Derrick Rose will be the Bulls’ best player next season. In some order, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler and Carlos Boozer will follow.
Taj Gibson has a chance to join that secondary group.
In three preseason games, he’s averaging 17.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. Preseason games don’t mean much, but when that production backed by a strong scouting report from the coach, that bodes well.
Tom Thibodeau, via Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:
‘‘You could make a case that Taj has been our best player in camp,’’ Thibodeau said.
‘‘[Last season] wasn’t up to his standards,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He’s playing with a lot of confidence now.’’
The Bulls bench lost a little luster last season, and Gibson taking a small step back contributed. He was still solid, but he wasn’t the Sixth Man of the Year candidate he was the year prior. If Gibson gets back on track, he could be a key piece toward a Chicago title run.
Gibson is an excellent defender, and you know Thibodeau appreciates that. The big man also scores well in the paint, though his offense hasn’t exactly been a huge asset. If he progresses on that end, he could mean a lot more than a key 2013-14 piece. He could be the catalyst for the Bulls moving Carlos Boozer, either via amnesty or trade.
Simply, the better Gibson is, the more flexibility Chicago has in the short and long term.