Salt City Hoops » Rudy Gobert http://saltcityhoops.com The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Wed, 17 Sep 2014 19:09:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops no The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops » Rudy Gobert http://saltcityhoops.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://saltcityhoops.com/category/players/rudy-gobert/ Utah Jazz Frontcourt: Three-Headed Monster? http://saltcityhoops.com/utah-jazz-frontcourt-three-headed-monster/ http://saltcityhoops.com/utah-jazz-frontcourt-three-headed-monster/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 18:25:20 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12848 Author information
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and general sports fanatic based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Nylon Calculus (Hardwood Paroxysm/Fansided Network), and can be heard on the airwaves for the SCH podcast and appearances with ESPN AM 700. With a strong background in both statistics and on-court fundemantals, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Between FIBA and summer league play, August pieces written by local and national media alike, and even gushing podcast segments, it’s been a Gobert love-fest this offseason. Shoot, there hasn’t been this much ado about Rudy since 1993. But with international play all wrapped up and September flying by, the hype factor slowly beings to taper off into reality – the next on-court action we’ll see from the towering Frenchman, along with the rest of his Jazz teammates, will be at training camp and, before you know it, the start of the preseason.

The questions as he once again steps onto an NBA court will be twofold, and one will be dependent on the other:

1. Can Gobert develop his offensive game to a point where lineups featuring him can hold their own on that end, particularly while next to Derrick Favors?

2. If so, what does this mean for the future of Enes Kanter – and/or how might Kanter fit in the picture?

As far as the first question goes, they’ll be hoping for short memories, as Charles would say. With the necessary caveats surrounding small sample size, Gobert’s time on the court saw an already bland offense crater spectacularly. A squad that was already just outside the league’s bottom five in per-possession scoring posted an ugly 95.3 points-per-100, over a full point lower than Philadelphia’s league-worst mark, per NBA.com. These figures were even worse (though on an even smaller sample) when he was paired with either Favors (82.0) or Kanter (88.4).

There’s cause for optimism, however. For one, all this Gobert gushing is happening for a reason – he appears to have improved, perhaps somewhat drastically. Favors and Kanter are both at a point on their developmental curve where they’ll be expected to have done the same to some degree. And my writing it ad nauseam doesn’t make it any less true: the new coaching staff will be expected to leave their own imprint on personnel across the board.

Speaking more generally, precedent exists for a successful frontcourt even if development stalls for one or more of the potential pieces involved, including the spatially-challenged Favors-Gobert unit.

Compare them, for instance, with one of the league’s top offenses in San Antonio. Gobert, like typical Spurs starter Tiago Splitter, is mostly ignored by opposing defenders outside the paint. The two combined attempted just 15 shots from beyond 10 feet all last season – 14 by Splitter, who also played about triple Gobert’s minutes. Meanwhile, Tim Duncan is a better midrange shooter than Favors both in perception and reality, but perhaps the latter gap isn’t quite as large as the former would indicate. The two shot nearly identical percentages between eight and 16 feet from the hoop (37.7 percent for Duncan, 37.6 percent for Favors) last year. Duncan had a big advantage from beyond 16 feet, but team context plays a role here; where Favors drew assists on 66.7 percent of his makes from this distance, Duncan did so 95.5 percent of the time. We see that San Antonio’s vastly superior talent and comfort within their system led to Duncan almost never being forced to create these shots for himself, with Favors far more often required to do so. This jives with SportVU data tabulated by my Nylon Calculus colleagues Darryl Blackport and Krishna Narsu, which shows that Duncan took 37.5 percent of his total shots while “uncontested” (no defender within four feet) while Favors took just 24.5 percent of his under the same circumstances. The spacing and team construct was just so different, and this certainly played some role.

Obviously, the Spurs are on a whole other planet, one this Jazz core may never even get within eyesight of. Numerous advantages in nearly every other aspect of NBA basketball of course play a large part in their ability to keep a Duncan-Splitter frontcourt viable offensively where Utah failed to do so with their own. But like several other aspects of the Jazz franchise moving forward, San Antonio has laid out the blueprint. Common sets like Horns, detailed in the video below on a team-by-team basis by Coach Nick of bballbreakdown.com, and the specific variations used by Gregg Popovich are among the simplest starting points:

If we’re being fair, some of this may end up being a bit thin. Favors and Gobert are likely to struggle offensively as a pairing, perhaps mightily so, unless one or the other undergoes a shooting renaissance that seems highly unlikely. Heck, the Duncan-Splitter duo, while far more effective than Utah’s frontcourt to be sure, was still among the least productive of San Antonio’s high-volume two-man units, and Pop wasn’t shy about mixing things up to inject more spacing when necessary.

