By any measure, Rudy Gobert was dominant on Friday afternoon against the Denver Nuggets.
The 7-foot-2 Frenchman got anything he wanted at the rim, working pick-and-roll after pick-and-roll to perfection. He cleaned the glass on both ends, he went baseline to baseline effortlessly, and the Nuggets had no answer, including another elite big man, Nikola Jokic.
Gobert hit eight of his first nine shots. He had 20 points and 11 rebounds at halftime, 24 and 14 on the day and when it was over, the Jazz had a one-sided 124-87 win and 2-1 lead in a Western Conference first-round series.
On a micro level, not only Gobert’s effort on Friday, but really much of the last six quarters of this series have been a reminder that among the decisions this franchise needs to make this summer, the most critical one might be whether or not to offer Gobert a “supermax contract.”
“I try to set the tone mostly, of course, on the defensive end,” Gobert said on a postgame Zoom call. “Offensively, I try to be a force and be aggressive, whether it’s setting the screen, running the floor, finishing. It’s all about trying to set a tone.”
Whenever this odd, unorthodox playoff run is over for the Jazz, offseason business will be plentiful. The franchise can offer Donovan Mitchell a max rookie extension now instead of allowing the budding star to hit restricted free agency next offseason. Jordan Clarkson’s pending unrestricted free agency will also need attention with the Jazz holding his full Bird Rights. Mixed in with those two is Gobert.
Because he was named Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and was named All-NBA third team in 2019, Gobert is eligible for the “supermax,” whose technical name is the “Designated Veteran Player Extension.” The rule allows teams to re-sign qualified players to up to a five-year deal worth up to 35% of the salary cap with 8% escalation in each subsequent year.
In layman’s terms, Gobert’s “supermax” projection was once five years and approaching $250 million. That total dollar figure will dip if the NBA salary cap dips in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, but would still be well north of $200 million.
For now, Gobert is in control of this series, averaging 20 points and 9.3 rebounds, while shooting 72% from the floor. Some of Jokic’s numbers look gaudier, but that hardly matters at the moment as the Jazz move toward the Western Conference semifinals for the third time in four years.
“We know what the goal is,” Gobert said. “It’s great to be back out there and play at the highest level. I think we have a great group, a great opportunity and I’m happy about that. It’s all about doing what I do best for my teammates. If I do that, I think we’ll be in a great place.”