TAJ GIBSON IS GETTING BETTER WITH AGE

Aug 27, 2018 | by Kyle Ratke, NBA.com

With the Timberwolves trading for Jimmy Butler and signing Jeff Teague, the signing of forward Taj Gibson may have gone overlooked.

Looking back more than a year after the signing, it’s clear that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden made one of the best offseason moves in the NBA.

In his first season with the Timberwolves at age 32, Gibson shot 57.7 percent from the field, setting a single-season team record. Gibson shot 76.8 percent from the free-throw line, and tallied 18 double-doubles, tying a career-high that was set eight years ago. (The song "TiK ToK" by Ke$ha was the No. 1 song in America then.)

Gibson’s 12.2 points per game were his highest mark since the 2014-15 season, and his 7.1 rebounds per game were his best since his rookie season.

The guys that make things click in the NBA are often times forgotten. The truth is, if you take Gibson off this Wolves team in 2017-18, this team probably doesn’t sniff the playoffs. Gibson was the ultimate glue guy for the Wolves, starting 82 games for the first time in his career.

Gibson’s role in 2018-19 will be the same. Score when the opportunity is there, but what makes Gibson so valuable to this team is his skill defensively and his ability to do whatever the team asks of him.

“My thing is that I’m the guy that picks the pieces up,” Gibson said. “I’m that one guy that always connects with everybody, even when things king of get disorganized, and I’m the guy that has pushed aside all my own values, all my own little goals I want to have, just for the sake of the team, I’m going to do whatever it takes.”

Not many players can play this type of defense on James Harden, let alone power forwards.

And then there was Gibson’s defense against Nikola Jokic in the finals stretch of Game 82, which was the most-important basketball game for the Timberwolves in more than a decade. In the final six minutes of the game (one in regulation and five in overtime), Gibson held Jokic scoreless, forcing him to shoot 0-for-5.

“You can’t say enough about the toughness Taj gives you,” Thibodeau said.

You’ll hear more about other players than Gibson, and it seems like that’s the way he likes it. His work is all the same.

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