This is where Kanter remains an intriguing piece of the puzzle. Should the change of coaching scenery and another offseason of work be enough to propel him from awful to simply below-average defensively, his abilities as a midrange shooter and low post operator could be surprisingly complementary while Favors or Gobert run more pick-and-roll action.

In truth, a Favors-Kanter-Gobert three-headed monster frontcourt may be nothing more than a pipe dream. Any major tangible improvement from Kanter before his expected RFA summer could easily push his perceived value around the league even further beyond what the Jazz would be comfortable paying him, and Gobert comes in at a far cheaper tag and in a situation they control for longer (he’s also just as large of an offensive question mark as Kanter is a defensive one, if not more so). And don’t forget, Utah is widely expected to score another solid lottery pick in the 2015 Draft – one that, at least for now, appears to contain at least three or four highly-touted prospects at the big positions. For all of Dan’s talk (and my repetition) of consolidating assets, the opportunity to pick a name like Jahlil Okafor or Karl Towns might be too good to pass up, particularly if one of the three incumbents isn’t pulling their weight.

Author information

Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and general sports fanatic based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Nylon Calculus (Hardwood Paroxysm/Fansided Network), and can be heard on the airwaves for the SCH podcast and appearances with ESPN AM 700. With a strong background in both statistics and on-court fundemantals, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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FIBA Scouting Reports: Rudy Gobert, Dante Exum, Raul Neto, and Ante Tomic http://saltcityhoops.com/fiba-scouting-reports-rudy-gobert-dante-exum-raul-neto-and-ante-tomic/ http://saltcityhoops.com/fiba-scouting-reports-rudy-gobert-dante-exum-raul-neto-and-ante-tomic/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 18:38:06 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12792 Author information
Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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Photo from FIBA.com

Photo from FIBA.com

In a gym some 5,000 miles away from Salt Lake City, a Jazz reserve was the talk of the basketball community on Wednesday.

The FIBA World Cup marches on, with medals being handed out on Sunday. Four Jazz players — or players whose NBA rights are held by the Jazz — are involved, so we’re going to take a look at the good and bad each guy has shown, and where that leaves the big picture discussion on each.

And we’ll start with an in-depth analysis and video of the guy Fran Fraschilla called “my MVP” of the quarterfinal upset over Spain.

Rudy Gobert

The line: 4.1 points & 5.1 rebounds, with 2 games to go.

The good: Gobert was a defensive force against the tournament co-favorites, drawing effusive praise from Fraschilla. There are many good reasons for the coach-turned-commentator to gush. He has been a lot more engaged, he has grabbed a rebound for every three minutes played, and he’s running the floor.

It’s best to let the tape tell about some of his positives, which our Ben Dowsett did after the contest. Here are some additional looks at specific areas of Gobert’s game.

He’s been a lot more calculating about his off-ball movement — diving into the slot especially. In the case of this video, he gets free on the baseline and gives his guy an option for a pretty touch pass that results in an easy dunk.

But the real reason he’s been so impressive is defense. He had stretches where he completely dictated that end of the floor, including the stretch run on Wednesday. Here’s a video of him dominating defensively in the clutch:

  • He swats a ball away, then on the ensuing inbound he helps, gets back, boxes out and draws a foul.
  • He plays solid position D, denying the baseline and then when Gasol turns to go middle he blocks it.
  • This time Gasol tries to drive but Gobert cuts him off. Gasol tries to go right through him and gets stripped.
  • Another play where he make a deflection at the rim, followed by Fran gushing a bit more.

Spain’s elite offense came to a screeching halt, largely because of Gobert. It was a memorable defensive showing in one of the biggest FIBA upsets in recent memory.

The bad: Gobert still has his raw moments, even on defense. Here are a couple of almost back-to-back plays where he gets pulled far from the lane on pick-and-roll coverage and can’t get back. Teams consciously try to get him in the P&R. Sometimes he can let the guard through and stay home — or even better, help and then get back (as above) — but not always. Here we see that the best way to neutralize Gobert defensively is to force him to help hard 25 feet from the hoop and hope he can’t recover and/or doesn’t have help behind him.

