The Thunder and Bulls made the trade deadline interesting this season, swapping Cameron Payne, Anthony Morrow, and Joffrey Lauvergne for Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott. To discuss what OKC will be receiving, we asked Jacob Bikshorn of Blog a Bull to answer a few questions about Taj and the man they call, McBuckets. Be sure to check out his answers and follow him on Twitter @OldManBikshorn.
Are you happy or sad to see Taj & McDermott go?
On a personal level, I’m very upset to see Taj Gibson leave. Gibson was the longest tenured Bull, a holdover from the Vinny Del Negro era and the only remaining Bull from the Eastern Conference Finals appearance in 2011. Taj is the ultimate professional, consistent in his effort and performance each and every night. While his days of posterizing fools on transition dunks are behind him, Gibson is still extremely solid in nearly all aspects of the game.
I would not say that I’m sad to see Doug McDermott traded. I’m disappointed that the Bulls, after surrendering so many assets to draft him, have decided to totally give up after two and a half seasons on the team. And in that short time, he was mainly glued to the bench his entire rookie season, and missed a large chunk of this season after suffering a pair of concussions.
Which of those two players will bring more value to the Thunder, and why? What is each of their ceilings?
It’s hard to gauge which player will have more importance to the current Thunder roster. The Thunder are obviously starved for shooting, and would be last in the league in most relevant three point statistical categories if it weren’t for the Bulls. For that reason, I’m inclined to think the McDermott will provide some much needed spacing when he’s on the floor, and will find himself with plenty of opportunities to make open shots with all the attention Russell Westbrook demands.
But McDermott’s skill set is nearly identical to that of Anthony Morrow, who was barely playing rotation minutes on a team that theoretically needed his shooting. Doug is a terrible defender, both on and off the ball. Any player he guards will attempt to isolate and blow by him, even guys you would never expect to be given the freedom to do that. Doug is almost unhideable on defense. McDermott is also a poor passer and rebounder, and last season posted historically low block and steal numbers.
I think that Gibson will be a much more useful piece this season. While he does not have three point range, his mid-range game is efficient enough and he will be very comfortable shooting 17 foot pick and pops when the defense traps Westbrook. Gibson is also a very intelligent defender, and pairing him with Adams will make driving to the rim nearly impossible for the opposition.
The Bulls never tried this enough, but I think Taj is suited to play some minutes at backup center as well. Lineups featuring Gibson and Nikola Mirotic always defended and rebounded better than expected.
As far as each player’s ceiling, this version of Taj is probably the best he’ll ever be. Doug certainly has room to improve, but at 25 years old I’m hesitant to say he’s ever going to develop into more than the one dimensional shooter that he is today.
McDermott is going from playing along side one superstar in Butler to another in Westbrook. How does his game meld with players of that caliber, and do you think he will fit well with Westbrook's triple-double chaos?
I think McDermott will be a fine fit alongside Westbrook. Doug does not need the ball in his hands to impact the offense, and he’s made strides timing his cuts around the floor. The Bulls usually run at least one hammer set to free McDermott for a corner three per game, and I imagine the Thunder will find similar gadget plays to get Doug open looks.
McDermott has also developed a nice floater game. When defenses overplay him for the three point shot, he’s quite comfortable taking a couple of dribbles and lofting a shot from mid-range.
Was Gibson moved because he is heading into unrestricted free agency? What kind of price tag do you think he will be looking for after this season, and is he worth it?
Gibson’s impending free agency was a motivating factor in moving him. At 32 years old, the Bulls did not want to give Taj his next contract.
It’s very hard to guess what the market for Gibson will be this summer. The market for big men in general is very depressed, and I wonder how many teams will be lining up to offer a big contract to an older power forward who is very reliant on his athleticism to succeed.
If you want to talk yourself into Taj aging gracefully, I would point out that Taj didn’t enter the league until he was 24 years old, so he hasn’t logged as many games and minutes as the typical 32 year old. He’s also spent nearly his entire career playing as a backup.
If I had to guess, I would say that the price for Gibson will be three years and $40 million, which is a price he’ll be worth for at least the first year and likely the second. For a team in win-now mode, it’s a totally fair deal.
Do you think the Thunder or the Bulls won this trade?
The Thunder clearly won this trade. Taj Gibson is by far the best player involved, and the Thunder also somehow swindled the Bulls out of a 2018 second round pick. The Bulls have refused to commit to building around Jimmy Butler for the long term, and if they decide to trade him around the draft this year, the Bulls could free fall and that pick could end up inside the top 40.
Have a question for Jacob? Ask in the comments below!