Notice to voters: Rudy Gobert should be an NBA All-Star.
Because he is an All-Star, whether he’s selected as one or not.
That isn’t a load of hoo-hah or homerism. It’s truth.
Gobert doesn’t play like an All-Star, not in the conventional sense. He isn’t going to score 30 points a night. He doesn’t soar smoothly to the basket. He’s still a bit clunky, more of a garbage truck than a Maserati at the offensive end, a plumber not a maestro. He doesn’t break ankles. He won’t lead most highlight reels.
But watch the effect he has on the games in which he plays.
He changes them.
The No. 1 concern written up on every marker board in every locker room of every opponent the Jazz play is No. 27, particularly at the defensive end. But he isn’t ignored on attack, either. Nobody likes to get dunked on, and that’s what Gobert does, getting more of those than anyone in the NBA this season.
It’s not the only offensive thing he does.
He doesn’t have much of a post-up game, that being the biggest hole in his skillset and that being what most voters would hold against him, but Gobert makes the shots he attempts, at a clip (65.1 percent) that is more efficient than anyone else in the league. He also sets screens that open up looks for his teammates. He has more screen assists this season than anyone else in the league — by about 50 miles.
On Monday night, against the Pistons, Gobert had a forceful two-fisted flush over Andre Drummond on his way to 18 points. He’s still a swirl of elbows and kneecaps churning toward the rim, but he’s shown positive steps in gaining the foresight, mechanics and confidence on top of and around the basket to threaten opponents. Bonus: The other night, he had eight assists.
And his defense. His defense.
He is the centerpiece of a Jazz resistance that is climbing now toward the top of the league in defensive rating, an ascent that has been gradual, steady through the first three months. Most recently, the Jazz held the Pistons to 35 points in the second half.
Gobert, everybody knows, is the reigning defensive player of the year, and he should hold onto his crown, again. It’s hard to argue, but some will.
RUDY BY THE NUMBERS
Gobert’s key averages, by season and career:
Points • 14.8 10.6
Rebounds • 12.8 10.3
Assists • 2.1 1.3
Blocks • 2.0 2.2
As mentioned, every team the Jazz face builds its offensive game plan around Gobert, around avoiding Gobert. He’s blocked 90 shots this season, which is down a bit from the last couple years. That could be misleading, though, because what’s more difficult to figure is the number of shots he has caused not to be taken. It’s not unusual to see players dribble to favored spots from which they normally love to shoot, spots close to the basket. And then, all of a sudden, against Gobert, they get to those spots and decide better of it. The Pistons took only 32 percent of their shots at the rim.
He leads the league in causing shots not to be taken, which limits his block totals on account of they’re not there to be had. He, instead, seeks out his rejections, with considerable success.
And he rebounds, too. Gobert has 577 of those this season, averaging nearly 13 per game.
Against the Pistons, against Drummond, Gobert had 25 boards, a couple of blocks and a thousand shots D&D’ed — discouraged and dissuaded.
“I wanted to be aggressive,” he said, afterward.
“We are doing the things we’re supposed to do defensively.”
“I don’t even know how to describe what Rudy does,” Georges Niang said.
He dominates games, often under the grease and grime, the dirt and drip of defensive diligence. That may not wind up on SportsCenter, but it is Chapter 1 of the cautionary handbook on playing Quin Snyder’s team.
Gobert is flat-out having the kind of effect on outcomes that an All-Star has.
No big surprise.
He is a basketball personality that is built for getting better. It begins with pride and results in progress. He’s talked about that ever since he arrived in Utah as an unrefined physical curiosity. Even before he gained the confidence of his teammates and coaches, before he got substantial playing time, Gobert believed he could contribute.
Five years ago, Gobert sat in front of his locker after a game, not having broken a sweat in extremely limited playing time. He muttered something in French that nobody could understand. But the expression on his face revealed what he was thinking and saying: “When you guys are done messing around, when you want to get serious about winning, I’m here.”
He was right — in whatever language anybody wants to speak it.
After the Jazz made their infamous run last season, and won their first-round playoff series, Gobert oozed supreme — and maybe foolish — assuredness, not just in what he could do, but on what the Jazz would do.
After last season, he said: “We feel like we have so much room to grow. It’s exciting. It’s amazing.”
Before this season, he said: “We want to be world champions.”
That’s the man’s ionospheric mindset, though wanting is considerably easier than doing.
In the grind of the present, Gobert knew Drummond led the league in offensive rebounds and second-chance points, so he made a priority of hitting the glass hard and preventing those opportunities. It was a matter of the moment, and he elbowed through it, embracing it.
“Andre is big, but Rudy is bigger,” Kyle Korver said.
“Rudy was dominant on the glass,” Snyder said. “… Rudy was all over the boards. He made it hard for everybody. … He’s not sticking to his man to get the defensive rebound. He’s playing the right way. … Tonight, Rudy’s contribution showed up.”
It almost always does, to those who have eyes to see.
On Monday night, and on many others, only a blind man could miss it.
Question is: How blind are those who select the All-Stars?
Another question: In the mind’s eye, how malleable is the collective conception of what an All-Star should be?
“[Rudy’s] been working hard his whole life,” Donovan Mitchell said. “He’s still underrated. He should be in the All-Star conversation.”
Will he be?
In certain circles.
Will he be ignored?
Not if those sanctioned to see and select All-Stars have the savvy and sophistication, the view and the vision they should.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.