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Men lie, Women lie, Numbers don't: The Rudy Gobert Story


FAILED

76ers

76ers

+1 player ($27.5m),
Cap Impact - $3.0M
  • Rudy Gobert
    Rudy Gobert
    C, 7' 1", 5.32 LEBRON
    Roll + Cut Big

    $27.5M

    6yrs

    29

+5  Wins

-0.24  MPG

+1.34  Off.

+1.81  Def.

Jazz

Jazz

+1 player ($30.6m),
Cap Impact + $3.0M
  • Ben Simmons
    Ben Simmons
    PG, 6' 11", 2.17 LEBRON
    Roll + Cut Big

    $30.5M

    5yrs

    23

-5  Wins

+0.24  MPG

-1.34  Off.

-1.81  Def.

THE RESPONSIBILITY

Rudy Gobert is sitting in the tunnel, breathing in and out. While the jitters before the games never really goes away, he realizes that he is no place for butterflies in the stomach. He is the lone man carrying the Jazz defense, what they have based their success on, the backbone of the team. If he begins to crumble, the National Basketball Associations best squad for most of the year, withers and dies. He is Utahs Atlas, bearing the weight of the heavens with the only shoulders that could carry it. He breathes in, then goes on the court for shoot arounds before the game against the Phoenix Suns.

THE CORE

The goal of basketball has been, and always will be, is to make more shots than your opponent. So, in direct consequence, the goal is to get the best shots possible in order to make the aforementioned shots. Basic nature states that, the closer the shot is, the less variation possible in the balls travels from the hands to the hoop, will make shots better. From 1891, to yesterday, to today, to tomorrow, the interior will be the best place to try and score points. From any way, any metric, any analytical view, the paint should be the center of your defense, the core. Gobert takes that to heart.

MY GOAL

I, personally am tired of narratives, especially around my guy Rudy Gobert. “He can't step out onto the perimeter.” “Players look at him, and see food.” “He gets played off the court in the playoffs.” “Perimeter defense is more important nowadays.” “Rudy Gobert is overrated.”

Today, I will try and summarize all my feelings on perhaps the most overrated player in the history of the game. I will do my best to debunk these myths with numbers and the eye test, to show how Rudy Gobert is having one of the greatest defensive seasons in history, and to prove once and for all that Mr. Rudy Gobert is the runaway most deserving candidate for the Defensive Player of the Year.

“Rudy Gobert is overrated”

Basketball, especially in terms of defense, can and should be told through numbers. Some may scoff at that, but all stats are is history of the game; stating exactly what happened. Quality of defense is also more dependant on stats, because of the less direct nature of the numbers. For scoring, you have points and efficiency, for rebounding you have offensive and defensive, for passing you have assists and turnovers. For defense, you have to look a little deeper. Let’s give a rundown of Gobert.

1 in D-LEBRON *

1 in D-RAPTOR *

1 in D-RPM *

1 in D-EPM *

1 in D-WS

1 in D-RATING

1 in Defensive rebounds

1 in Total rebounds

1 in Blocks

1 in Net rating (over 30 mpg)

1 in +/- (over 30 mpg)

1 in on/off Defensive rating swing

1 in FG%

1 in 2P%

1 EFG%

2 in LEBRON

2 in RAPTOR

2 in EPM

2 in RPM

2 in WS

3 O-RATING

4 in WS/48

*THE GREATEST IN THE HISTORY OF THE STAT

And that is just the stuff he’s in the top 5. What is the moral of the story? Sure he can’t guard 1-5, sure he doesn’t “swallow” players, but you know what he does? Be the best defender in the league, night after night, leading a top 3 defense with only 2 other players I would consider above average. Statistically, WHAT MATTERS MOST WITH DEFENSE, Rudy Gobert is one of the greatest defenders of all time, having maybe the greatest defensive season of all time. And, once you read the stats, its obvious the impact that he has on offense. His otherworldly screening, and rim running gravity (along with improved passing) leads to a +17.6 on off rating, one of the best in the league. While his defense is huge for his value, his screening and efficiency is what makes our offense work. He runs back and forth, and on both sides of the court, he is the most important player on the Utah Jazz, who are tied for the best team in the league.

