There’s a big man that’s inserting himself in the ranks of the all-defensive teams. He happens to play for the Utah Jazz and one of his nicknames, according to basketball-reference, happens to be “The Stifle Tower.”
Rudy Gobert, a 7’1″ center from France, started making some statements about his defensive prowess in the second half of last season. The reason that a lot of the average, everyday fan might not have heard of Gobert to start the season, is due to the fact that he didn’t start when Enes Kanter was still on the team. Once Kanter was shipped over to Oklahoma City, this gave Gobert the chance to start alongside Derrick Favors. In the months of November and December, Gobert was only receiving about 15-20 minutes per game. Once January hit, his minutes increased to around 27 per game and then over 30 per game for the rest of the season. This was not only because he was a tall body to place in the center position once Kanter left. Gobert earned his playing time by playing some of the best defense in the league, and by showing some improvement on the offensive end as well.
So, you may be wondering why I think he’ll win the Defensive Player of the Year award next season. Well, let’s take a look at his stats when he finally did get to start for the Jazz. In February, Gobert had a modest 8.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, while boasting a 92 defensive rating and averaging a little over 3 blocks per game. Then, in March, he averaged 10.9 and 14.9 with a 94 defensive rating and 2.3 blocks per game. Finally, he finished the season up with averages of 12.3 points, 12 rebounds, and a little over 2 blocks per game with a 97 defensive rating. Not only was Gobert averaging a double-double at the end of the season, but he was doing it with a great defensive rating and averaging no less than 2 blocks per game. If the defensive player of the year award was based on just the last couple months of the season, then Gobert would have easily been one of the favorites. During a Jazz win, Gobert had an absurd 90 point defensive rating to go along with 2.4 blocks per game and a plus/minus of +12.4. Here’s a couple more interesting defensive stats while I’m at it, Gobert also led the league last season in block percentage with 7.0% and finished second in defensive box plus/minus with 5.1.
Now, Gobert has an entire season to show everyone that these defensive numbers are no fluke. He finally is in control of the center position on this Jazz team and he also owns the paint now too. My numbers prediction for Rudy Gobert is 12 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game to go with a 92 defensive rating and a defensive box plus/minus of 6.0.