As we recap the 2018-19 Timberwolves season, our Kyle Ratke and Julian Andrews will be taking a look at each player on the roster and how we’ll remember their season. We continue with forward Taj Gibson.
KR: I want to start by pointing out how professional Gibson is. I guess it’s not a surprise considering it’s been that way his whole career. Most notably, Gibson didn’t get upset when Interim Head Coach Ryan Saunders inserted Dario Saric into the starting lineup and had Gibson come off the ball. Instead, he embraced it as an opportunity. And he took advantage of it.
It’s actually kind of silly how similar his numbers were starting and coming off the bench, even though he played nearly seven fewer minutes per game when he came off the bench.
Starter: 57 games, 25.3 MPG, 10.9 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.2 APG, 55.9 FG%
Reserve: 13 games, 18.6 MPG, 10.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.2 APG, 60.5 FG%
Gibson is the perfect example of how you’d like all players to act. Hard working and professional.
In his second season with the Wolves, his per 36-minute averages were actually better than last season. He averaged 16.1 points and 9.8 rebounds per 36 and still managed to shoot 56.6 percent from the field, a mark that ranked 14th in the NBA and second among forwards.
Being around this team, Gibson is the steady hand. Never too high, never too low. At 33 years old (he’ll be 34 when next season starts), Gibson’s career should be winding down, but he’s coming off two of his best seasons as a pro.
And to do some investigative research, I think it’s worth noting that Gibson shot a 3-pointer in every other game, something he’s never done in his career. He made 11 of 34 3-pointers throughout the season. That’s a pretty small sample size, but with how the NBA is changing, it doesn’t look like Gibson is afraid to change with it. He’s not going to make a Brook Lopez transformation, but I’d be surprised if Gibson doesn’t shoot more 3-pointers in 2019-20.
JA: Taj Gibson is the epitome of a professional and a team player. Throughout the entire season, he was the rock that held the Wolves together. He took the rookies and younger players under his wing, he was active and engaged in practices and shootarounds and he did whatever the team needed from him every day.
When Dario Saric came in midseason, Interim Head Coach Ryan Saunders made the decision to bring Gibson off the bench. Saunders expected it to be a difficult conversation. After all, Gibson had started for the better part of the last two seasons. Gibson, though, made it clear to Saunders that he would accept his bench role with grace and his trademark work ethic.
Gibson is the kind of player that will have a role in the NBA as long as he wants one. He could definitely pivot to coaching right after his playing career ends. That time isn’t coming soon though—Gibson proved this season that he still has a valuable skillset even in a changing league.
Even though we see more and more power forwards shooting threes, rebounding is and always will be extremely important. Gibson absolutely cleans the glass. He averaged 6.5 rebounds per game and created many more with his tips and box-outs. On offense, Gibson was extremely efficient in the post, scoring 10.8 points per game on only 7.7 shots. He’s the type of old-school post presence that any team would love to have in a pinch.
His role on the Wolves was primarily as a veteran leader and locker room presence, but Gibson changed games with his hard-nosed defense and aforementioned rebounding. He’s a consummate pro who made the Wolves better every day and who will be impacting the league in one way or another for years to come.