Wednesday, May 7, 2014
3 Points: All-Star next step for Taj Gibson?
Taj Gibson raised his game this season and proved he's ready for an even bigger role in 2014-15.
Every week, ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Chicago Bulls followers.
1. Will Taj Gibson become an All-Star next season?
Friedell: He could be, but I don't think it will happen next year. Gibson may be the starting power forward on the Bulls next season, but with Derrick Rose back, and possibly Carmelo Anthony or another scorer, he won't have as many opportunities to put up big enough All-Star numbers.
Jon Greenberg, ESPNChicago.com columnist: Probably not, but I think he'll be an All-Star-caliber player and that's what's important. Gibson, who worked hard on improving his offensive game, played essentially starter's minutes (28.7 MPG) as a sub this season, typically playing the entire fourth quarter and averaging 13 points and 6.8 rebounds a game. In the seven games he started at power forward, he averaged 20.6 points and 9.7 boards in 43.3 minutes. If he starts next season, as expected, Gibson would probably play about 38 minutes, and most importantly, he'll get those early touches. A strong supporter of teammate Carlos Boozer, Gibson lamented after the last playoff game that the Bulls fell behind in every loss to the Washington Wizards. The Bulls could have used him in the post. With Rose (knock on wood) coming back, expect Gibson to get fed often near the rim to start games.
Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com columnist: It all depends on whom they pick up in free agency over the summer. As great as Gibson played over the back end of the season, it will be hard for me to believe that if the Bulls go out and get a max-level superstar along with Rose coming back to join Joakim Noah that they will have four players make it to the All-Star Game. Miami hasn't even been able to do that. So taking in consideration that before Gibson gets a nod, Rose, Noah and the unknown All-Star-caliber player they plan to add will already be on the All-Star ballot, it's gonna be tough for Taj to make that happen. Not impossible, but hella tough.
2. What's more likely, trading or using the amnesty on Carlos Boozer?
Friedell: Amnesty. The Bulls would love to trade Boozer. They would have loved to do it at any point over the past three years, but why would any team trade for him knowing they can probably get him for next to nothing in a couple months?
Carlos Boozer's run in Chicago appears to be over.
Greenberg: Amnesty. Boozer is only a trade possibility if the Bulls land a free agent, like, say, Anthony, and he agrees to a sign and trade on his way out of town. Because I don't see that happening, it's more likely the Bulls wave goodbye to Boozer. While some are skeptical the Bulls will pay the freight to release Boozer, remember they saved a good chunk of money by dumping Luol Deng. You can't tell me that money wasn't earmarked for this possible situation.
Jackson: Trade. Based on Jerry Reinsdorf's history of not spending money and not liking to lose money or just throw it away, I'm hard-pressed to believe that he would let the Boozer era in Chicago end by way of amnesty. Someone will pick up Booz and the remainder of his contract and Reinsdorf knows it. Gar Forman and John Paxson just have to find the right GM who sees a value in Boozer.
3. If he has played his final game as a Bull, how would you assess Boozer's tenure in Chicago?
Friedell: Underwhelming. Boozer hurt himself -- both literally and figuratively -- from the beginning. When he tripped over a bag in his place and broke his hand before his first season began, many fans had already stopped giving him the benefit of the doubt. When he no-showed throughout most of the 2011 playoffs, many people's minds were made up. Boozer was billed by the organization as the back-to-the-basket scorer the Bulls didn't have. But he never became that player.
Greenberg: Star-crossed? The Bulls won a lot of games with Boozer in the starting lineup, but he just wasn't the second superstar the team needed and the fans desired. A good player, just not a great one. Boozer stuck out on a defensive-minded team, and while he has a plethora of moves to create a shot, not to mention a rainbow jumper, the optics of him getting stuffed near the rim stuck with him. By this season, his platoon with Gibson became more defined, and Gibson's talents shined light on Boozer's deficiencies. Boozer was paid handsomely for his time, but he will be remembered mostly as a punchline. It's not fair, but such is life.
Jackson: Around a high C-plus. I totally get why and where everyone comes off having issues with Boozer and his overall play while he was in Chicago. But I've always taken expectations into consideration and understood how that played a bigger role in how he was judged. Remove the expectations because of the contract and the hate against Boozer isn't the same. We held his contract against him more than we did his play. As much as I understand how that is the nature of the beast that is professional sports, I try not to always be a victim of it. Boozer was necessary. In the beginning, at the time he signed, he was very necessary. And although he never turned into the Bulls' LaMarcus Aldridge, Boozer never cashed out and became their Roy Hibbert either.