NBA: Don’t Overthink It, Rudy Gobert is the DPOY
Appearing in less than 60 games should rule any player out of NBA awards season. This year, it’s time to make an exception with Rudy Gobert.
The Utah Jazz center has been the best defensive player this season, but the fact he’ll finish the season with 56 games played might be enough to disqualify him from winning.
After suffering a bad bone bruise on his leg that sidelined him four weeks in November, the 7-foot-1 center sprained his PCL in his sixth game back. That kept Gobert out for another month.
Since his return, the Jazz have gone 21-5, and are ranked 4th in a tight Western Conference playoff race. During that same stretch, the Jazz have also emerged as one of the top defensive teams in the Western Conference.
Utah is tied for second in defensive rating (102.0) — only behind the Boston Celtics — and since March 1st they’re ranked number one in the league (95.8) by a large margin. When Gobert is on the floor the Jazz are the best defensive team in the league — according to their defensive rating (98.1).
Gobert is the best player in the league when it comes to affecting shots around the rim. Although his 2.3 blocks-per-game would have him ranked second in the league, the effect he has on the Jazz’s defense goes farther than just counting statistics. Over the last 15 games, opposing teams have made 14.2 field-goals per-game inside of five feet, the lowest in the league during that stretch.
Having an elite wing defender is important, but when it comes to anchoring a defense there’s nothing more valuable than an impenetrable second-line that protects the rim. Even though the Jazz have solid defenders in Donovan Mitchell, Jae Crowder, and Joe Ingles, Gobert’s help-defense takes some pressure away from those guys.
Like here, when Golden State Warriors guard Quinn Cook beats Ricky Rubio with a spin move, and Gobert is able to help:
Gobert is long enough to stick with JaVale McGee — who’s lurking under the basket — while also contesting Cook at the rim. His initial contest is enough to make Cook switch to the opposite hand and attempt a tougher shot, but Gobert is still able to block him. Not to mention the fact Gobert swipes at Cook on the way up, and is quick enough to adjust and catch a piece of the ball:
With a wingspan of eight feet, Gobert has no problem contesting shots from the midrange as well. Check out this block he had against Kyrie Irving when he was still on the Cleveland Cavaliers. Take notice how far Gobert is from Irving when he attempts the shot:
Gobert is also a menace when defending the post. Even against tall centers, he has no problem contesting — or blocking — turnaround shots. Check out this block he had against Jonas Valanciunas last season:
Has He Played Enough Games?
The case for Gobert as the league’s best defender is strong, but it’s justifiable to leave him off of the defensive player of the year ballot because of the number of games he’s missed. By ignoring Gobert’s 26 missed games, it sets a precedent that anyone who’s played a similar amount of games should make an all-NBA team/ be considered for any other award.
Stephen Curry and Irving both have both played 51 and 60 games, respectively. If voters choose Gobert, it’d be tough to defend leaving Curry off the all-NBA team.
No matter where you stand on the output vs. availability debate, Gobert has been so effective during his time that it shouldn’t matter. No other player has made a strong enough case to overtake Gobert because of their advantage in games played.
Andre Roberson’s injury knocked him out immediately. Paul George has been great, but the Oklahoma City Thunder’s defense has dropped off a bit since the first few weeks of the season. Embiid isn’t better than Gobert defensively and will have played only seven more games by the conclusion of the year.
Gobert is the most valuable defender on one of the best defensive teams in the league. Don’t overthink it, he’s the Defensive Player of the Year