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Taj Gibson is just the veteran the Wizards needed

The Wizards’ newest acquisition brings more than his humble stat lines suggest.

Washington Wizards Taj Gibson Portraits
Taj Gibson poses in his brand new Wizards jersey. The 37-year-old veteran will help guide a younger Wizards squad this season.
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

There is a certain kind of NBA player coveted by every team in the league. The “glue guy” — typically a scrappy, reliable veteran with a sharp basketball mind — is in short supply, but the Washington Wizards acquired one of the finest of them this offseason.

Taj Gibson, who signed with the Wizards on Tuesday after a three-year stint with the New York Knicks, is the quintessential glue guy. “At this stage in my career, numbers don’t really mean much to me,” he said. “I’m here to try to help the team win. I’m here to do whatever the team needs me to do.”

Gibson embodies the grit and selflessness of the prototypical glue guy. “I’m a blue-collar guy. I grew up working construction, working with my hands,” he said, adding that he is “a hard worker, a teammate first and a guy who is always going to be there for his teammates.”

Bradley Beal’s five-year, $251 million contract indicates that the Wizards would rather try to construct a winning team around Beal than enter a rebuild. If competing is the priority, signing Gibson was the right move.

Gibson’s recent numbers are rather pedestrian — last year he averaged 4.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game on just 18.2 minutes per game — but he was not signed for his on-court production; rather, he was picked up to add his veteran presence to a Wizards team that is struggling to find an identity.

“At this stage in my career I understand it may be limited minutes... but my job is to always stay ready, always be professional and always be there for my teammates,” Gibson said.

In order to stay competitive, the Wizards will need to develop young players like Deni Avdija, Rui Hachimura and Johnny Davis on the fly rather than rebuilding. To aid in this process, the 37-year-old Gibson is ready, in his words, “to help the team... and mentor guys the right way to lead to us getting victories.”

“I know what I’m capable of bringing to a team,” Gibson said. “I’m a team-first guy, and I’m all about winning.” Gibson’s innate drive to win is just the type of attitude the Wizards should be looking to instill in their youngsters. Washington has been a revolving door of starter-caliber NBA players in recent years, so it is time to capitalize on the young core of Avdija, Hachimura and Davis while they are still happy to be Wizards.

Gibson is ready to contribute this season, even if the bulk of his contributions come from off the court. “I look forward to being a guy my teammates can lean on,” he said.

There will always be a place in the NBA for players like Taj Gibson.