Time to Trade Taj Gibson?
This offseason had to be pretty confusing for Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson. By the time the season ended, he had surpassed Carlos Boozer as Tom Thibodeau’s preferred option at the power forward position, especially late in games. He put up a career-best 13 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 28 minutes of action in the regular season, and was even better in the postseason, where he averaged 18.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in just two more minutes of action a night. He made Boozer expendable and the team waived him via the amnesty clause. Yet just a few months later, without any games being played, he’s all of a sudden the one who looks expendable now as well.
To their credit, the Bulls rewarded Gibson’s improved play initially by making him a key part of the recruiting pitch for All-Star free agent Carmelo Anthony. Gibson, along with the faces of the franchise Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, helped try to convince Anthony that Chicago offered him his best opportunity to compete for a championship. There were several times throughout Anthony’s decision process that the Bulls looked like the favorite. Noah had been recruiting him since the All-Star break, they were going to be able to come close to a max offer and they were already a championship-caliber team without him – an advantage the other teams outside of the Houston Rockets did not have while recruiting him.
However, when it became clear that Anthony was not coming to the Windy City, the Bulls started looking in another direction. Their Plan B happened to be multi-time All-Star power forward Pau Gasol. Now, Gasol does play a lot of center and will be interchangeable at either position, but he’s likely going to see the floor with Noah more than he doesn’t. Then, they signed Nikola Mirotic, one of the best power forwards not in the NBA for the last few years. Add in that rookie forward Doug McDermott, who they traded two top-20 picks for, could also see some time at the four as he presents unique and elite floor-stretching ability at his size, and all of a sudden it’s hard to calculate how Gibson is going to get the 28 minutes he got during the regular season.
On a per-36 minute scale, Gibson averaged 16.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game in the regular season and 21.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in the postseason. Under contract through 2017 at a very reasonable salary that rises from $8 million this season to $8.95 million in the final year, he has one of the better value contracts in the NBA. Teams with a need at the power forward position are going to view him as someone that they can not only start, but feature in their offensive attack and have help anchor their defense.
This situation has a lot of similarities to Eric Bledsoe’s stint with the Los Angeles Clippers. When the Clippers weren’t sure about whether they were going to be able to re-sign All-Star point guard Chris Paul, Bledsoe, as one of the premier back ups in the league with starter potential, was untouchable. Once Paul inked a long-term extension, though, Bledsoe’s value around the league was higher than it was to the Clippers, who had bigger needs that they could fill by trading Bledsoe than having an elite backup point guard.
There’s no reason for the Bulls to flatly announce that they are putting Gibson on the trade block, but the fact of the matter is, they could really use some more proven firepower out on the perimeter more so than they could a starting caliber big man coming off of their bench when they already have Mirotic, Noah, Gasol and McDermott, who could play some four if needed. And, at 29 years of age, Gibson is due for his opportunity to start and be a primary option. According to Aggrey Sam of Comcast SportsNet, Gibson is frustrated with what appears to be another season coming off of the bench with the Bulls, although he’s not ready to publicly voice his displeasure and ask for a trade.
It just makes the most sense for both parties to see if there’s something out there that is mutually beneficial for both of them. The offers are going to come, and it shouldn’t take too much holding out for the Bulls to find something of their liking. No matter how much they’ve grown to like and appreciate Gibson, they’ve reached a point where trading him could be the difference maker in beating the Cleveland Cavaliers and winning the Eastern Conference.
Wolves, Rubio Continue Negotiations
Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio is eligible for a contract extension prior to the October 31 deadline. Rubio has made it clear that he wants to be with the Timberwolves and has no interest in following Kevin Love out the door, but it’s never that simple when it comes to contract negotiations.
“I feel optimistic,” Timberwolves general manager Milt Newton told Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press. “Knowing Ricky the person, he wants to be here. Now we just have to deal with his agent [Dan Fegan].
“If we can get something done sooner, great. If not, we’re not necessarily in a rush. Until that right number comes up, I guess we will continue to talk. There are some things we agree on, some things we don’t.”
There have been reports that Rubio’s camp is seeking a max extension, although based off of what more proven point guards like Stephen Curry and Kyle Lowry recently received, it’s hard to imagine Rubio having the leverage to actually get an offer like that. He’s much more likely to be in the $10-12 million range.
While Newton is handling negotiations, team president and head coach Flip Saunders is also a big part of the process and we learned from his negotiations with Nikola Pekovic last offseason that he is not in any kind of hurry to make an unfavorable deal. Pekovic had to wait until just before training camp to get his deal and with Rubio headed toward restricted free agency in the worst-case scenario, the Timberwolves can patiently wait for his asking price to come down without any real threat of losing him.
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