Should Knicks bring back Taj Gibson for 2021-22 NBA season?


Knicks’ Taj Gibson treated image, blue jersey with dark background and white stripe behind head

In this series, we’ll look at whether or not Leon Rose and the Knicks should let these players stay — or let them walk. We’ll focus this time on Taj Gibson

CONTRACT: 1 year, $2.3m expiring this summer.

Why should Gibson stay?

Continuity and veteran leadership are mainstays in any championship locker room. Gibson, as cliche as it may be, provides both to the Knicks, and does so well. He may not grab the headlines, go off on the scoreboard or even play if the frontcourt is healthy, but Gibson played a real role in last year’s run, and Leon Rose should happily take him back.

Aside from the obvious off-court benefit of having Gibson, he ended up having a real impact on the floor, playing 20 minutes a night over 45 games last season. His role only increased in the postseason, starting most of the series and playing 27.6 minutes per game. Some of it was due to injury, like whenever Mitchell Robinson, Obi Toppin or Nerlens Noel were hurt. But other times, such as in the Playoffs, Tom Thibodeau called on Gibson out of necessity.

Gibson provides a different skillset and build than his peers at the five position. Robinson and Noel are slim, rim-running, above-the-rim shot-blockers. Gibson is ground bound, but more anticipatory and won’t fly out of the play chasing a swat.

Offensively, he can roll as well, scoring 1.17 points per play as the roll man, well above league average according to NBA.com/stats play type data. He’s also the better short roll passer out of the three centers, and has the most reliable jumper. This more versatile offensive repertoire is why he got so many postseason minutes, and makes him hugely valuable if the Knicks want to keep Noel and Robinson in the mix.

It’s not like Gibson will be highly sought after in free agency. He’s likely to earn another minimum deal and both he and the Knicks should be happy to run it back. Hopefully at this point, with another year of development and better injury luck, Gibson can cash his checks with a smaller workload as the fifth or sixth big, used situationally and to celebrate 30-point victories over the Atlanta Hawks.

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Why should Gibson go?

There’s no starving need to open up Gibson’s roster space, and his bonds with Derrick Rose and Thibodeau aren’t easily replaced. However, if the Knicks are serious about building on a fourth-seed finish, every degree better can make a difference. Gibson is 36 years old, and there may be better options out there.

Here are some other minimum-contract guys that could replace Gibson: Dwight Howard, Jeff Green, Luke Kornet, DeMarcus Cousins, Gorgui Dieng, and Frank Kaminsky. Maybe none of these names float your boat, or make any tangible impact that Gibson couldn’t.

But Cousins could be the next step in getting a situational playmaking big, and Kaminsky could bring that floor spacing at the five that opens things further for Julius Randle and RJ Barrett. Many of these names offer different looks that could benefit the Knicks in the long run, and sticking with a lesser player because of dogma can’t help championship hopes.

What’s the right move?

This isn’t much of a question. Gibson is a fan favorite, and for good reason. He’ll cost close to nothing, and provide more than we’ll ever appreciate. So long as he doesn’t retire, expect him in a blue-and-orange No. 67 jersey next season.

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