Scaletta’s Summer Top 100 is a ranking of returning NBA players. For a full explanation of our methodology, read our intro.
Rudy Gobert holds down one of the best defenses in the league and a team that is on the rise in the Utah Jazz.
In an age where everyone is going all pace-and-space and spread the court, the Jazz are building around a beastly frontcourt tandem of Gobert and Derrick Favors. After adding George Hill, Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw this offseason to improve their offense, the Jazz should be a playoff team in the West, and Gobert could be one of the biggest reasons why — both figuratively and literally.
Gobert is not a scorer, but he’s one of just three or four players in the league who can change a game based on his defensive impact alone. His ceiling isn’t the All-Star Game because he just doesn’t have the point production to do that. But he has top-30 potential based on the very realistic chance he has at winning Defensive Player of the Year. Gobert just turned 24, and he’s entering the fourth year of his career. Both of those are indications of someone about to start having their true impact.
Because his defensive contribution is so great, there’s really not a lot of danger of him falling very far. The one issue would be of crowding the net, with he and Favors having combined for one made three in their collective careers. That might make for a more offensive-minded lineup seeing regular playing time via Diaw and Favors. However, if Favors is working on a corner three as reports suggest, it’s less of a concern.
The kindest way to describe Gobert’s offense is “limited.” The more brutal way to describe his offense is with his basic zone shot chart:
Pretty much the only place Gobert scores is around the rim, and based on league averages, he’s not very good at that. He’s not bad, shooting 61 percent compared to the league average of 60.2 percent, but for a big man to be barely above average is to be below average for his position.
Gobert’s offensive impact wasn’t really found elsewhere, such as with screen-setting and the like. His -1.55 Offensive Real Plus-Minus was 49th out of 71 centers in the league. His 3.4 offensive rebounds per game, good for a fourth-place tie, were his only significant contributions on offense.
Gobert is 7’2″ with a 7’8.5″ wingspan and 9’7″ standing reach. He can basically dunk the ball by standing on his toes. Obviously, that helps on the defensive end.
Within six feet of the rim, opponents shot 11.6 percentage points below their season average, per SportVU tracking data. According to Seth Partnow’s rim protection numbers at Nylon Calculus, he saved the third-most points per game at the rim, second among starters to only Hassan Whiteside. He deterred another 1.8 shots per game. No player in the league was better than Gobert on both of those counts. Opponents shot 41.0 percent at the rim when he was the defender on the shot, which was best of anyone in the league with 150 shots defended.
Numbers can be misconstrued at times, but when they all point in the same direction, there’s a good chance they’re telling the story. And this story is that Gobert is the biggest defensive presence at the rim in the business.