“Perimeter defense is more important now”

Now, for some people, numbers aren’t their thing. They see a Ben Simmons locking up 1-5 (2-4 is a better description really, no one in history besides maybe prime KG has locked up 1-5) and they see a DPOY. So I’m gonna talk less mathematically to explain why interior and help defense is far superior to man defense. Ben Simmons is elite at guarding one player. Doc throws him onto the other teams star, and tells him to make life hard. And he does! That one player has a really rough night. Rudy Gobert is elite at guarding 5 players. Quin throws him into the paint on defense, and tells him to make everyones life hard. And he does! That whole team has a really rough night. By definition, man defense is guarding one man. Guarding the interior really well is guarding 5 men; it almost eliminates a whole area of the court. And that leads to another concept; deterrence. The greatest defender in history, bar none, Bill Russell states "The idea is not to block every shot. The idea is to make your opponent believe that you might block every shot." That is what Gobert does night after night. Watch a Jazz game. What you will see are perimeter players getting beat, which leads the offense to take a really easy… midrange floater? Why don’t they just go in and take the layup? That’s the most efficient shot. Gobert takes that away. He makes up for all the bad defenders on the Jazz with his otherworldly deterrence. While Ben can lock up one man, Gobert locks up the most efficient area on the court. He also helps guard the perimeter all of the time. Because he is in the paint, perimeter defenders know that they can get super close of the offense when they are on the outside. This quote by Zach Lowe says it perfectly. “On those possessions when Gobert doesn’t directly challenge shots, he still defines what kinds of shots opponents get. He is a one-man defensive architecture. (Embiid is, too.) Because of Gobert, Utah allows the fifth-lowest share of shots at the basket -- and that understates his impact, since that share plummets when Gobert is on the floor. Because of Gobert, perimeter defenders can stick to shooters; Utah allows the lowest share of opponent 3s.” This video is a helpful guide on this, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W7HETB4Umc&t=249s.

“He can’t step out onto the perimeter”/”Players see him and see food.”

Perhaps the most tired narrative there is. Rudy Gobert is a good perimeter defender. He’s no Ben Simmons, he can’t switch like Bam Adebayo, but he does his job. This season, on around 1 isolations a game, Gobert is 4th in defending it. Last season, he was 1st. I realize that sample size is a factor in this, but statistically (stat im using is pts allowed on isolations) he is elite. He uses his long wingspan perfectly, and he is perhaps the best in the last 50 years and baiting players to go up for a shot that he is positive he can block. Check this video out, “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_F6iP5JFmk”. It goes through a reel of all of his isolation scenarios this year. Sure, Gobert has trouble against Devin Booker, a top 10 guard in the league, and sure he had trouble against Steph 5 YEARS AGO, but the next time a guard on your favorite team waives off a screen to take Rudy on one on one, I hope you groan a little bit, waiting for the inevitable.

“Rudy gets played off the court in the playoffs.”

I’m not being hyperbolic when I’m saying that this is perhaps the most tired narrative in the history of… anything. The go-to argument in defense of this actual lie are the series against the Houston Rockets. I get it, grading defense is easier when just looking at the most viral highlights. Of course, his offense still translates with his screens and rim running, no argument against that. Being maybe the greatest screener in the history of the game makes that easy. His defense is where the conflict arises. People say because there is more switching and more small ball lineups with three point shooting centers, Gobert becomes a liability. Of course, all this starts because of how they guarded Houston. They stayed behind James Harden, so he couldn’t shoot stepback threes. They actively funneled him into Gobert. And to be fair, originally it didn’t work. Houston was scoring really well. But, throughout the series as players learned their defensive roles, it became a lockdown scheme. It was some of the best defense ever played against that Houston team, and it worked for one reason. Rudy Gobert. The ability to play so tight and completely take away the three point line from Harden in particular centered around the function that Gobert was the center on the court. Their points, free throws, and field goal percentages all decreased, with turnovers increasing. The only reason the Jazz didn’t win was because it was one of the worst shooting performances in the history of shooting, not because of Gobert. He doesn’t take that imaginary step back.

THE CONCLUSION

Rudy slumps in his chair in the locker room, after a loss to the Phoenix Suns. He’s holding his phone in one hand, scratching his head with the other. He’s looking at this twitter mentions; “Rudy got CROSSED!” and “Not my DPOY!”. What did those people on twitter not see? They didn’t see him have Phoenix go 3-14 when he was directly matched up with the opposing offensive player. They didn’t see him block Devin Booker in the previous half. They didn’t see other Jazz games, where Rudy is intimidating the other team into taking fadeaway midrange shots when they have a lane to the paint. They saw what they wanted to see. They wanted Rudy to fail. As Wilt Chamberlain once said “No one ever roots for Goliath.” That couldn’t be more true. They listen to the lies they hear about Gobert. He puts down his phone, and sighs thoughtfully. Perhaps he wouldn’t win DPOY. He didn’t need to. What he needed to do was be the best defensive player in the world. What he needed to do was teach the masses that men lie, and women lie, but numbers don’t.


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