And of course, he’s offensively still progressing. This is true of his own game outside the immediate basket area, but even his screening and passing. When you screen, you’re supposed to be as square as possible; Gobert often looks more like a parallelogram on his screens, leaning hard to one side. Luckily, he’s learned to hold the position for a beat so he’s getting fewer illegal screen calls. As far as his passing game, we’re talking about a guy who had seven assists all last season. In Spain, he literally has had moments when he awkwardly knocked himself over trying to find a passing angle, or times like this video when he should pass out of the trap but instead takes an uncomfortable sideways shot.

The big picture: Any way you cut it, it’s been a summer of progress for Gobert, who will have no difficulty claiming an important spot in the rotation if he proffers the kind of game-changing defense we’ve seen in stretches at FIBA, especially the fourth quarter vs. Spain.

 

Let’s also take a quicker look at the Jazz’s other three World Cup participants.

Dante Exum

The line: 2.7 pts & 2 ast.

The good: You’ve heard plenty of analysis of Exum’s WC showing, no doubt. He showed that elite quickness, as well as a point guard mentality. Whenever he got to the middle of the floor on offense he was always looking to pass first. But probably the most impressive thing was his pestering defense. He really got “up and under” some guys, to steal a Jerry Sloan term.

The bad: The biggest complaints — rightfully so — had to do with his lack of movement on offense and his overall passiveness. I wasn’t completely excited by Australia’s offensive creativity, so maybe his role was to stand weakside and watch… but I doubt it. I kept waiting to see him get more involved, but I think he’s young enough and rusty enough that he was waiting for an invitation to have an impact on the game.

The big picture: I get the sentiment that, if he’s truly a future star in the making, he should have been less invisible with the Boomers. But I also think it’s wrong to set arbitrary prerequisites on him. I am guilty of this, too. In last week’s post, I stated that I’d be a little worried if he didn’t have a rookie year at least in a Tim Hardaway Jr. range (2-3 WS). Since then, I’ve realized how silly that is. Do you know how many eventual All-Stars and even Hall-of-Famers started out with less than that? Kobe’s rookie WS was 1.8. Dirk’s was 0.8. Isiah Thomas was 2.3. We’re talking about Finals MVP-caliber players here. Karl Malone put up 1.9 WS in his rookie season. All that’s to say history isn’t as demanding on rookie Exum; he can start modestly and still have a chance at greatness, the precedent says. Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes some pretty quick improvements in a couple of areas once he’s working out with the Jazz.

 

Raul Neto

The line: 7.6 pts, 2.3 ast.

The good: Neto had two stellar games where it was easy to find things to like, including a can’t-miss offensive zone against Argentina that helped the Brazilians put their neighbors away. Even when he’s not scoring like crazy, he has good control of the game, never looking outmatched or out of place. He understands spacing, so his off-ball movement helps preserve options for the team system, though sometimes subtly. He also knows how to get separation on his shots, and creates the right angles with good use of screens and side-to-side movement (he especially likes to step right-to-left into his jumper).

The bad: Not to be a wet blanket, but the Argentina game was an outlier and Neto was mostly fairly quiet, at least statistically. In group play, he had three straight games with just a bucket per outing until he got extra burn against a pretty bad Egyptian team and exploded for 14 & 10. His defense wasn’t perfect. He is solidly built, so he doesn’t give up ground easily, but he doesn’t always stay in front, nor does he become the defensive pest that Exum was at times. He got hung up on some screens, and other times, he tried to jump the screen early and got punished.

The big picture : Neto’s future role with the Jazz depends greatly on how the next few months develop, especially with regard to Exum and Trey Burke. If the Jazz decide those guys are the point tandem they’re going to ride into contention, then Neto might be more of a trade asset than a basketball asset. Then there’s the very related question of how Alec Burks fits in with that duo, and whether they have a positional preference as to how they deploy Gordon Hayward. Either way, Neto caught some attention this month.

 

Ante Tomic

The line: 10 pts, 7.2 reb, 2.5 ast.

