Rudy Gobert has clearly won the respect of the NBA — after all, he is the two-time Defensive Player of the Year award winner.
But while Gobert still has a lot of career ahead of him, some are starting to think about Gobert’s position in the basketball pantheon of great defensive big men.
“I was thinking about it today. (Gobert’s) a guy that you’re talking about going into the all-time defensive centers, that’s where I’m at with it,” Brooklyn head coach Kenny Atkinson said. “He’s one of the best that I’ve seen. He’s fantastic. He not only can guard the rim, but now he’s going out on the perimeter and guarding guys. It’s really impressive.”
Atkinson was then asked about what Gobert does, beyond just having height (he’s listed at 7-foot-1), and length (a 9-foot-7 standing reach).
“I think it’s toughness, how physical he is. He has a physicality, and credit to Quin and his staff for encouraging and pushing that. He’s really worked on his body, he’s moving better than he’s ever moved before, he seems more agile,” Atkinson said. “And you know how it is now, with teams going to stretch fives and all of that, he doesn’t seem to skip a beat. It’s a real credit to them and his system.”
It’s been one of the most dreaded trips for all NBA teams since the Jazz and Nuggets first started playing in the NBA together in the late nineties: playing the Jazz, then the Nuggets, or vice versa.
Why? Well, because both teams are at a much higher altitude than the rest of the NBA, they tend to have two of the best home-court advantages in the league. While the data is a few years old, the Jazz and Nuggets had a large statistical gap in home court advantage over the rest of the NBA when the issue was examined in 2013, a study that spanned 12 seasons of data.
“I have an 11-year old. You know with 11-year olds, they have those sports encyclopedias? Sometimes I’m in bed reading with him, and it said the two hardest places to play in professional sports were the Utah Jazz and the Nuggets, who we play next,” Atkinson said.
He said he liked the difficult pairing, though. “We enjoy the challenge. They have great fans. You can walk outside and people are wearing Jazz stuff, they love to talk basketball. It’s a real basketball city. I love it.”
This year, seven teams will play in Denver and Utah in consecutive games: Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Indiana, Chicago, Orlando, Houston and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Sixers are the only team who has already played that pair of contests; they lost both.