When the Utah Jazz acquired Rudy Gobert on draft night, they saw an unpolished young center who might help them down the road.
Not so fast.
After the Jazz’s first week of training camp, Gobert has shown enough ability to impact the game that coach Tyrone Corbin has started to rethink the role he will have this season.
“It depends on where his development is,” Corbin said before Monday’s practice. “... If he can help us in games, we’ll have him in games.
“If he continues to grow like he has this first week, man, he’s been pretty good. Now we’ve got to get him against other competition — in game situations — and see how it transfers.”
Gobert is 21 years old. He is 7-foot-2 with a 7-foot-8 wingspan. His 9-foot-7 standing reach means he can almost touch the rim without jumping.
Gobert was originally selected by Denver with the 27th pick in last summer’s draft. The Jazz got him by taking Erick Green with the 46th pick and shipping him to the Nuggets, along with cash.
This season, the Jazz expected Gobert to gain experience, get stronger and play a few minutes behind more established big men like Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Andris Biedrins.
Heading into Tuesday night’s preseason opener against Golden State, however, Gobert has caught everyone’s attention.
“He finds a way to get it done [and] be effective,” Corbin said. “He can run and jump. He’s really long [and] he’s athletic. He’s smart about when to cut. His hands are pretty good. He has to get stronger. ... But if we have to play him, he’ll have moments that are really, really good.”
Burke eager to get preseason rolling
First-round draft pick Trey Burke is “looking forward to getting the season started,” beginning with the exhibition opener against the Warriors.
A key to the Jazz’s ongoing reconstruction, Burke believes he’s made progress in the Orlando Summer League and through the first week of camp.
“I think I’ve done a good job of doing what the coaches have asked me — lead the team, try to get my teammates involved and get my shot,” he said.
Referring to Saturday’s public scrimmage, Burke said, “I’m still trying to get comfortable out there with my shot ... but I think I did a good job on defense and getting my teammates involved. The scoring — making plays — I think that will come.”
Against Golden State, Burke could find himself matched with Stephen Curry, depending whether the Warriors play him in a preseason game.
“It’s going to be great to play against a guy who is an All-Star, or potentially an All-Star,” Burke said. “It should be a challenge I’ve been looking forward to my whole life. I’m embracing it.
“I’m not going to do anything out of my character. I’m going to do what I do and do my best to help the team win. ... I have to be locked in on the defensive end, more than anything.”
Better defense is top goal for season
The Jazz allowed 98.1 points per game last season, tying for 13th in the NBA with Atlanta, Minnesota and New Orleans. Of those four teams, only the Hawks reached the playoffs.
According to Corbin, improved defense is a primary goal this season.
“It has to be a priority for us, the way we finished last year,” he said. “Although we won 43 games, we didn’t feel good — where we were defensively. The personnel now will dictate that we can do a few more things. But we have to be better individually and as a team ... so we have a chance to make stops.”