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Taj Gibson falls just short for Kia NBA Sixth Man
by Sam Smith
Posted on May 8
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Taj Gibson finished a close second to Jamal Crawford in the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year voting, but he remains the winner with the Bulls.
“You have to congratulate Jamal and for what he’s done throughout his career,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “But in my opinion, and I’m biased of course, but to me Taj was the Sixth Man of the Year. I’m very pleased with his progress and there’s even a lot of room for growth. He’s been a model player with his development. Some people may view him as more a defensive player, but there’s so much more to him than that. If you look statistically at what he did in the fourth quarter, he was our most efficient player in the fourth quarter, shooting a very high percentage, second highest scorer, very good back to the basket, facing up from 17 feet, running the floor, second shots. He’s really become a complete player. It’s a testament to his work ethic and how much he put into it.”
Gibson in one of the closest results in the history of the award had 49 first place votes from the 125 national media voters. Crawford, the former Bull in winning a second time, had 57 first place votes. Overall, Crawford had 421 votes to 395 for Gibson. No one else was close with Manu Ginobili third with 138 votes. D.J. Augustin finished seventh with six votes. In overall percentage, Crawford received 37 percent of the vote to 35 percent for Gibson. Unfortunately, there are no runoffs in NBA voting.
But the results also are a testament to how far Gibson has come as a player.
Last season when J.R. Smith won the award, Crawford, who also won in 2010 as a member of the Atlanta Hawks, was second. Gibson didn’t receive any votes. The only Bull last season receiving votes was Nate Robinson. But this season Gibson made it a close two-player race and was nudged out likely due to Crawford’s statistics as the high scorer off the bench.
But Gibson was a far superior defensive player and Crawford started 24 of the 69 games he played. The criterion is to come off the bench in more games than you start. But Gibson was more the true sixth man with just eight starts. In seven starts at power forward, Gibson averaged 20.6 points and 9.7 rebounds. In one start at center, he had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Overall in easily his best season as a pro, Gibson averaged 13 points and 6.8 rebounds and ranked among the league leaders in blocks.
In the playoff series against Washington Gibson, despite coming off the bench, was the Bulls leading scorer in averaging 18.2 points. He also led in blocks and offensive rebounds and shot a team best 56.1 percent.
“Taj had a terrific season and was a big key to our success,” said Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson. “You can see by the voting that he had great support around the league as the best Sixth Man in the league and we certainly believe he was deserving of winning the award. We also know Taj’s best days are in front of him and we look forward to watching his continued growth as a player in a Chicago Bulls uniform.”
In his fifth season with the Bulls, Gibson set a career best in the regular season with 26 points and then in Game 4 of the playoffs exceeded that with a 30-point game. Gibson led the team in scoring and rebounding during the season a dozen times each and had 15 double/doubles despite being the team’s sixth man. But he became the team leader in fourth quarter minutes played and second in fourth quarter scoring, truly rare for a sixth man.
“Obviously, Taj had a great season,” added Thibodeau. “In finishing runner up for Sixth Man, I think the league has recognized how important he is to our team. I thought he had a great summer last year in preparation for the season. He started fast, finished strong and he improved in every area of his game.”
Gibson is considered one of the team’s cornerstones moving forward and teammate Joakim Noah made a point after the season that no matter what moves the team makes he wants to see Gibson alongside him again next season.
It’s at times been an uneven path for Gibson, who was the 26th pick in the 2009 draft, started 70 games in his rookie season but then began to play less. Until this season, he hadn’t played as much as he had as a rookie. Gibson appeared to hit a low point in 2012-13 when he matched a career low with 5.3 rebounds per game and averaged eight points. But Gibson worked relentlessly on his game after the season, returning to the Bulls in the best condition of any player and with more added to his game with one of the best low post games in the NBA and a reliable jump shot. It earned him the faith of the coach and the team down the stretch in games and a vital place with the team moving forward.
“We’re so proud of the player Taj has worked to become and he’s our Sixth Man winner, for sure,” said Bulls general manager Gar Forman. “It’s a great credit to Taj for the work he put in to vastly improve his game. He could be the league’s Most Improved Player winner as well as Sixth Man with the season he had. Taj also exemplified the best in players the way he willingly accepted any role he was asked for the general welfare of the team. One of the reasons we feel so good going forward is because players and people like Taj Gibson will be part of the Bulls organization.”
2013-14 KIA NBA SIXTH MAN AWARD VOTING
|Player||Team||1st Place (5 pts)||2nd Place (3 Pts)||3rd Place (1 Pt)||Total Points|
|Jamal Crawford||L.A. Clippers||57||41||13||421|
|Manu Ginobili||San Antonio||9||20||33||138|
|Reggie Jackson||Oklahoma City||4||4||17||49|
|Nick Young||L.A. Lakers||—||—||3||3|
|Marco Belinelli||San Antonio||—||—||2||2|
|Tim Hardaway Jr.||New York||—||—||1||1|
|Patty Mills||San Antonio||—||—||1||1|
ALL-TIME KIA NBA SIXTH MAN AWARD WINNERS
1982-83 Bobby Jones, Philadelphia 76ers
1983-84 Kevin McHale, Boston Celtics
1984-85 Kevin McHale, Boston Celtics
1985-86 Bill Walton, Boston Celtics
1986-87 Ricky Pierce, Milwaukee Bucks
1987-88 Roy Tarpley, Dallas Mavericks
1988-89 Eddie Johnson, Phoenix Suns
1989-90 Ricky Pierce, Milwaukee Bucks
1990-91 Detlef Schrempf, Indiana Pacers
1991-92 Detlef Schrempf, Indiana Pacers
1992-93 Clifford Robinson, Portland Trail Blazers
1993-94 Dell Curry, Charlotte Hornets
1994-95 Anthony Mason, New York Knicks
1995-96 Toni Kukoc, Chicago Bulls
1996-97 John Starks, New York Knicks
1997-98 Danny Manning, Phoenix Suns
1998-99 Darrell Armstrong, Orlando Magic
1999-00 Rodney Rogers, Phoenix Suns
2000-01 Aaron McKie, Philadelphia 76ers
2001-02 Corliss Williamson, Detroit Pistons
2002-03 Bobby Jackson, Sacramento Kings
2003-04 Antawn Jamison, Dallas Mavericks
2004-05 Ben Gordon, Chicago Bulls
2005-06 Mike Miller, Memphis Grizzlies
2006-07 Leandro Barbosa, Phoenix Suns
2007-08 Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
2008-09 Jason Terry, Dallas Mavericks
2009-10 Jamal Crawford, Atlanta Hawks
2010-11 Lamar Odom, Los Angeles Lakers
2011-12 James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder
2012-13 J.R. Smith, New York Knicks
2013-14 Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers