Last year USC forward Taj Gibson saved his worst performance of the year for last (his 28 minute disaster-piece against Kansas State in which he scored 10 points on 1/5 shooting and fouled out in 28 minutes) and completed a season that he likely wants to forget. Unfortunately, Gibson is 23 years old and is quickly running out of time to show scouts that he can consistently play at an elite level. Next season he will have a good deal of opportunity. With O.J. Mayo, Davon Jefferson, and Angelo Johnson no longer on campus, Gibson is going to get a lot of touches and, considering the flashes he showed throughout his career, he could, should, and must have a much better season.
Physically, Gibson has not improved that much since his freshman year. He still is slightly undersized for the post at 69 and he still needs to work on his wiry 215-pound frame. At the next level, his athleticism wont stand out, but combined with his aggressiveness and long wingspan, he should be a presence in the lane next year on both sides of the ball for the Trojans.
On the offensive end, Gibsons scoring average dropped from 12.2 to 10.8 on about two fewer possessions per game, but his shooting percentage jumped up to 58%. That being said, it is essential that he assert himself more often on the offensive end next season. After all, he has some nice tools to work with including a solid post game and a developing face-up game. He gets 35.6% of his offense while single covered in the post, and shows nice quickness around the basket. He still could stand to improve his fundamentals in the post, but as evidenced by his 58% field goal percentage, were talking about a very efficient offensive player. He should look to improve his face-up game, namely his mid-range jump-shot, which has a significant hitch, and better ball handling could greatly help him improve his offensive versatility.
Defensively, its the same old story for Gibson. Hes a scrappy player, but needs to work on maintaining a constant focus on the floor and reducing his extremely high 3.5 fouls per game. He averaged an outstanding 2.5 blocks per game, largely because of his timing and length. One area of concern is his decreased rebounding numbers despite playing around the same amount of minutes. While some of the blame falls on Davon Jeffersons added company in the paint, it is essential that Gibson continue to prove himself on the boards as well as a presence on the defensive end.
USC is going to be in an interesting situation next season. Theyre without a true point guard and despite the presence of freshman phenomenon, Demar DeRozan, will rely significantly on veterans like Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett to put points on the board. Similarly, if UNC transfer Alex Stepheson is granted eligibility, Gibson will have a lot less pressure in the post, and will finally be allowed to play his natural position of power forward. Simply put, regardless of the circumstances, Gibson must have a great year next year. As of now, he is a 23-year-old junior with a closing window of opportunity. If Gibson wants to get drafted, he is going to have to have a breakout season next year and show scouts that hes capable of asserting himself and consistently playing at a high level.