Minnesota Timberwolves: Taj Gibson Season Review

Kenneth Faried #35 of the Houston Rockets looks on during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Kenneth Faried #35 of the Houston Rockets looks on during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

After a career year in his first season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Taj Gibson was asked to play somewhat of a different role for much of the 2018-19 campaign.

When the Minnesota Timberwolves signed veteran big man Taj Gibson to a two-year deal worth $14 million each season, it was seen as a slight overpay but not much of a risk given how solid Gibson has been in his career and the short nature of the contract.

Gibson responded with a career year in his first season, scoring the second-most points per game (12.2) and second-most rebounds per game (7.1) in his entire career while shooting a career-best 57.7 percent from the field.

He helped to lead the Wolves to the playoffs by adding a bit of an edge to the team on both sides of the floor and assisted with Karl-Anthony Towns‘ improvement on both ends of the floor.

The 2018-19 season started with Gibson in a similar role and with a similar goal: start next to Towns, play tough defense, and help Jimmy Butler lead the rest of the Wolves youngsters to a playoff berth.

Butler was traded in early November, however, bringing back power forward Dario Saric and severely damaging the Timberwolves’ playoff hopes all in one fell swoop. Gibson continued starting, but the Wolves lost too much in the scoring column when Butler left and Gibson’s defense and rebounding-first nature didn’t fit quite as well anymore in the starting lineup.

Gibson started 53 of the first 54 games, only missing one contest for personal reasons. Then, he was moved to the bench in favor of Saric in 13 of his final 16 appearances before sitting out the last 11 games of the year due to injury.

When it was all said and done, Gibson played his fewest minutes per game since 2012-13 in Chicago, which was just his fourth year in the league. He still shot 56.6 percent from the field and his 10.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game were nothing to sneeze at — especially given the level of defense that he’s still capable of playing.

In some ways, this was an even more impressive campaign from Gibson, given that his role shifted a couple of times and he was able to provide comparable production despite a dip in playing time of nearly 10 minutes per game.

Heading into his age-34 season, Gibson won’t make $14 million again this summer. But he’s still an ultra-valuable backup big man and should land softly on a playoff-caliber team. He probably deserves a bigger role than what the Wolves would be willing to promise him as they try and bring Dario Saric along as the power forward of the future, so don’t expect him to be back in a Timberwolves uniform.

Expect Gibson to find a new organization to join and find a prominent role on a good team, either as a starter or a key reserve.

Next. Dario Saric Player Review. dark

That said, if Taj finds his way back in Minnesota somehow this summer, he’ll continue to be a fan favorite and a positive contributor for the Wolves moving forward.