Chicago Bulls Must Extend Taj Gibson Before He Hits Free Agency

Kelly ScalettaFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 10: Taj Gibson #22 and C.J. Watson #7 of the Chicago Bulls react to a technical foul during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center on May 10, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Taj Gibson will be a coveted free agent should he hit free agency, and that's why the Chicago Bulls need to do whatever they need to do close a deal on him before he hits it. The good news is, according to Sam Aggrey of CSN Chicago, they intend to do just that. 

"Gibson, who will be a free agent following next season, is highly coveted around the league, but the Bulls believe he fits into their future plans, so in the fashion of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, there is hope that a deal can be reached prior to the beginning of the regular season."

The operative words here are "before the beginning of the regular season." That doesn't mean next regular season, but this regular season. 

This should be good news to Bulls fans who are worried that someone might try and pull one of those "poison pill" specials that the Houston Rockets used to steal away Omer Asik from the Bulls. 

Gibson's value has been consistently increasing since his rookie season, when he started 70 games. After the Bulls signed Carlos Boozer, though, Gibson willingly went to the bench. 

Last season in particular, it was more and more frequently Gibson, not Boozer, who was finishing games. His defense was just too good for other teams to ignore. 

Gibson has the speed of a wing and the strength of a power forward, which makes him one of the more versatile defenders in the league. He can defend perimeter players in isolation but he also has the ability to defend stronger big men in the post. 

His Synergy numbers are extraordinary, giving up a mere .77 points overall and .62 in isolation. Compare that with LeBron James, whose numbers are .83 and .69, respectively. 

Lest you expect that his numbers are a result of his being the beneficiary of Tom Thibodeau's system, bear in mind this fact: the Bulls gave up a meager 88.6 points per 100 possessions while Gibson was on the court compared to 99.8 when he was off it. That's a difference of 11.2 points. 

Again, by comparison, Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler only saw his team improve .9 points while he was on the court. LeBron James' Heat only improved .3 points. Even Dwight Howard's Magic were only 6.9 points better defensively while he was on the court. 

In fact, reviewing several other defensive players, I cannot find one who has a bigger defensive impact on their teams than Gibson, and he is doing it on the best defense in the league. 

Gibson is not just a good defensive player, he's one of the best in the league and he has the potential to win the Defensive Player of the Year award once he works his way into the starting lineup. 

On top of that he's seen a gradual development in his offense. Last year he enjoyed a career high P.E.R. at 16.9. His per 36 minute scoring was also a career high 13.6. The cherry on to of all of that is that he has a career high in field goal percentage at .495. 

In fact, while it's generally considered that Boozer is starting because of his offense, it's getting harder and harder to justify that. The Bulls offensive rating was 104.7 while Boozer was on the court last season compared to 103.7 while Gibson is on the court. 

So, the Bulls score one point fewer per 100 possessions offensively, but they give up 11.2 points fewer defensively. That's a 10-point swing in net points per 100 possessions. Also, bear in mind that Boozer is generally on the court with better offensive players than Gibson. 

It was during the postseason, when Gibson breathed life into the team after seeing both Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah go down with injury, that Chicago fans saw for the first time that Gibson has the potential to be an offensive force as well. 

Don't doubt for a moment that Gibson—who has improved every year of his career—will improve even more this year, particularly on the offensive end. Expect more of that kind of basketball from Gibson. 

This year, Gibson's offense is going to improve even more and his defense will make him even more valuable. It would behoove the Bulls to take note of this and extend him before the rest of the league realizes it too. Next year's play will only make his price go up.