Bulls player review: Taj Gibson

Nick Friedell looks at each player on the Chicago Bulls roster and how they fit in for the future.

Taj Gibson

2012-13 salary: $2,155,811 | Age: 27 | Season stats: 8.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg

Season recap: Playing without Omer Asik for the first time in two seasons, Gibson struggled to replicate his success over the first couple months of the year. After signing an extension on opening night, the happy-go-lucky forward admitted that he was pressing a little while trying to live up to the new deal. Gibson started playing better midway through the season but a sprained MCL put him out of action for about a month, and he struggled to find a rhythm after that. His numbers ended up being about the same as his career average but this was his most up-and-down season to date for several reasons.

Season highlight: With Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer out because of injuries, Gibson was pressed into 45 minutes of action in a Feb. 2 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. He responded with 19 points and 19 rebounds in the second night of a back-to-back.

Season lowlight: Gibson played just eight minutes and scored two points in a Game 5 loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Final grades: Regular season: C. Postseason: C

Notes: Gibson comes into next season with the expectations that come with a new deal. Over the next four years he has the ability to earn almost $40 million with his incentives in his new deal. He remains an integral part of the Bulls' bench but he must develop a more consistent outside shot to be more of a factor next season.

Quotes: "You can say a lot of different things," Gibson said of his early struggles back in early December. "Maybe the extension, maybe this new group of guys. All I have to focus on is figuring out ways to help the team. My job is to go out there and (provide) more ... I have to just do more on the rebounding, playing more defense, no matter how many minutes I get, if it goes from 17 or if I get 30 minutes a game (my job) is to always be ready and be focused and take advantage of it and just play to my strengths, just have fun."

What's next?: Gibson said after Game 5 in Miami that he was looking forward to working out with Derrick Rose over the summer in California. He has to get his knee back in order and feel confident on it heading into next season. Gibson's defense continues to be his strong suit as a player; it's his offense that he needs to work on, specifically post moves and jump shots, in order to take the next step in his development.