All quotes are from The 450 Times podcast covering Rudy Gobert from Huu Tran of the Hitting the High Notes Utah Jazz podcast (@JazzHighNotes).
Rudy Gobert is one of the most unique players throughout the entire NBA. He set the NBA Combine standing reach record with an otherworldly nine foot seven inches measurement, stands at 7’1″, is the reigning back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year, a three-time first-team All-Defense selection, two-time All-NBA, and recently appeared in his first all-star game which was long overdue. Yet, many remain skeptical of Gobert’s impact on both ends of the floor.
“If fans of the NBA treated defense the way they treated offense, Rudy Gobert would be a MVP candidate. He dominates on that end of the floor.”
Gobert’s domination on the defensive end revolves around his well-documented rim protection. He currently ranks 9th in opponent field goal percentage around the rim among players with min. 100 possessions, per Synergy. Eight players being ranked above him, does not scream best in the league, but it is the scheme of Utah to let Rudy Gobert handle anyone who enters the paint on his own that has lead to only himself and Jarrett Allen to have upwards of 200 opponent possessions around the rim. Gobert has 58 more possessions of this sort than Allen and still manages to hold opponents to 11.4 percent worse than Allen.
Despite the rise of Donovan Mitchell in recent years, and Mitchell unarguably being the more popular of the two, Utah is built around the Stifle Towers.
“They’ve built the roster and they schemed everything to make Gobert the centerpiece and fit his style.”
Defense can be nullified if teams fail to rebound the ball on that end and Gobert seems well aware of this, ranking third in the NBA in defensive rebounds per game, per NBA.com. It’s impossible to ignore the absurd blocking potential and frequency of The French Rejection as well, ranking seventh in blocks per game.
The Houston Rockets have often made it tough on Gobert by pulling him out of the paint and forcing the seven footer to move his feet in an attempt to keep up with smaller and faster players. A guard blowing by Gobert is inevitable at times, but his length, size, athleticism, and impeccable timing allow for regular recoveries.
“Rudy’s perimeter defense is a little overstated about how bad it is. It’s fine, but it’s not great.”
“That’s a game-winning defensive play that doesn’t get the same highlights you see on Sportscenter.”*Regarding Gobert’s block on Delon Wright in the closing minutes of regulation, shown as the final clip above. *
Many would then point to Gobert’s offense as a point of concern and some attempt to label him as a liability with their argument mainly pointed towards his lack of perimeter shooting. While that skill has become highly valued and a near staple from NBA bigs, the Jazz have enough shooter around Gobert (Mitchell, Mike Conley, Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale) to enable him as a highly functional roll man.
Rudy Gobert sets hard screens and finishes around the basket with the best of them, ranking fifth in field goal percentage around the rim of all players with min. 200 attempts, per Synergy. Clearly, Gobert understands his role in the offense as he is one of just six players with 400 or more attempts this season and boasts the highest field goal percentage (69.1 percent) of the bunch.
While his hands could use some improvement on the offensive end, and there has been notable progress since his rookie campaign, there is no denying that Gobert is making his presence known on both ends of the floor consistently.
With a previously reported rift between Utah’s top two players in Gobert and Mitchell due to the Covid-19 situation, it appeared the Jazz may be forced to choose between the two, and Huu believes that Gobert is the superior option in the short term.
“If I am the GM of the Jazz. I say if your only goal is to win a championship in the next year or two, Rudy Gobert is your best chance.”
The Utah Jazz are built to win right now with Joe Ingles (32), Mike Conley (32), and Bojan Bogdanovic (30) all in their thirties, yet it may be time to switch the timeline if it becomes apparent the current squad will not be able to get them over the hump. Luckily, Mitchell provides some flexibility at the young age of 23 years old.
“The Jazz have two different timelines right now. The Rudy Gobert timeline and the Donovan Mitchell timeline.”
The Jazz may be forced to make a decision sooner rather than later with Rudy Gobert being eligible for a lucrative super-max deal this offseason and Justin Zanik should be hesitant in putting that offer on the table for a seven-footer playing the league’s most replaceable position.
Gobert’s impact in undeniable on the defensive end of the floor, and his offensive game is often overlooked by main stream media. There are few players in the NBA that are able to affect a game to the same magnitude of Rudy Gobert in Utah.