The good: There were stretches — like the fourth quarter against France — where the offense almost entirely ran through him for long periods of time, and usually with positive results because of his touch and passing. It’s amazing how many of Croatia’s plays began with a Tomic screen-roll at angle left. He also defended solidly.  He’s so big that he’s hard for post players to move around, and his length clearly frustrates drivers.

The bad: Tomic didn’t look particularly quick on either end. Even his really nice moves kind of seemed like they were in slow motion. He also rarely gets any sort of elevation. For a 7’2″ guy, he plays almost entirely under the rim. He’s a crafty finisher so he makes due, but you have to wonder how he’d compete athletically with NBA bigs.

The big picture: With his heady play and great hands, Tomic showed exactly why some think he projects to be a decent third of fourth big in the NBA. But there’s no clear sign as to whether he and Jazz are in each other’s mutual future. Still, every good showing by Tomic at the very least increases the asset value of his draft rights.

Author information

Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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Rudy Gobert: Spanish Nightmare http://saltcityhoops.com/rudy-gobert-spanish-nightmare/ http://saltcityhoops.com/rudy-gobert-spanish-nightmare/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 03:31:44 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12805 Author information
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and general sports fanatic based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Nylon Calculus (Hardwood Paroxysm/Fansided Network), and can be heard on the airwaves for the SCH podcast and appearances with ESPN AM 700. With a strong background in both statistics and on-court fundemantals, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The basketball gods heard our continued whining about a lack of intriguing stuff going on this time of year, and delivered some much-needed sustenance in the form of a riveting upset win by France over co-favorite (and host) Spain in the FIBA World Cup quarterfinals Wednesday afternoon. France led nearly wire-to-wire and pulled away down the stretch, blowing up what many had considered a sure-thing battle in the title game between Spain the United States.

Jazz big man Rudy Gobert played his best game of the tournament, and likely the best game of his professional basketball career. He was instrumental in France’s powerful defensive effort, as they held a Spanish team yet to score under 82 points in the tournament to just 52 on rancid 32.3 percent shooting. His raw numbers were five points, 13 rebounds, a steal and a block on 2-4 shooting in what was easily his tournament high of over 23 minutes; this is a solid line, but as may frequently be the case through the young Frenchman’s career, it doesn’t tell the entire story of his impact.

This isn’t the first we’ve heard from Rudy this summer. He made waves at summer league with several impressive performances, and SCH’s Dan Clayton took a detailed look at his progress roughly a month ago. Some of the attention has spilled over to the national stage as well, with Grantland’s Zach Lowe delving into Gobert’s massive (literally) potential just last week.

Points from both these fine writers, as well as my January scouting report, stood out noticeably against the Spaniards. Rudy was a defensive force throughout, particularly in his second stint on the court that began with just over three minutes to go in the third quarter and lasted the rest of the game. During these 13-plus minutes, France held Spain to just 12 points despite what most would assume would be a huge frontcourt advantage with both Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka.

His foot speed stood out in particular, especially against the pick-and-roll. France had Gobert leaping out to hedge the ball-handler in such sets all game, and his timing and footwork were impeccable, allowing him to defend effectively within the scheme:

Gobert was in constant motion on the defensive end, both lanky arms up and annoying Spanish ball-handlers anytime he was even close to a passing lane. In Dan’s superb piece from last month linked above, he points to Rudy’s defensive understanding as an area ripe for improvement – it’s just one game, sure, but the strides he seems to have made here even since summer league are somewhat astonishing. He was fully in tune with the game from the jump, making only a couple small mental errors despite being a key figure in nearly every defensive possession as the Spaniards fed their bigs down low.

He was a beastly physical presence as well; it may be difficult to sustain night in and night out in the NBA, but Gobert held his own against the bulkier Gasol tandem and didn’t back down an inch:

GET SOME, PAU!

Gobert also picked up 13 boards, showcasing more willingness to bang down low and maintain his positioning than at any point in his rookie NBA season. I wrote in my January piece how he needed to focus on learning to find ways to counterbalance the weight disadvantage he will face against most NBA centers, and evidence of work in the offseason here is readily visible. He’s identifying his box-out responsibilities more quickly, tracking the ball’s trajectory in the air more effectively, and getting lower to the ground to leverage his weight and move his opponents. Continued improvement here will see him quickly become one of the NBA’s best rebounders – no one is reaching over those arms if he’s in good position.

