This past offseason, the Miami Heat retained Hassan Whiteside for $98 million. The summer before that, the Clippers lured DeAndre Jordan out from under Mark Cuban’s fingertips for $88 million.
In between that time, Rudy Gobert has quietly become one of the best defensive big men in the league and etched his name in right next to the two aforementioned players, including other defensive stars of the league.
Although the conversation appears muted, Rudy Gobert could be next in line for a similar payday.
Taking a look back to Gobert’s 2015-2016 season, shortened by missing most of December and some of January due to an ACL injury, Gobert averaged 11 rebounds per game; good for 7th in the league. He also averaged 2.2 blocks; good for 3rd in the league. Going back farther, to the 2014-15 season, in just his second year Gobert averaged 2.3 blocks and 9.5 rebounds.
Those numbers are indicative of a player that is worthy of DPOY. Or at least well on his way.
It’s becoming clear that this is a pattern for Gobert. One that we should all become accustomed to.
Gobert’s numbers are quite astounding when you take into account that he was a late first-round draft pick, who has yet to reach his athletic prime, only recently turning 24.
As he looks into restricted free agency at the end of this season, there are vital aspects to his game that invite many question marks. Despite the eyebrow-raising defensive stats and the fact that he has the best nicknames in the league, Gobert still has much to answer for before he walks into any contract negotiations. He’s teetering on the edge of being worth a huge salary, and just another lane clogging novelty.
Aside from the defensive authority that he bestows, Rudy Gobert is surprisingly agile and nimble for his height. His athleticism makes him one of the best targets for lobs passes.
His 7’8” wingspan allows him to crash the boards on offense, and paired with a soft touch around the rim and reliable post moves, he’s one of the best at finishing at the basket and creating second chance opportunities.
However, his offensive game struggles due to inconsistent shooting and inability to draw defenders away from the basket to score. His slender frame leaves him susceptible to stronger defenders and makes it harder for him to create his own shot.
With the addition of George Hill and the return of Dante Exum, it’s pertinent that the Jazz have a solid pick and roll game. Ideally, that would mean Gobert being able to hit from 10 to 15 feet away from the basket. A shot he rarely attempts, and in his 3 years in the NBA, has made only a handful of times.
It’s no secret the majority of his shots come right at the basket, but even 3 to 10 feet away, his shooting drops off almost entirely to 22%.
For Gobert to make the same impact on offense as he does on defense, improving his range and consistency is key.
The great news for the Jazz and Gobert in this all is that their success isn’t dependent on him improving his shooting ability. Rudy’s role is clear and cut. See ball. Swat ball. Kill dreams.
With Gobert and Derrick Favors anchoring them, the Utah Jazz were a top 10 defense last season. They forced their opponents to just 95 points per game and averaged nearly 5 blocks.
More specifically, with Gobert on the court, opponent’s offensive ratings stand around only 102.8 compared to 105.6 when he’s on the bench.
Quin Snyder has made it abundantly apparent that Gobert is out there to intimidate offenses and alter shots. It’s what he’s best at and it’s what the Jazz need most out of him. But it’s important that we don’t stifle the stifle tower.
If he can execute the offensive improvements and continue to lead the charge defensively on a team where Gordon Hayward’s hair is a prominent topic of conversation, Rudy Gobert has the potential to become Utah’s best kept secret.