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NBA Daily: Gobert’s Tour de Force Turning Heads

Rudy Gobert has always been a defensive standout, but his offensive game is standing out with Utah’s success. Jordan Hicks dives into aspects of his game that make him so dangerous.

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Rudy Gobert is having another dominating season as a Jazzman.

He is essential to the success of the team on the defensive end and impacts the team in ways not necessarily seen on the offensive end. His lanky frame causes havoc in the paint. Players shooting the ball near Gobert have to severely alter their shot, usually causing them to miss. Gobert’s athleticism allows him to cover the perimeter at times, often altering deep mid-range shots and even three-pointers.

Per Basketball Reference, Gobert currently ranks seventh in the league in Box Plus/Minus and fourth in Defensive Box Plus/Minus.

On the season, Gobert is averaging 15.1 points, 12.4 rebounds, 2 blocks and 1.9 assists. Anthony Davis is the only player in the league to exceed each of those numbers. Take away the blocks – one of Gobert’s marquee skills – and the list only grows to six players total.

Gobert clearly has an incredibly large impact on the success of this Jazz team. Last season, Gobert missed significant time, and the team fell well below .500. Upon his return, the Jazz went on their historic 29-6 run to finish the season.

Rudy isn’t the only solid defender on the Jazz roster – on the contrary, it is filled with a handful of players that have built careers around their defense. But Gobert is essential to what Utah does on defense. He is the anchor to Quin Snyder’s defensive scheme. Derrick Favors is a very talented player – perhaps the best backup center in the league. But there is something lacking on the defensive end when he is on the court, and that is no knock on Favors.

Gobert’s freakish combination of height, wingspan, and high defensive IQ plays perfectly into Snyder’s defensive scheme. Plug just about any other center in the league into the Jazz’s defensive plan and there will likely be a drop-off, and, in most cases, a significant one.

The narrative surrounding the reigning Defensive Player of the Year is that he is a great defender and a subpar offensive player. While part of that statement is true – he is a phenomenal defender – saying that he isn’t a positive on offense is just false.

Sure, Gobert can’t stroke the three like Stephen Curry. He can’t dribble the ball like Kyrie Irving. He certainly cannot drive the lane like LeBron James, nor can he dish it like Chris Paul. So what makes Rudy valuable on the offensive end?

It all starts with his presence. Per bball-index.com, he led the league in roll gravity in the 2017-18 season. According to their website, “roll gravity” is a player’s ability to pressure the defense through screening and rolling. This looks at screening as way more than just a play drawn up on the whiteboard.

Gobert is one of the best – if not the best – at both setting screens and rolling to the rim. His ability to get into the most ideal position on screens opens up easy lobs for him to dunk, as well as his teammates for scoring lanes and open threes.

Another thing he is doing incredibly well this season is finishing at the rim. Currently, he is first in the league in field goal percentage at 66 percent. He’s improved his scoring average in each year of his career, and his ever-improving ability to finish at the rim is a huge reason why.

Rudy is ever-expanding his range as well. Please understand that last sentence should be taken with a grain of salt. However, there is truth to it. Last season, Gobert shot 6 of 35 – just 17.1 percent – from shots at five to nine feet. This season, not yet halfway complete, Gobert is already 11 of 22 – 50 percent – on those same shots.

Last point on the offensive end – Gobert is a high-level offensive rebounder. Anyone who watches the game of basketball knows how important it is to grab offensive boards, as they literally give your team a free possession. Rudy is currently sixth among starting centers in offensive rebounding percentage at 11.4 percent.

Win shares can be a great way to view a player’s ability to contribute success to one’s team. Regardless of the flaws this statistic perpetuates, the players with the most win shares at the end of the season are usually the better players in the league. As specified by Basketball Reference, Rudy Gobert is currently second in the league in Win Shares per 48 minutes – behind only Giannis Antetokounmpo – and second in overall Win Shares behind Anthony Davis. He’s sitting fourth in Defensive Win Shares and sixth in Offensive Win Shares. This alone shows just how valuable he is to the success of the Jazz.

A few weeks ago, Gobert said that the locker room is starting to have the same feeling it did last year when the Jazz went on their end-of-season tear to push themselves into the playoff race. Luckily for Jazz fans, this feeling is almost a month sooner than it was last year.

Now through one of the more brutal schedules in recent memory, Rudy Gobert and the Jazz need to start compiling win after win if they want any piece of the playoffs in the stacked Western Conference.

Jordan Hicks is an NBA writer based out of Salt Lake City. He is a former college athlete and varsity sports official. Find him on Twitter @JordanHicksNBA.

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