To my eye, though, the largest tangible improvements visible from Rudy in this game (and to a degree in earlier FIBA games) were in some of the more minute details. Offensive contribution is of course the largest obstacle standing between Gobert and an NBA starting gig, particularly one next to a non-shooting threat like Derrick Favors. I noted during the season how an improvement in his simple ability to catch and control the ball was the first big step toward finding an offensive identity, and this is clearly already happening. He’s not perfect by any means, but is already showing a noticeable refinement in his hands:

These plays don’t seem like much (and may not have had positive endings), but they’re among several examples of Gobert’s increased confidence with the ball in his hands. He’s clearly been drilling himself on catch-and-react scenarios, and doesn’t appear afraid to put the ball on the floor for a dribble or two now and then. Given his size and defensive skill set, this type of development may mean more for a guy like Rudy than nearly any other NBA big. As Lowe noted in his piece, if Gobert can follow the Tyson Chandler model as an offensive big man, his value as an overall player will skyrocket.

He showed promise in other offensive areas, as well. Just like on the defensive side, Gobert was hyper-active without the ball – I counted at least a few possessions where he set five or more picks for teammates, including a few heady improvised back screens like this one leading to an open look:

Just like several other elements of his game, Gobert’s court sense has undergone an accelerated development. He’s setting smart, effective screens and appears infinitely more aware of how his spacing affects his teammates. Coach Snyder is going to love his activity level away from the ball, something a motion offense absolutely must have from its big men, especially if they aren’t shooting threats.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, know that Gobert still has a long way to go. He remains a horrible free-throw shooter (under 50 percent for the tournament) and likewise isn’t a threat to score further than a few feet from the hoop. It’s unlikely he’ll be able to go pound-for-pound with heavier guys every night in the NBA like he did against Spain, and he’ll need to bulk up significantly to avoid significant physical mismatches on a regular basis. And while it’s certainly improved from the NBA season to now, his mental acumen still lags a tad behind his aggression. Touch fouls like these 40 feet from the hoop aren’t going to cut it at any level:

But with that said, Jazz fans have real reason to be excited. I typically caution against gleaning too much from summer league or international competitions, but context remains king here. This wasn’t DeMarcus Cousins swallowing up rebounds against Ukranian bigs similar in stature to American high school players; it was a 22-year-old going against the world’s best international frontcourt in a vital elimination game between two teams that hate each other, and more than holding his own. We aren’t crowning him an All-Star just yet, but his performance this summer is very encouraging. Whether or not he can duplicate Wednesday’s showing before the end of the tournament, I can’t wait to see how his development translates to the NBA game and his role with the Jazz.

Author information

Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and general sports fanatic based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Nylon Calculus (Hardwood Paroxysm/Fansided Network), and can be heard on the airwaves for the SCH podcast and appearances with ESPN AM 700. With a strong background in both statistics and on-court fundemantals, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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Rudy Gobert Makes Huge Impression as France Shocks Spain http://saltcityhoops.com/rudy-gobert-makes-huge-impression-as-france-shocks-spain/ http://saltcityhoops.com/rudy-gobert-makes-huge-impression-as-france-shocks-spain/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 23:17:44 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12794 Author information
Andy Larsen
Andy Larsen
Andy Larsen is the Managing Editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. He also hosts a radio show and podcast every week on ESPN700 AM in Salt Lake City.
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Gobert dunks in a regular season game in 2013-14. Will he get more playing time this season? (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

Gobert dunks in a regular season game in 2013-14. Will he get more playing time this season? (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert won game MVP honors from ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla after a 5 point, 13 rebound performance as France shocked FIBA World Cup hosts Spain. Gobert played the entirety of the 4th quarter for France, and was a big factor in holding Spain to just 9 points in the 4th quarter, garnering 7 rebounds, 1 block, and 1 steal in that quarter alone.

Overall, Gobert played 23 minutes, the most action he’s seen in any game of the tournament thus far. Previously, Gobert had been averaging just 14 minutes per game, but his defensive performance as France went on the game-defining run forced French coach Vincent Collet to keep Gobert out on the floor.

Like his fellow countrymen, Gobert was proud to upset Spain, saying after the game “Spain had everything to lose. They have great players, but they are still humans.” Impressively, Gobert’s performance came against FIBA’s best backcourt, featuring NBA stars Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka.

