How Good Could Taj Gibson Be as Chicago Bulls' Starting Power Forward?

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How Good Could Taj Gibson Be as Chicago Bulls' Starting Power Forward?
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Second-unit forward Taj Gibson is an integral piece to the Chicago Bulls, but how good could he be as their starting power forward come next season?

All signs are pointing in this direction as Chicago will likely use the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer come the offseason.

Plus, Gibson's minutes per game have ascended from 22.4 during 2012-13 to 28.7 this season. Coach Tom Thibodeau loves the production from the 28-year-old, and he even recently offered his remarks about Gibson earning the Sixth Man of the Year award, via Joe Cowley the Chicago Sun-Times:

The things that he does for us are all team-oriented. He plays great defense, challenges shots, guards everybody, runs the floor hard, sets great screens, does his job, gets deep post position. When the second guy comes, he makes the play. He has gotten comfortable in pick-and-roll situations.

He’s had a terrific year for us. And I hope he does get recognized.

Thibs is clearly fond of what Gibson brings to the table, and with Boozer likely departing, Gibson should embrace a starting role featuring hefty minutes come next fall. How effective could he be?

 

Comparing Boozer and Gibson

Let's begin by analyzing Boozer's output compared to Gibson's. While Boozer has taken a lot of flack during his time in the Windy City, he remains their most skilled offensive player with Derrick Rose sidelined.

Even with Gibson flashing improvements on the offensive end, Boozer still boasts better per-36 numbers, per Basketball-Reference:

Per-36 Numbers
Player Points Per Game Rebounds Per Game
Boozer 17.3 10.4
Gibson 16.6 8.5

Basketball-Reference

With this in view, one could easily conclude that Boozer still holds distinct value, and the Bulls should not amnesty him. But here's the critical thing to remember: Basketball contains both offense and defense.

While Boozer is a stellar offensive weapon in the low post, his defensive limitations are no secret. It's evident that his lacking defensive efforts offset the positives he supplies offensively.

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

This is revealed when studying his plus/minus (minus-55) and his net 48-minute production player efficiency rating (minus-1.4 at the power forward slot, minus-2.8 at the center position), via 82games.com. This basically says that the Bulls struggle when Boozer is on the floor, and his matchup is usually exploiting him.

Simply put, he's hurting the team more defensively than he's helping it offensively.

The exact opposite can be said of Gibson, which is the chief reason to believe he can be a superb starter. Gibson's plus/minus rests at plus-66, and his net 48-minute production PER is 3.1 as a power forward and 8.0 as a center, per 82games.com.

Gibson is a defensive stud, and his offensive progression is now shaping him into a two-way player. Boozer is not this.

Danny Bollinger/Getty Images

Bulls fans should thus be intrigued at the thought of Gibson logging major minutes as a starter alongside Joakim Noah. Gibson's a better all-around power forward than Boozer, and he should enhance the Bulls' already dynamic defense while also not hurting their offense.

What's not to like? 

 

Predicting His Production

His production is very much contingent upon what moves the Bulls make in the offseason, but the likelihood is that Gibson will play between 30 to 35 minutes per game as a starter.

Realistic statistics for him are as follows: 14.5 points per game (49.5 percent field-goal percentage), 8.3 rebounds per game and 1.8 blocks per game.

With Rose back and potential new additions also in uniform, Gibson will likely not be a primary offensive option, but he should still be a factor. His scoring ability in the low post as well as his steady mid-range jumper should showcase their worth in Chicago's offensive attack.

Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

He should also post sufficient rebounding numbers and a quality block output.  

Plus, Gibson provides all the intangibles that Thibodeau detailed in the above quote. He exhibits the little thingschallenging shots, running the floor, setting good screens, defending multiple positionsthat don't show up on the stat sheet.

He'll certainly continue displaying his value in all of these realms.

Gibson should find himself in the midst of a balanced offense while also being a key ingredient to their suffocating defense.

He embodies everything Thibodeau desires, and there's every reason to predict more than competent production from the 6'9'' forward.

 

Could He Be an All-Star?

Gibson has earned a reputation as an elite post defender, and with his developing offensive repertoire, he could be headed toward an All-Star appearance.

While the above predicted statistics are not what you think of when considering an All-Star, keep in mind that Roy Hibbert made the All-Star squad this year and he's currently averaging 11.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

Gary Dineen/Getty Images

Yet, since he's an intimidator in the paint on the top-notch Indiana Pacers, he cracked the Eastern Conference roster.

Gibson could carve a similar path. If he notches around 15 points and eight rebounds per game, performs exceptionally well defensively and Chicago racks up a bunch of wins, then he could venture to the All-Star Game alongside Rose and Noah. This is a plausible scenario.

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Gibson may not pass the "eye test" in some people's minds, because he's not a dominant scorer and so much of what he does doesn't jump out at the average viewer. 

Yet, good things happen when Gibson is on the hardwood, and Chicago fans should be thrilled about his potential as a starter.

He is much more than serviceable or adequate, but he is rather a lockdown defender with a blossoming offensive game who should thrive in their starting unit.

He should truthfully emerge as not merely a decent starting power forward, but a great one who's on the verge of All-Star recognition.

 

Haddon Anderson is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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