Move over, Carlos Boozer.
It was disappointing to see the Chicago Bulls lose 4-1 to the Washington Wizards in the first round, as the Bulls were looked at as a potentially destructive opponent after closing the season with a 21-9 record after the All-Star break. But one positive they can take from the early exit was the play of Taj Gibson.
On a team that was short of scorers, he broke away from the status he set during the regular season to become a leader for this team. While he finished second in Sixth Man of the Year voting, he was considered more of a glorified role player than an impact player who would take the reins and lead Chicago.
But now, after Gibson’s 18.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game against Washington, it’s almost certain he’ll be in the starting frontcourt with center Joakim Noah next season.
That all hinges on whether or not Chicago’s front office amnesties Boozer in the offseason, but the team would be well-advised doing so after Gibson’s breakout play in the postseason.
He mustered a 32-point, seven-rebound performance in Game 4 to keep the Bulls in it, but Chicago came up short.
His placement on this list is limited due to almost winning this season's Sixth Man of the Year award. That sounds slightly redundant to give a player praise, only to limit it by using it as evidence against him.
But as arguably Chicago's third-best player, it was necessary for Gibson to play well for his team. Even so, the big man broke free of the role-player status and became a definite building block for the Bulls.
And you can bet he’ll be raring to go next season.