Not many shot-blockers could thwart an aggressive Serge Ibaka dunk attempt. Fortunately for the Utah Jazz, Rudy Gobert isn’t most shot-blockers. For the highlight of his seven blocks, watch the ascendant 7-2 Frenchman easily swat Ibaka’s soaring slam try during his team’s hard-fought loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.
Gobert has become the darling of basketball twitter over the past month or so, establishing himself as a dominant rim-protector with his playing time increasing. The 22 year-old has averaged 9.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and a mindblowing 5.0 blocks over the past four games while filling-in as a starter for the injured Enes Kanter. Gobert is shooting 72(!) percent over that timeframe, too.
Not bad for a guy who often looked lost and bumbling during his rookie season.
The Jazz have a very interesting decision this summer when it comes to their frontcourt. Kanter is a restricted free agent in July, and the team locked-up Derrick Favors to a long-term deal last year. Considering Gobert’s rapid improvement, might it be prudent to deal Kanter for assets or additional help before he hits the open market? Utah could simply let him walk in free agency, too.
The overlapping skill-sets of Favors and Gobert make those possibilities less likely than individual production of each youngster suggests – on the surface. Neither player will ever stretch the floor the way Quin Snyder no doubt prefers; Kanter, on the other hand, has made 10-of-31 three-pointers in 2014-2015 and projects to keep progressing in that regard.
But the overwhelming physical talents of Favors and Gobert have proven that concern irrelevant so far. That duo is the Jazz’s only frontcourt consisting of two of those three players that has a positive net rating this season – it boasts offensive and defensive ratings of 102.3 and 98.6, respectively. Favors-Kanter hemorrhages points defensively, and Kanter-Gobert labors on the other end.
It’s a small sample size, and the youth of Gobert, Favors, and Kanter means the present certainly isn’t a surefire indicator of the future. Kanter could make major strides defensively, and Favors could continue farther stretching defenses with a developing jumper.
What seems certain, though, is that Gobert deserves to be a fixture of the Jazz’s re-building project. How many teams can say they have a legitimate potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate on the bench? Which seems all the more reason to make the “Stifle Tower” the long-term solution at center.
But that’s a big picture conversation. For now, we’ll just revel in watching Gobert’s gobs of mesmerizing blocks.
What do you think?
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