When the Utah Jazz signed center Rudy Gobert to a contract extension worth in the range of $100 million, not many knew how to react. There was no denying Gobert’s upside, but fear inevitably existed due to the fact he hadn’t yet tapped into it.
Thus far in 2016-17, Gobert has justified the contract by playing at an All-Star level for what appears to be a postseason-caliber Jazz team.
Despite losing four of its five starters to injuries at some point in 2016-17, Utah is currently 20-13. Gordon Hayward missed seven games, George Hill missed 21, Rodney Hood was out for five, and Derrick Favors has been absent for 15.
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The one constant for Utah has been Gobert, who has appeared in all 33 games thus far.
During his 33 appearances, Gobert has been the defensive anchor and pick and roll finisher whom Utah has been dreaming he’d be. He still needs to diversify his offensive game, but Gobert has worked tirelessly to improve and the results are reflecting it.
Though he may not be the most conventional of candidates, Gobert has played well enough to be an All-Star in 2016-17.
If you’re a fan of gaudy scoring numbers, then Rudy Gobert isn’t for you. If you’re a fan of players who find a way to impact the game and manage to do so in a legitimately elite way, however, Gobert is the type of player you need to watch.
On a 20-13 team, Gobert is currently the statistical leader in four critical areas: rebounding, offensive rebounding, blocks, and field goal percentage.
Gobert is currently averaging 12.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.1 offensive rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game. He’s doing so on an efficient slash line of .695/.000/.648, with the latter number displaying how hard he’s worked to get to where he is today.
After shooting 56.9 percent from the free throw line in 2015-16, Gobert has improved that mark by 7.9 percent in 2016-17.
Gobert is No. 1 in the NBA in field goal percentage, No. 2 in blocks per game, No. 5 in rebounds per game, and No. 11 in offensive rebounding. From a statistical perspective, his numbers are comparable to what DeAndre Jordan posted to make the All-NBA First Team in 2015-16.
The most significant difference between Gobert and Jordan is that the former may actually be the best player on his postseason-caliber team.
As previously established, Rudy Gobert leads the 20-13 Utah Jazz in four statistical areas. That’s an easy way to display one’s value, but it doesn’t quite epitomize how important Gobert has been to Utah’s success.
The true measure of Gobert’s success is the role he plays in anchoring what makes Utah the rising force that it is: defense.
Utah is allowing a league-best 95.0 points per game and is holding opponents to 43.0 percent shooting from the field. Utah is No. 3 in the Association in points allowed per 100 possessions, which makes the following numbers as significant as any.
Utah has improved its offensive efficiency, but it’s 7-10 when it allows 100 points and 13-3 when it holds opponents below 100. Thus, for as dynamic as the offense is becoming, it’s the defense that remains the key to Utah’s success.
No one is more important to the defense than Gobert.