Thibodeau Player Development: The Non-Stars
What you see with Taj Gibson is what you get. He is an athletic big man who was a phenomenal energy big for Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls teams. Gibson was entering his second season in the league when Thibodeau took over the Bulls, and he thrived as a backup power forward to Carlos Boozer. Gibson is a glue guy whose play has stayed relatively the same since he entered the league. His defense and energy made him an ideal option for Thibodeau off the bench, and Thibodeau made sure Gibson followed him to Minnesota. With Thibodeau in New York, Gibson is a strong candidate to return.
Teague was drafted to the Bulls in 2012 and was traded after a year and a half. He played 48 games his rookie season and showed no potential of being a quality player. Thibodeau played him about 8 minutes a game, but his inability to earn minutes for a team without Derrick Rose says it all for his talent level.
Tony Snell was drafted to the Bulls in 2013, and he played significant minutes for a late first-rounder. He averaged 16 minutes in his rookie season and 19.6 minutes in his sophomore season under Thibodeau. His ability to defend the perimeter forced Thibodeau to play him more than he usually plays young players. Snell has become a viable 3-and-D option in a league dominated by two-way wings. Maybe this bodes well for Damyean Dotson.
Kris Dunn played one season for Thibodeau, and the former 5th pick had a terrible rookie season. He played 78 games but failed to earn quality minutes as Thibodeau favored Ricky Rubio. Dunn avenged 17.1 minutes per game but struggled mightily, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 assists on 37.7% shooting from the field. Dunn has redeemed himself with the Bulls as a decent two-way player, but it is challenging to assess Thibodeau’s development of him in Minnesota. Maybe Dunn needed the abysmal rookie season to rebound later in his career, but it is concerning that Thibs went to Rubio over Dunn in a lost season.
Dieng had an excellent first season under Thibodeau. The team was 4.3 points better with him on the court, and he finished 8th among centers in RPM, averaging 10 points and eight rebounds. That prompted Thibodeau to sign him to a four year, 64 million dollar deal. Then, Thibodeau signed Taj Gibson, and Dieng’s minutes were cut in half the next season. Thibodeau played Gibson overwhelmingly more than Dieng because he was a superior defender to Dieng. The Wolves were competing for a playoff spot, and Thibodeau showed little interest in developing Dieng, opting for better defenders on the floor.
Jones struggled to get minutes under Thibodeau and nearly requested a trade in 2018, believing that Thibodeau did not care for his development. In Thibodeau’s first season, Jones competed with Ricky Rubio and Kris Dunn for minutes in a crowded backcourt. In Thibs’ second season, Jones fell behind Jeff Teague, Derrick Rose, and Jamal Crawford in the rotation. Jones never found his footing under Thibodeau, and Thibs showed little interest in developing the former Duke Blue Devil. Like Dieng, Jones was caught in the crossfire of a team fighting for playoff contention that opted for veterans and defenders.