Tha Sports Junkies 101

Rudy Gobert Is Quickly Becoming The Best Center In The NBA

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Gobert is on the come up, but how close is he to the league’s best?


Coming into the league, Rudy Gobert was seen as a “boom or bust” type of prospecwhen he was being scouted in his hometown of Saint-Quentin in France.

A defensive monster with an offensive style that was rawer than that time Lil Wayne rapped about how “raw” he was as a rapper, whatever that means, but you get the point (I hope). Gobert had the potential, but would his defensive upside combined with a “dunking only” mindset on offense be enough to help him reach his ceiling, or even get drafted in the first round? The short answer is yes.

Gobert was selected by the Denver Nuggets with the 27th overall pick in the 2013 draft where he would be traded to the Utah Jazz and soon after, the comparisons began to come out from everywhere. From Javale McGee comparisons to scouts saying he had the ceiling of Shawn Bradley, Gobert didn’t get off to a great start in the NBA, spending some of his rookie and sophomore season in the D-League.

Fast forward four years later and what you have is one of the best centers in the NBA who is knocking of the door of superstardom.

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His offensive game is still a work in progress (nearly 40% of his Field Goal Attempts are dunks), but he is improving, shooting nearly 10% better from the free throw line than last season. He is second in the league in FG% (65%) and leads the league in True Shooting Percentage at .681% (which is .028% higher than the next highest player, which sounds small, but .028 is the same percentage that separates the 2nd highest player from the 11th highest, so Gobert is leading that stat by a surprisingly large margin).

Something I found interesting about Gobert’s offense is that the more he progresses his game, the more he shoots from in close. A majority of Gobert’s shots have come within 3 feet of the basket throughout his career, but every year his % of field goal attempts within 3 feet increases. His rookie year he shot 78.4% of his shots from within 3 feet and 78.5% his sophomore season, then up to 80% last season and almost 85% (!!!) this season. 

Gobert’s offense is definitely improving (his Effective Field Goal % is nearly 10% higher than last season) but it’s clear he is still extremely limited. However, his offense is hardly the reason Gobert is being praised so heavily, his defense is what gets it done.

Gobert and his 7’9″ wingspan currently lead the league in total blocks (100) and Blocks Per Game (2.6) while also leading the league in Defensive Rating (97.9) and Defensive Win Shares (2.9). His defensive ability and upside was what got him into the league in the first place and he’s using it to turn himself into an actual brick wall down low. His defensive presence resembles that of Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns in the way that he seems to have a knack for knowing when he should go up for a block. Even when he doesn’t record a block, his presence alone is enough to make rim attackers second guess their shot and often causes his opponent to not only miss the shot, but completely brick it. His timing is impeccable on defense and it’s translated to his offensive game of timing lobs/dunks along with offensive rebounding.

Gobert came into the league with questions about his size. Not his literal size, because at 7’1″ he’s hard to miss, but his frame. In 2013, Gobert weighed 238 pounds and four years later has only gotten that up to around 245, which isn’t a huge improvement for a guy as skinny as he was/is. It’s almost hard to tell he’s gained any weight at all. He’s bulked up a bit but not enough that scouts thought was needed of him when he came into the league.

One of Gobert’s greatest assets is his ability to get up and down the court and do so willingly. Gobert loves to run, move, and stay active because he knows his teammates will find him and reward him with a dunk. He is an excellent pick and roll player and uses his length to finish lobs over defenders, no matter where the pass is placed.

We haven’t even discussed his rebounding capabilities. Gobert averages 12.2 Rebounds Per Game which is good enough for 5th best in the NBA, more than Anthony Davis and Tyson Chandler. He is 4th in the league in total Offensive Rebounds (138) which is more than Tristan Thompson, DeAndre Jordan, and Kenneth Faried while also ranking 5th in total Defensive Rebounds (339), recording more than Karl-Anthony Towns, Demarcus Cousins, and Kevin Love. Gobert is already an elite rebounder at 24 years old. 

So where does Gobert rank among the list of top centers in the league? If we base the rankings off of this year alone, it’s hard to put him anywhere lower than 4th. Just for fun (and because I enjoy ranking things), I’m going to list the current top 15 centers in the NBA in my personal (correct) opinion (fact).

  1. Demarcus Cousins
  2. Karl-Anthony Towns
  3. Marc Gasol
  4. Rudy Gobert
  5. DeAndre Jordan
  6. Joel Embiid
  7. Al Horford
  8. Brook Lopez
  9. Andre Drummond
  10. Hassan Whiteside
  11. Dwight Howard
  12. Nikola Jokic
  13. Myles Turner
  14. Steven Adams
  15. Marcin Gortat

(Anthony Davis splits his time between C and PF so he doesn’t count. Wouldn’t the NBA be a better place if we just did away with positions in general? Thats a wholeeee different article.)

Whether you agree or disagree with the list, we can all agree that Dwight Howard should be ranked 30th for being a terrible/extremely corny person but I decided to not factor that in out of respect for the Atlanta Hawks.

The Utah Jazz are 23-16 and Gobert has played in every single game despite the nagging injures that have halted the Jazz as a team over the past few seasons. When Gobert plays, the Jazz turn into a defensive superpower. When Gobert is on the floor, the Jazz’s Defensive Rating is 102.9, which would be the best in the league, compared to a Defensive Rating of 109.1 when he is off the court, which would put the Jazz at 22nd in the league. Even his presence on offense makes the Jazz better; Utah’s Offensive Rating is 105.9 when Gobert is off the court compared to 110.6 when he is in the game. 

The Utah Jazz have a top 2 or 3 defense in the NBA and Rudy Gobert is the man that is anchoring it down. He won’t kill you on offense but his defense, quickness, length, and awareness sure will do the trick. If he can develop an outside touch (His continued progression at the free throw line proves there is hope), he can become one of the most deadly two-way players in the league.

Fun Fact: If Gobert is voted as an All-Star starter, he will be the first player to do so that has played in the D-League. Big time achievements are ahead for the 24 year old man from France


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


(Stats via Basketball-Reference)