Utah Jazz: Examining The Growth Of Rudy Gobert

A look at the evolution of Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert through stats and social media.

A couple of years ago the NBA started talking about the “small ball” revolution and the death of the NBA big man. Just last year Zach Lowe posted about how skilled big men were starting to transform how we viewed the position in the NBA. In no small way Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was a main focal point of that article.

As Lowe so keenly pointed out in that piece —

The NBA was becoming more skilled, not smaller. More teams that lacked good big men decided not to play the 7-foot plodders they did have. So-called “stretch” power forwards became in vogue, but they weren’t smaller humans — they were mostly humans of power forward size who happened to be good shooters.

Now, we all know Rudy Gobert is not a shooter. Still, his offensive game has come a long way in three short years. While in that same Grantland article Lowe discussed Gobert in-depth, what isn’t covered is the versatile offensive skill set around the basket that he has carefully crafted and perfected over the last couple of seasons.

Last year, he made a handful of 18-footers. This year he’s shown a nice little mini sky hook that barely existed before. Lowe remarked that the Gobert and Derrick Favors pairing could be a difficult one to play together due to the lack of offense the two can produce together. However, with “stretch Favors” being a real possibility in the future, this could change.

It’s easy to forget how far Rudy Gobert has come given the heightened pace of his development over the last two seasons.

The many flashes that Jazz fans have seen from Rudy over the past few years seem to be crystallizing. Gobert’s passing ability continues to be a consistent strength. Fans have witnessed firsthand how he’s able to bring the ball up the court and throw an effortless behind the back pass. This skill is increasingly important for a big man in today’s NBA.

While Gobert is not yet an elite passer, he’s at least as good a passing big man as Andrew Bogut was for Golden State. The most exciting thing about this is that Rudy is still only 24 with perhaps two or three years of potential development before he hits his ceiling as a player.

As the year progresses, we’ve seen the influence and mentoring that fellow French big man Boris Diaw has been able to provide to help Rudy take the next step in his career. Gobert should be a force for the French national team long after Tony Parker and Boris Diaw retire. His dedication to his craft and to his country are both admirable qualities.

It seems the entire NBA community is Taking Note of Rudy Gobert’s development.

As ESPN staff writer Tim MacMahon noted early in December, our beloved center had this to say on the potential of the Utah Jazz —

“I think we just scratched it, but we still have a lot more room to grow. Offensively and defensively, I think we can compete with the best. I think we can be one of the best in the very near future if we keep working and stay after it.”

When you look at everything Gobert is accomplishing: averaging a double-double in points and rebounds, defending like a top 3 defender in the league, helping the Jazz offense work and last but certainly not least, he’s shooting 69 percent from the field and 67 percent from the charity stripe (but he shot 79 percent from the free throw line in his last 11 games prior to the contest against Philadelphia). These are some amazing accomplishments.

What about defense? I mean he’s a defense first player isn’t he?

Like McMahon reported, Rudy is starting to believe he is one of the best big men at his position and it looks like he’s been right most of the time. He took it to Marc Gasol and DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins in one of the two match-ups he had with each of them. On the other side of those Boogie was coming off a 55-point game against Portland and he continued to roll against Rudy the next game as the Kings edged the Jazz for a 94-93 win.

The greatest takeaway that fans can get from this is that even great players are going to have off games. It’s hard to stop Boogie all of the time. And even though the Kings came away with the win, Gobert was able to hold him to a relatively inefficient night, so let’s cut Rudy some slack.

Because there’s no denying just how good he’s been. Below we see some of the numbers from earlier in the month showing us what’s Gobert’s defense at the rim has looked like this year:

For a peek at some updated defensive numbers from the top defensive players in the league check out this cool group of statistics that NBA.com has compiled. Let’s be honest though, most fans don’t fawn over defense. They want to hear about Gobert’s offensive production. Onward!

What’s all this then? Rudy is making an offensive impact?

Overall the leap in Rudy’s offensive impact has been huge. He can absolutely help the Jazz score down low even if he never develops a post-up game. Rudy has a series of signature moves that are starting to show themselves. His baby hook from three to five feet, his turn around slam dunk and maybe we’ll even see a bit more of that patented 18-footer.

As Rudy’s impressive play continues, the national media has continued to #TakeNote. Michael Gallagher with Yahoo! Sports tweeted out some impressive stats showing the newfound versatility Gobert is showcasing for the league.

Rudy Gobert has been the first Jazzman since Paul Millsap to post 11 straight double-doubles. His production is all about helping his team. And despite the fact that he narrowly missed posting a 12th straight last night, there’s no reason why he can’t build up another impressive streak. Gobert may not always be considered a flashy player but some of his stat lines (as well as his blocks and ferocious dunks) very much are.

So as we all enjoy Rudy’s continued growth and development, how about a shout out to the Utah Jazz organization for continuing to recognize the accomplishments of one of the league’s best centers as you can see in the tweet below. Not to mention, his friend Joe isn’t too shabby himself, even if he looks like me when I haven’t shaved in a week. Well maybe more like two weeks or a month… (I dig the look Joe!)

And perhaps most of all something else to #takefnnote of is that Rudy Gobert loves his fans. He tweeted this out for all of you NBA 2kers out there. If we’re lucky maybe we’ll get a Rudy salute moment card.

So it’s clear that as Rudy continues to grow as a player on the court and as a fan favorite in the community and on social media, Jazz fans can expect him to be a major contributor for years to come.

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