Sometimes a player fits perfectly into a system. His ability, his attitude, the team needs… everything just works.
That is what the Bulls have in Taj Gibson. He is, above all else, a tenacious defender who rebounds on a team that values, above all else, defending and defensive rebounding.
So with the deadline to either extend Gibson (and other members of the '09 draft class) or let him become a restricted free agent just two weeks away, the Bulls would like to find away to keep him all to themselves.
Chicago may not have a choice but to work out something with Gibson, who will be a highly coveted restricted free agent should he hit the market next summer. 'They've made it clear they'd like to sign Taj,' agent Mark Bartlestein said Saturday. 'They're making an effort, and so are we … if we can get something done that everybody feels good about, great. If not, I'm sure he'll have a great year.'
It is difficult to determine the market for Gibson, because the new CBA has changed how money for guys like Gibson are distributed. It is also difficult to project what Gibson will mean to the Bulls this year with Derrick Rose still out for a good portion of the season and Carlos Boozer's regression picking up steam.
Rose being out puts more pressure on the second unit, especially if Tom Thibodeau chooses to move Luol Deng into the starting lineup. And if Boozer continues on a downward spiral, the pressure to perform falls very heavily on Gibson, who has barely been getting more than 20 minutes a game. In his usual role off the bench, Gibson has been great for Chicago. How much better will he be, and for how long, in the current Bulls' situation?
In the end, Gibson may have to write a couple of "Thank You" notes to Boston GM Danny Ainge and forward Jeff Green. As Bartelstein and Gibson try to pry a few extra bucks out of GM Gar Forman, they can submit Green's four-year, $36 million contract into evidence.
Gibson's career production is not quite near Green's, but he can argue he is at least as important to the Bulls as Green is to the Celtics. And he can argue that in today's climate, a team like Houston is going to sock Chicago with a "poison pill" offer in restricted free agency that will make overpaying a little now to get the right average salary worth it. And finally, the already capped-out Bulls will have to rely on their mid-level exception to replace Gibson if they get screwed by someone next summer.
Striking a deal now makes the most sense for the Bulls, even if it means overpaying for Gibson's services. He might not get Green money, but it will get pretty close. If Chicago does not pony up the dough now, they run a serious risk of losing Gibson later on.
Should the Bulls extend Taj Gibson? Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter by using the hashtag #BullsDay.