High Hopes For Rudy Gobert

NBA players are like everyone else. They get pissed off, they vent, they go to social media. It’s predictable and mildly amusing. Enter Ricky Rubio. He went on a rant that had nothing to do with the NBA, with the Minnesota Timberwolves or with the Utah Jazz. He went to Twitter and called Jazz center Rudy Gobert classless.

Rubio was specifically referring to Gobert’s post-game whining after France was stunned in front of their countrymen and lost to Spain in EuroBasket 2015. Pau Gasol had 40 points, many of which were over Gobert. Gobert fouled out and afterwards blamed it on the refs.

“Hard to play when someone can touch you but you can’t touch him! Tough loss it is painful to lose this way but we will bounce back!!!”

Rubio dug the knife even deeper by called Gobert’s teammate and fellow Frenchman, Nic Batum, “a class act” because he congratulated Spain and wished them well in the EuroBasket 2015 Final.

France and Italy are heated, bitter rivals so Rubio’s comments are basically nonsense. But the Utah Jazz have to be happy from what they are seeing from Gobert. Against one of the best European players in history, he grabbed 13 rebounds and had eight points. He didn’t back down and on several possessions he altered Gasol’s shots and made him change his footwork. Furthermore, his post game comments were in the heat of the moment even as they revealed a truth: he is Rudy Gobert. There is no such thing as equality nor is basketball a meritocracy. Pau Gasol is a European superstar. The calculus is always going to be unfair.

Rudy Gobert is following in the footsteps of his father, also named Rudy, who played for the French national team. Gobert has one upped his father by making it to the NBA, the 27th pick in the 2013 draft with jaw dropping measurables: 7 foot 8 wingspan, standing reach of 9 feet, 7 inches. Gobert was drafted by the Nuggets and then traded to Utah on draft night for a second rounder and cash, something the Nuggets now regret.

For most of his rookie year he was in the D-League. His second year was when he began cementing his reputation as a shot blocker and rim protector. In March he surprised the Memphis Grizzlies with a 24 rebound performance as the Jazz won by double digits. Five games later he had 22 rebounds against the Houston Rockets. He followed that up with 20 rebounds against Charlotte. At season’s end, he found himself third in the Most Improved Player voting.

Which brings us to the predictions of the Jazz contending for the 8th seed in the Western Conference. It is based on the fact that Gobert at the rim will deter penetration. He runs the floor like a sprinter with long strides and he is a great finisher. There isn’t much to his offensive game but put backs and dunks. In a twist of irony, Gobert’s efficiency at the rim makes the defense of Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors that more important as players stay home and don’t challenge the Jazz center at the rim. Utah finished the season rated number one in defense. Teams scored 95 points against them.

The Jazz’s problem is Gobert’s problem too: scoring. Without a 25 point scorer on the roster the Jazz have to score by committee and Gobert has to increase his offensive output. His eight points of last year need to push north of ten points, twelve would be a great boost for the Jazz and their hopes of scoring enough points to finish off games.

Gobert needs a third year where he is shooting better than 24% outside of three feet. When he can consistently make an outside shot is when the Jazz will have something real to talk about. HIs confidence is high but EuroBasket is not the NBA. He’ll have to prove it in America.


photo via llananba