Suns Rumors: Bulls Make Taj Gibson Available?

Jan 30, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns center Alex Len handles the basketball against the Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) in the second half at US Airways Center. The Suns won 99-93. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 30, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns center Alex Len handles the basketball against the Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) in the second half at US Airways Center. The Suns won 99-93. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports /

A few days ago, I listed Chicago Bulls power forward Taj Gibson as the top potential trade target of the Phoenix Suns. But like most of the trades in the piece, it felt more like a pipe dream than a realistic maneuver.

The difficulty of constructing a trade for the Suns that doesn’t move them laterally is something that will be touched on soon, but according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News, the Bulls may be making their backup big available in trade talks before the Feb. 19 deadline:

"“Gibson’s name has been connected to much of the league over the last few months, from Los Angeles to Toronto to Phoenix to Detroit to Portland.In recent weeks, he has not played with the type of energy for which he has been known, and there has been speculation that he is frustrated with the addition of Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol (though his playing time has not changed much). Gibson still has two years and $17.4 million on his deal, which is a problem in moving him.”"

Averaging 11.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game while shooting 49.2 percent from the floor, Gibson’s minutes have barely decreased this season. But if he truly is unhappy in Chicago, and with the Bulls’ defense not what it once was, perhaps there is some truth to this report that Gibson is on the block.

If Gibson is indeed available, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough should have called Bulls GM Gar Forman, like, five minutes ago.

Last season, Gibson was robbed of the Sixth Man of the Year award given his scoring, rebounding and elite defense off the bench for the Bulls. Because of his defense, he often closed out tight games for Chicago over Carlos Boozer, the Bulls’ starter at power forward.

With Boozer gone, Gibson was finally going to assume the role of starting power forward…until Chicago brought in Pau Gasol via free agency. Gasol has had a resurgent season — one of the best of his career, in fact — but that does little to make Gibson feel better about once again being denied a starting role.

Mirotic and Gasol haven’t severely impacted Gibson’s minutes, but playing alongside an All-Star and a Rookie of the Year candidate does little to increase his value or importance. Mirotic is increasingly looking like a staple for this team at the forward position, but it’s still curious the Bulls might be considering Gibson to be expendable during a title-or-bust season.

That being said, Gibson would fill some of the Suns’ biggest needs as this team’s starting power forward.

Suns Rumors
The Phoenix Suns trade Isaiah Thomas, Miles Plumlee and two future draft picks for Taj Gibson and Aaron Brooks via ESPN Trade Machine. A potential deal the Suns could make? /

The Suns rank 19th in defensive rating, surrendering 107.0 points per 100 possessions. Until this season, with the Bulls taking a step backward defensively, Gibson’s defensive rating was 101 or lower in his last four seasons.

Phoenix also struggles on the glass, averaging 42.5 boards per game (18th in the NBA). When Jeff Hornacek switches to small-ball lineups to close games, guys like Markieff Morris and P.J. Tucker have been forced to play power forward and center, which is why the Suns have struggled to pull down rebounds to close out defensive possessions after the point guard trio wreaks havoc with double-teams.

Adding Gibson to the equation gives the Suns a bonafide close-out defensive player who can pull down those boards. Keef is having a tremendous season offensively, but bringing in Gibson would help the Suns take the next step toward contending in the future as a defensive presence.

This would also allow Keef to terrorize opponents off the bench as sixth man. It may be tempting to want to start the more offensively polished Morris at power forward, but Gibson’s defensive impact cannot be understated, especially when paired alongside the promising Alex Len. Gibson would be unlikely to want another backup gig anyway.

If the Bulls are indeed fielding offers for Gibson, the Suns should be at the front of the line. The Toronto Raptors join Phoenix in possessing some attractive assets to offer, which means the Suns will have plenty of competition here.

The Bulls need perimeter shooting, which the Suns have in spades. Isaiah Thomas, Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee are all pieces the Suns would consider including in a deal, though Chicago will likely drive up the asking price since they know the value of their backup.

A 29-year-old dealing with tendinitis may not sound overwhelmingly attractive, but he represents the next step forward for Phoenix: defense and rebounding. As much as Suns fans would love to think Kevin Love will be an option this summer, passing up a good thing now to wait and see if he winds up being happy with the Cleveland Cavaliers isn’t the best idea on the table.

“Taj Gibson, starting power forward” is something we’ve been waiting to hear for years. That seemed like a pipe dream for the Suns just a few days ago, but if it were to happen in Phoenix, this playoff-hopeful team would be taking the next step forward.

Next: Phoenix Suns: Top 5 Potential Trade Targets

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