When the Chicago Bulls tipped off against the Sacramento Kings Wednesday night, the odds looked to be against the team reaching a deal with standout sixth man Taj Gibson. After holding off a Kings comeback at the United Center, though, Chicago secured an even bigger victory off the court.
As reported by ESPN Chicago, Gibson signed an extension worth a guaranteed $34 million over four years. The deal will keep Gibson in a Bulls uniform through his 31st birthday.
The Bulls have done an excellent job in general of locking up their core players for the long haul, and Gibson’s extension fits that pattern perfectly. He’ll never be a primary scoring option, but he does everything else well on the basketball court.
As ESPN observes, the one potential hitch in Gibson’s new deal—the combined $25 million-a-year investment in power forwards Gibson and Carlos Boozer—can easily be remedied by Chicago using the amnesty clause to get rid of Boozer’s hefty contract.
Gibson may never match the best of Boozer’s scoring ability, but the latter forward has never been as consistent on offense as the Bulls have needed him to be. Gibson, meanwhile, is a vastly superior defender who’s four years younger than Boozer, making him the easy choice if the Bulls can only afford one incumbent power forward.
Gibson’s defensive prowess is even more valuable because his agility lets him guard multiple positions. Keeping him around to give the LeBron Jameses and Kevin Durants of the world a different look on defense (and give Luol Deng a breather in the process) is worth a large chunk of money by itself.
Gibson’s high-energy style is also a perfect fit for the philosophy coach Tom Thibodeau has brought to Chicago. With the possible exception of Joakim Noah, there isn’t a player on the Bulls’ roster who can be counted on for consistent hustle and hard work the way Gibson can.
With Derrick Rose injured, the Bulls have little choice but to write off their chances at an NBA title in 2012-13. By keeping Gibson in Chicago, however, they’ve taken a valuable step toward getting a shot at a championship a year or two down the road.