That is, unless they act fast.
According to ESPN's Nick Borges, the Bulls and Gibson are in talks about extending the big man's contract, but should they fail to do so by October 31, he will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
Nick Friedell of ESPN further explains the situation:
The Bulls have always been confident they could retain Gibson, whose agent Mark Bartelstein told ESPNChicago.com in June that the two sides had already started discussing a new deal.
Given what happened with Asik, Gibson really finds himself in the driver's seat. Yes, he wants to stay in Chicago, but he and Bartelstein can set a price and force the Bulls' hand. If Forman and the Bulls don't get to the price Bartelstein is asking for, Gibson can test the waters just like Asik did. If Gibson takes another step in his progression and hits the open market next summer he could be staring at a deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 million from a team that needs a dependable big body on the floor. Gibson, one of the most popular players on the Bulls, tried to downplay the idea that he would be looking for greener pastures down the line.
Is Gibson, who indeed sits firmly in the driver's seat of negotiations, going to get a hefty pay day? Absolutely, but if the Bulls are serious about retaining the versatile big man, it's either now or never.
That's because, as time goes on, the fourth-year man out of USC is only going to get more valuable, and if Omer Asik got a max contract, there's no doubt Gibson will get the same at the season's end.
Should the Bulls re-sign Gibson right now?
So, the Bulls have two choices.
First, they can re-sign Gibson within the next month for what will undoubtedly be a large, albeit not max, sum.
Second, they can let him become a restricted free agent and subsequently watch another team offer him max money, forcing them to part ways just like they did with Asik.
The way I see it, whatever option puts Gibson in a Chicago uniform for several years to come is the right one.
The 27-year-old is on his way—if he's not there already—to becoming an elite defensive option in this league.
Not only does he block over 2.0 shots and rack up 0.8 steals per 36 minutes, numbers that are right on par with Asik, but his versatility is unmatched by most people in this league. At 6'9" with tons of athleticism, he can defend the 3, 4 or 5.
Throw in his surprisingly efficient offensive game, ferocity on the glass and willingness to get physical with just about anyone, and you won't find another player in this league with a skill set that is on par with Gibson's.
Taj Gibson is the type of role player you find on championship teams. Unfortunately for the Chicago Bulls, they won't be that team if they let him test the free-agent waters next summer.