Bulls Review: Taj Gibson

June, 7, 2011
6/07/11
1:53
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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Taj GibsonAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhTaj Gibson turned in two highlight reel dunks against the heat in Game 1 of the East finals.
Over the next few weeks, we'll take a closer look at each player on the Bulls roster and see where they fit in for the future. Let's take a look at one of the most consistent players on the team and one of the most popular players in the locker room ...

Taj Gibson

2010-11 salary: $1,117,680

Season recap: As usual, Gibson did what was asked of him and did it well. After playing in all 82 games as a rookie, Gibson followed that up by playing in 80 in his second season. He filled in nicely for Carlos Boozer at the beginning of the season, and after struggling to adjust to a bench role at times during the middle of the year, Gibson became one of Tom Thibodeau's most trusted defenders during the postseason.

Season highlight: A case could be made for two moments, one in the beginning of the year and one at the end. The first one came in November during a game against the Dallas Mavericks. Gibson racked up 17 points, 18 rebounds and nailed his only three-pointer of the season. In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, Gibson dunked on Dwyane Wade and followed that up at the end of the fourth quarter with a one-handed cuff dunk that he liked even more.

Season lowlight: Gibson fought through several injuries during the season, but his toughest battles came off the court. He lost three close friends before the season started and his grandfather passed away in February. The fact that Gibson persevered through all of those losses and was still able to perform is one of the biggest reasons he is so respected by his teammates.

Final grades: Regular season -- B | Postseason -- B

Gibson One thing about us, we've been all growing as a unit all year long. So like [coach Tom Thibodeau] said, 'We're going to walk through the fire together.' Nobody else is going to walk through it with us, we're going to walk through it together.

-- Taj Gibson
Notes: The more you watch Gibson play, the more you start to wonder if the Bulls made a mistake when they signed Carlos Boozer. Instead of allowing Gibson to grow in his role as the starting power forward (and use their free agent money somewhere else), the Bulls signed Boozer believing he could be the second offensive option behind Derrick Rose. Boozer struggled in the final few months of the season and lost key minutes to Gibson in the postseason because Gibson is a much better defender. Boozer will probably always be the better offensive player between the two, but there's no question Thibodeau trusts Gibson more on the floor in crunch time.

What's next?: The Bulls don't want to deal Gibson, but if the right deal comes along for a player they feel can be a difference maker for them, they will think long and hard about it. He's one of their most valuable trade chips and a guy plenty of teams will continue to ask about. In the meantime, Gibson will continue to be one of the stalwarts of the Bench Mob and a guy that will be actually be able to work on his game this summer. Last year, Gibson couldn't do much in the offseason because of lingering issues with plantar fasciitis. This summer he should be able to improve his offensive game because of the increased amount of time he will be able to spend in the gym.

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jimmy Butler
PTS AST STL MIN
22.0 3.3 1.5 40.0
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 11.4
AssistsD. Rose 4.8
StealsJ. Butler 1.5
BlocksP. Gasol 2.1