Jazz center Rudy Gobert snubbed from NBA All-Star Game; Donovan Mitchell also left out

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) dunks the ball as Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin (23) looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Rudy Gobert is not one of those basketball players who was always inherently destined for stardom.

Which would have made it all the more special had he been named an NBA All-Star.

Except he wasn’t.

On Thursday night, the sixth-year Jazz center was left off the roster of players named to the All-Star Game, to be played Sunday, Feb. 17 in Charlotte.

In the lead-up to Thursday’s announcement of the game’s reserves, Gobert said that while his priority remains leading Utah to wins, the personal accomplishment of becoming an All-Star would mean a lot to him.

“It’s something that I’ve always dreamed of,” Gobert said. “I want to be part of the best group of players in the world, obviously.”

Still, he seemed prepared for the possibility that it might not happen.

“There’s a lot of marketing, and a lot of different factors I can’t control,” he added. “So I don’t want to put my focus on that, ’cause when you do that, you usually get disappointed.”

Teammate Donovan Mitchell, who endured a slow start to the season, but averaged 27.7 points, five assists and four rebounds per game during the month of January, when the Jazz went 11-4, also did not get enough votes from Western Conference coaches to make the team.

As for Gobert, his career year, and the Jazz’s transformation into one of the league’s elite defensive units proved not enough.

He is averaging 15.0 points and 12.8 rebounds per game — both career-highs. He is leading the league by shooting 65.0 percent from the field. He is averaging a career-best 2.2 assists per game, and his 2.2 blocks are a component in the Jazz boasting the league’s fourth-best defensive rating.

Not bad at all, considering his humble beginnings in the league.

On June 27, 2013, Gobert was selected No. 27 overall in the NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets, behind the likes of Anthony Bennett, Cody Zeller, Alex Len, Kelly Olynyk, Shabazz Muhammad, Lucas Nogueira, Sergey Karasev, Mason Plumlee, Solomon Hill, and Andre Roberson.

Later in the evening, he was traded to the Jazz for the rights to Erick Green (the No. 46 pick) and cash considerations.

He was not one of those cautionary “What were they thinking?!” players either — someone rated much higher who’d slipped on account of injury or innuendo. Sure, the newly-minted 21-year-old stood 7-foot-1, weighed 235 pounds, and had a 7-9 wingspan and 9-7 standing reach. But he also had averaged a modest 8.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks in 22.2 minutes per game for Cholet Basket of the French League the season before, and had an extremely limited offensive skillset.

Gobert spent much of his rookie season playing in what is now called the G League. And when he was with the Jazz, he didn’t exactly set the league ablaze — buried on the depth chart behind Al Jefferson and former lottery picks Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, he played 45 games, made zero starts, and averaged 2.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks in 9.6 minutes per game, while shooting just 48.6 percent from the field and 49.2 percent from the free-throw line.

He’s spent the subsequent five seasons building himself into someone who belongs in the best group of players in the world. But he’ll have to wait to join them.

Not making the game also cost Gobert financially. He had a bonus clause in his contract that would have paid him $1 million had he been voted a starter or named a reserve by coaches. He does not collect on the money if he winds up being named an injury reserve.

Next up in the All-Star process, on Thursday, Feb. 7, a draft will be held, with the Lakers’ LeBron James and the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo serving as team captains and selecting their rosters one player at a time.

A combination of votes by fans, players, and media determined the game’s other starters last week — the Rockets’ James Harden, the Warriors’ Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, and the Thunder’s Paul George from the West; plus the Celtics’ Kyrie Irving, the Hornets’ Kemba Walker, the 76ers’ Joel Embiid, and the Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard.

Coaches then voted selected the game’s reserves by voting for for players in the conference.

Other East players selected include: the Pacers’ Victor Oladipo, the Raptors’ Kyle Lowry, Pistons’ Blake Griffin, Bucks’ Khris Middleton, Sixers’ Ben Simmons, Wizards’ Bradley Beal, and Magic’s Nikola Vucevic.

The other West players named were: the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard, Warriors’ Klay Thompson, Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic, Thunder’s Russell Westbrook, Spurs’s LaMarcus Aldridge, and the Wolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) defended by Denver Nuggets forward Torrey Craig (3) as the Utah Jazz host the Denver Nuggets, NBA basketball in Salt Lake City on Wednesday Jan. 23, 2019.

Mitchell, despite a strong sophomore season buoyed by some incredible play of late, was also left out. He is averaging 22.5 points, 3.9 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.6 steals for the season.

Several NBA figures had suggested recently that Mitchell deserved a spot.

Former Celtics star turned ESPN analyst Paul Pierce said on Wednesday’s broadcast that Mitchell “should definitely be an All-Star” this season, calling him one of the league’s best 24 players and maintaining he was hurt by the league requirement to go with 12 players from each conference.

Mike Fratello, a former head coach turned TV analyst, said on an NBA TV broadcast that he would have voted for Mitchell because of his role in reviving the Jazz from their moribund start.

“Their winning has gone right along with Donovan’s improved play,” Fratello said. “… I felt it was because of him taking over and getting to that next step [that was] the difference in their turnaround.”


At Vivint Smart Home Arena

Tipoff • Friday, 7 p.m.

TV • AT&T SportsNet

Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM

Records • Jazz 29-23; Hawks 16-34

Last meeting • Hawks, 99-94 (March 20, 2018)

About the Jazz • Utah had its three-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday night in a porous defensive showing against the Blazers. … Star center Rudy Gobert and second-year guard Donovan Mitchell were both omitted from the All-Star reserves announced Thursday. … After entering the new year with a losing record, the Jazz went 11-4 in the month of January.

About the Hawks • In the teams’ last meeting, Atlanta was led by an offensive explosion from point guard Dennis Schroeder, who totaled 41 points and seven assists. Schroeder now plays for the Thunder. … The Hawks are coming off a 135-113 loss to Sacramento on Wednesday. … The team is led in both scoring (19.3) and rebounds (9.9) by second-year forward John Collins.