’s new contract.
Through 12 games, Asik may be making the Bulls scratch their heads on that decision and with good reason. Asik is averaging 10 points and 12 rebounds a game while emerging as a consistent, productive starter. Gibson, on the other hand, is averaging fewer points and rebounds in the same amount of minutes that he played last season. So why the drop off? The answer can be found if we look at two other Bulls: Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Both of these players were given hefty contracts and failed to live up to them in the season following. Why? Well, as a salary rises, so do the expectations on the player. Gibson performed well last year and when handed a hefty contract (he is due to make $2.15 million this season and $7.5 million next season), he is expected to continue to produce at a high rate. If he doesn’t, he is labeled a bust or overrated (much like Boozer early upon his arrival in Chicago).
The biggest reason Gibson may soon be declared overrated, however, is the fact that the Bulls chose him over Asik. They chose him over any player on last year’s bench thinking he would be worth the investment. They chose him because of his defense and because he may become the starting power forward sooner rather than later. They chose him because they expected him to continue to improve and grow as a player.
The Bulls were by no means wrong to re-sign Gibson. It was a wise move for the present and the future seasons for the Bulls. But unless Gibson can get the pressure of a big contract out of his head and simply play ball like he knows he can he may be on his way to being labeled as an overrated player.