The 7’1” French man, Rudy Gobert, has been an interesting case ever since his debut in the NBA. It started in 2013 when Gobert was selected in the first round with the 27th overall pick by the Utah Jazz. The pick had some backlash as Utah already had two big-men on the roster, Derrick Favors (3rd overall, 2010) and Enes Kanter (3rd overall, 2011).
With the Gobert pick, it seemed imminent that a logjam in the frontcourt would occur.
In the two years prior to Gobert’s arrival, Kanter had not really displayed a great overall game, struggling mightily on the defensive side of the court. In the pre-draft measurements, Gobert had a measured wingspan of 7 feet and 8 ½ inches, a record for wingspan in the NBA.
Although he had physical measurements that were out of this world, his athleticism came into question. He was not as physically imposing for a seven-footer and his offensive game was far from polished. However, his defensive presence had NBA scouts drooling. With his incredible wingspan and defensive IQ, Gobert seemed to be the perfect rim-protector that NBA teams would desperately want on their team.
By drafting Gobert, Utah had committed to a low-risk, high-reward situation. Would Gobert be able to unseat either Favors or Kanter to become the prominent frontcourt star in Utah?
Utah apparently felt that way, shipping Enes Kanter to the Oklahoma City Thunder, paving the way for the Gobert Era.
What prompted Utah to pull the trigger? Well, Gobert has been an absolute beast this season defensively, and to put it lightly, Kanter has not. Kanter’s defensive inefficiencies heavily outweighed the mild offensive production he provided.
Gobert on the other hand is not the most offensively apt player (6.8 PPG), but defensively, Gobert can be considered elite.
The sample size may be small, but he has displayed elite defensive potential that had Utah’s front office and coaching staff salivating during pre-draft events.
In the nine games that Gobert has started, he has recorded at least one block while averaging four blocks per game. He wreaked havoc in his most recent game against the Portland Trail Blazers, a game in which he started, recording five blocks and seven rebounds.
Anytime a frontcourt combination can hold LaMarcus Aldridge, one of the best frontcourt players in the league to 14-points, recognition should be given.
His defensive acumen is major factor. As mentioned before, Gobert doesn’t possess out-of-this-world athleticism that other dominant big men have such as DeAndre Jordan and Anthony Davis, forcing Gobert to utilize his IQ and length to be a force.
Gobert is amongst the league leaders in defensive categories. He is fourth in the league in total blocks, trailing the league-leader, DeAndre Jordan by 10 blocks. He is also fourth in the league in blocks per game, averaging 2.2.
What might be the most impressive about Gobert’s play is how effective he is when it comes to swatting away attempts. Gobert has the highest block percentage amongst all NBA players, blocking 8.1% of all two-point attempts headed his way.
What should impress you the most is that Gobert is doing all of this in just 21.9 minutes per game.
It’s evident that Gobert has elite potential as a defender similar to that of an Anthony Davis and DeAndre Jordan. His offensive game still has plenty of work to do.
Gobert wreaks the most havoc on the glass, which leads to his very limited offensive game. He has hauled in 144 offensive rebounds throughout the course of the season en route to averaging 6.8 points per game. However, whenever Gobert does have the ball in his hands, he makes to most of it knocking down 63 percent of his shots.
Very effective shooting by Gobert, which contributes mightily to his Player Efficiency Rating of 21.5, which is higher than notable NBA stars Damian Lillard, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, and Klay Thompson. You have to take into account the minutes Gobert plays (21.9), but it is still impressive nonetheless.
With the emergence of Gobert, Utah has sped up their rebuilding process. Already having a core of Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Trey Burke, Utah has made positive moves in the right direction to bring championship basketball back to Salt Lake.
While this may not be the same “finding a diamond-in-the-rough” blessing that Miami is experiencing, it is still a nice reward for Utah putting faith in their young big-man. All there is left to do is groom this young man into the next elite defender, inching closer to the end of a rebuild.