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Chicago Bulls: Top Five Reasons We Love Taj Gibson

Above -- and Below -- the Rim, the Forward Can Do it All

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The Chicago Bulls will need Taj Gibson to come up huge this season if they intend on taking the NBA championship away from the Miami Heat.

Yes, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng will likely play larger overall roles, but that does not diminish the importance of Gibson to the Bulls. And even though he is not part of the Bulls' Big Three, Gibson is most certainly a fan-favorite.

Here are five of the things we love most about the 28-year-old forward:

He has become more offensive in nature

While the 2012-13 campaign was rather disappointing, Gibson is off to a fantastic start. In five preseason games, he is shooting 63 percent from the field and is averaging 15 points per game. The success he is finding is because his offensive game has grown.

So far this year, Gibson has already shown "some nifty, left-handed post moves not seen with consistency in the past," according to the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson. He is also more active outside the lane and is getting more arc underneath his jump shot. That makes him that much harder to defend, while also making the rim a touch more forgiving.

Another thing to consider is that Gibson's offense on the wings -- and in the post -- will open up more scoring opportunities for Rose and the rest of the Bulls' offense. He adds another dimension to the offense.

His defense can change a game

While offense is an important part of what Gibson brings to the Bulls, the fifth-year forward does more than his share on the defensive end. He does more than most of the highly regarding big men in the NBA, actually.

To that end,'s The Moon put together a short -- yet comprehensive -- list of NBA big men to illustrate how impactful Gibson is on defense. Moon noted that the opponent's field-goal percentage (eFG%) went down 2.5 percent when he was on the court. That is an incredible number when put into the context of how many games come down to one or two possessions. Only Joakim Noah (-2.6 eFG%) had a bigger impact on the Bulls' defensive metrics.

Last season, Gibson was second on team with 1.4 blocks per game and had a 101 defensive rating, according to If his efforts to this point are any indication, he will improve in both categories.

Wiping it clean

Numbers don't lie. Gibson takes the Bulls to another level on the glass when he is on the floor. Moon noted in his article that when Gibson is on the court, the Bulls' offensive-rebounding percentage "jumps from 28.2 to 31.2." That is a dramatic increase and stands as a testament to how active he is around the rim.

Last season, he ranked fourth on team with 5.3 rebounds per game in only 22.4 minutes. B-R projects that Gibson will average 8.7 boards per 36 minutes this season. Since he is averaging 28.6 minutes this preseason, averaging seven rebounds a game is not out of the question.

He is self-aware

Unlike a sport such as baseball, basketball is an effort game. Gibson gets that. He understands just how important practice, effort, and repetition are to success in the NBA. As a result, he spent the entire offseason working on each facet of his game.

"I felt like I could've played a lot better last year and I just wanted to work on my game the whole summer," Gibson said, via's Brian Crawford. He was right. He could have played much better last season. The results of his work to this point are evident. As Gibson told Crawford, "The more you put in, the more you receive."

He should be a starter

All told, the biggest reason you have to love Gibson is that he has the talent to start.

He would be, too, if head coach Tom Thibodeau was not so set in his starting five. Look no further for justification of that point than the fact that Thibodeau seems to go with Gibson at the end of games more often than he does Carlos Boozer. Simply put, he is more comfortable with the balance that the University of Southern California product brings to the team down the stretch than he is with the former Blue Devil.

My opinion is that if Gibson is good enough to finish a game, he is good enough to start one.

In addition to contributing to Yahoo, Matthew Smith is the Chicago White Sox Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow his misadventures on Twitter @MatthewSmithBR and on Google +.

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