Can Taj Gibson Make the OKC Thunder Contenders?

Can Taj Gibson Make the OKC Thunder Contenders?
Photo Credit To OKC Thunder Twitter Feed

The OKC Thunder are on a three-game winning streak and just might find themselves back at number 6 in the West thanks to their recent acquisition of Taj Gibson from the Bulls.

While he hasn’t been that effective in the last two games he’s played for them, Taj Gibson has undoubtedly made an impact for the OKC Thunder. The former Chicago Bulls power forward has helped the Bulls win 2 of their last three games as a contributor off the bench. He hasn’t really been that impressive offensively but his defense has meant a lot to the team. With that said, can the Thunder still get better with him getting more meaningful minutes? Well, let’s take a look at some numbers to see how he can best help OKC.

Taj Gibson needs minutes

Yes. even when Taj Gibson was with the Chicago Bulls, his numbers weren’t really that impressive. However, he was arguably one of the best defenders in the league at his position. His 11.6 points, 7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, .5 steals, and .9 blocks also weren’t too shabby. He was extremely efficient when it came to scoring with an effective field goal percentage of 52.3%. As far as defense goes, he was extremely versatile in covering the ball handler in pick and roll situations. When it came to his low post defense, he was even better. In fact, he anchored the Bulls defense this season after Joakim Noah’s departure to join Derrick Rose.

Despite what he brings to the table, the OKC Thunder still haven’t gotten the most out of Taj Gibson. One reason for that is the fact that he’s currently the 4th big in their rotation. Steven Adams and Domantas Sabonis already have the starting gig taken. Thanks to that, Gibson has been relegated with off-the-bench duties. Even with this though, the Thunder are still benefiting from the 21 minutes he’s on the floor as part of second unit. A lot of this has to do with the fact that he’s almost always paired with Enes Kanter when he does take the floor.

Not used to the system

As a key contributor in Chicago, Taj Gibson routinely played at a slower pace relative to the rest of the league. Even under Fred Hoiberg, the Bulls found themselves slowing down the game. This was thanks to Jimmy Butler and Dwayne Wade needing a lot of iso touches to be particularly effective. The OKC Thunder though are a lot different from the Bulls. Most recently, Gibson found himself struggling to score against the New Orleans Pelicans. He only managed to score 6 points but did record 5 rebounds in the win. Although you could say he struggled against the Pelicans’ elite front line, my guess is that he’s still not used to OKC’s offensive system.

Unlike the Bulls, the Thunder like to play their offense through a player who likes to share the ball as much as shoot it. With Russell Westbrook on the floor, the Thunder play a lot faster and move the ball better (compared to the Bulls and Jimmy Butler). Taj Gibson seemingly hasn’t gotten used to this yet. Against the Pelicans, he managed to put up 9 shots and ended up missing 7 of those. What’s ironic is that those were mostly good shots that just looked like they were out of rhythm.

Expect better from Taj Gibson and the Thunder

Right now, I feel that the OKC Thunder has become a better team with the addition of Taj Gibson. In fact, I think that they just might make some noise in the Western Conference playoffs. Yes, they’re likely going to be a rung below the Warriors and Spurs. However, I’m pretty sure that they’ll at least be able to give these teams a good run for their money.

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