The New York Knicks are off to a hot start and their latest move to sign big man Taj Gibson is yet another smart decision by Leon Rose.
Gibson, who was born and raised nearby in Brooklyn, is a well-respected vet who played for the Knicks last season. So the core members of the franchise like RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson are already familiar with Gibson, a trusted and familiar face for these players.
More importantly, however, Gibson brings several years of experience playing under Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau – including stretches from 2010 until 2015 on the Chicago Bulls and 2017 until 2017 on the Minnesota Timberwolves.
For a team loaded with young players, a longtime “Thibs guy” like Gibson can lend a hand as a translator in the locker room for the famously intense coach. He can also serve as an extension of the coach when he is on the floor considering the expertise he brings in knowing the philosophies and rhythms of a Thibodeau-style team.
Tom Thibodeau coached Taj Gibson during seven combined seasons with the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves. Thibs has always praised Gibson as a pro on and off the court. https://t.co/BlHPkB1HF6
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) January 7, 2021
Following injuries to Obi Toppin and Nerlens Noel, the Knicks have had an incredibly thin frontcourt. As a response, big man Julius Randle is currently the league’s leader in minutes per game and has played more than 60 percent of possible minutes for New York. Thibodeau is infamous for wearing down his players with too much playing time and Gibson can offer some relief for Randle as the season progresses.
Realistically, even though the vet may not bring a ton of long-term value to the roster with his play, you still know what to expect when Gibson is on the court. Thibodeau will not have to coach Gibson or teach him new skills nor will he ever have to worry about his development.
Since coming into the league, he has brought tenacity no matter where he has played. Gibson is a hard-nosed glass cleaner whose teams have always had a better offensive rebound percent when he has been on the court. This helps to give his teammates second-chance opportunities after missed field goals.
Some fans may have concerns about potentially releasing Omari Spellman, who never played a game for the franchise but was a first-round pick just two years ago. But the truth of the matter is that the Knicks never added Spellman because of what they expected from him as a player.
Looking back, during the offseason, the Knicks used their cap space to acquire Ed Davis. The allure of that move was never to play Davis, rather, it was the two future second-round picks the Jazz sent to get off his contract.
Another shrewd/smart move here by the Knicks.
Obtain a pair of second second-rounders to take on Ed Davis contract. Then flip Davis for another second-round selection.
Good bit of business by Leon Rose and Brock Aller. Maximizing cap space https://t.co/9yUqOLwmtr
— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) November 23, 2020
New York then flipped Davis to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Spellman and Jacob Evans. Once again, however, this move was primarily inspired by the asset-gathering of adding yet another future second-rounder that Minnesota included in the deal. Evans, who was also a first-round pick in 2018, was waived before the season began.
It may have come as a surprise that the Knicks didn’t re-sign Gibson during the offseason, especially considering Thibodeau was hired to lead the squad. But if he had been on the roster the whole time, they may not have had the roster space to acquire Davis, Spellman and Evans – who net their front office three future draft picks.
If they had just re-signed Gibson outright during the offseason, they would have had three fewer assets in their toolkit. By waiting, they still get to have Gibson on their roster as a veteran presence for this exciting and otherwise fairly young squad.