The Minnesota Timberwolves’ season is over, which means it’s time to start assessing how each player on the roster performed this year. So far in this series, we looked at Aaron Brooks, Marcus Georges-Hunt, Nemanja Bjelica, Gorgui Dieng, Jamal Crawford, Tyus Jones, Derrick Rose and Cole Aldrich’s performances. Up next is Taj Gibson.
Gibson’s off-season signing garnered mixed reactions. On one hand, he was excellent under Tom Thibodeau in Chicago. On the other, he played poorly for his last team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Minnesota needed 3-point shooters and wing depth, neither of which Gibson could provide. To make matters worse, at 32 years old, he was on the other side of his prime.
Gibson was expected to provide an offensive boost and a veteran presence. In addition, he was supposed to help implement Thibodeau’s defensive schemes.
Gibson did all that was asked of him and more. He was a model of efficiency, shooting 59.5 percent on two’s. Gibson thrived in the post, annihilating defenders with the space created by Minnesota’s starting lineup. He averaged 12.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. In addition, he was a solid defender.
Long-range isn’t Gibson’s thing. He shot just seven of 35 from three this year. When guarding other players at a distance from the basket, he lost his defensive advantage. His age and lack of speed meant that players on the perimeter were often able to slip past him.
Gibson has had many nicknames over the years. Hard Hat, Tajy-Woo, Lunch Pail, and Secretary of Defense, among others. However, he earned perhaps the most fitting name yet in Minnesota: Mr. Clean.
Of course, it helps that Gibson just looks a lot like the original Mr. Clean.
More importantly, however, was the fact that Gibson spent the entire season cleaning up the Timberwolves messes. Countless times, he turned an opponent’s wide open layup into a contested jumper. He tipped the ball out so his teammates could get the rebound, and made the smart pass to set the Wolves offense up for success. Gibson made the kind of plays that win basketball games.
A great example of this was in the Timberwolves final game of the regular season. Minnesota faced the Denver Nuggets in an epic win-or-go-home game. As the clock ticked down, the Nuggets continuously fed Nikola Jokic, who had been excellent this season. However, Gibson played stellar defense and prevented Jokic from making an impact. In fact, he wrestled the ball away from Jokic in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, preventing the Nuggets from shooting a potential game-winner.
As mentioned above, Gibson doesn’t shoot the 3-ball well. While he isn’t the worst at perimeter defense among bigs, he certainly isn’t great. However, Gibson was able to accommodate for this weakness by spending most of his time in the paint. All in all, there was very little to criticize in Gibson’s first year in Minnesota.
Gibson will not enter restricted free agency until the summer of 2019. This means he will be a Timberwolf for at least one more season unless the team decides to trade him.