Here’s Gobert’s 4th quarter block on Pau Gasol:

And here’s some reaction from around the internet on Gobert’s great game:

 

We’ll have more a more detailed breakdown of Gobert’s game coming soon on Salt City Hoops.

Author information

Andy Larsen
Andy Larsen
Andy Larsen is the Managing Editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. He also hosts a radio show and podcast every week on ESPN700 AM in Salt Lake City.
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How Ready is Rudy Gobert? http://saltcityhoops.com/how-ready-is-rudy-gobert/ http://saltcityhoops.com/how-ready-is-rudy-gobert/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 20:52:24 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12468 Author information
Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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Could Rudy Gobert really be about to lap Enes Kanter, as SCH's founder predicted? (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Could Rudy Gobert really be about to lap Enes Kanter, as SCH’s founder predicted? (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

If you like bold predictions, then the recent throwback installment of the Salt City Hoops podcast is right up your alley.

Among other gutsy calls, SCH founder Spencer Hall said he expects Rudy Gobert to play his way past teammate Enes Kanter on the Jazz’s depth chart during this upcoming season. There’s no dearth of excitement about Gobert’s tools and talent, but Spencer’s specific boldness seemed unprecedented enough to invite a conversation.

Could Gobert be ready to leapfrog his friend and go from fringe rotation player to major minute guy? What would it take? Today, we read the tea leaves relative to the battle for big man minutes.

Why it could happen

At first blush, you see things to make you think Spencer’s not that crazy. Several of Gobert’s numbers are closer to Kanter’s than you might think: they both shoot 49% from the field, and in terms of total value, Gobert adds .045 WS per 48 to Kanter’s .050. They certainly add that value in different ways, but viewed at the broadest possible level, you realize Gobert is already close in terms of per-minute value.

Gobert is already an elite rebounder, with the 7th highest total rebound percentage of any player with at least 100 minutes. His block percentage is amazing, too: 7.4% of what opponents put up while Rudy is on the floor gets sent back by the big guy. That number is second only to Cole Aldrich. Rebounds and blocks are two numbers that generally hold up OK on a per-minute basis when playing time is increased.

If Gobert works his way ahead of Kanter in the short term, it will likely be because of his defense. It’s hard to find a statistically significant category where Gobert isn’t much better defensively. He gets baited into more shooting fouls, but that’s to be expected from a rim protector.

What held Gobert back on that end was defensive understanding. Too often he freestyled, jumping out of system to do what he thought was the right thing, and leaving four teammates out on a limb. But I’m encouraged by what we saw on the court and what he said off of it in his time at the Las Vegas Summer League. Getting him to understand team defense and be in the right places appears to be a focal point. When he’s tuned in, he can absolutely dictate what’s going to happen on the defensive end for long stretches, and not a lot of players can do that.

Gobert’s defensive FG% at the rim was 10 percentage points better than Kanter’s and the best on the team. In fact, he was 8th in the league in that stat among players who defended at least one such play per game in at least 40 games last season. That tells us that, if the discipline is there, he might not be far from being an elite defensive player already.

Top 10 rim defenders w/ at least 40 GP and 1 rim FGA defended per game. Source: stats.nba.com

Top 10 rim defenders w/ at least 40 GP and 1 rim FGA defended per game. Source: stats.nba.com

 

Why he might not be there yet

While their shooting numbers overall are closer than one might expect, the composition of Gobert’s offensive game is very different from Kanter’s. The latter is an able mid-range threat, with healthy portions of his used possessions coming at that range, and with pretty good results for a big man. Not so with Gobert.

A whopping 99% of Gobert’s attempts — and literally all of his points from the field — came from inside 10 feet. Even in the 3-10 foot category, Gobert hit just 13% of his shots, so we’re basically talking about a guy who’s not an offensive weapon if he’s not within arm’s reach of the hoop. And while his Summer League performance was encouraging in overall terms, it wasn’t a departure from this script. Of his 19 Summer League field goals, 18 were in the immediate basket area — the other a short jumper created off a teammate’s drive.

There’s something to be said for knowing who you are, and the fact that nearly 80% of his attempts come around the rim shows that Gobert understands his limitations. But it’s hard to play 4-on-5 on offense, and unless Gobert is sitting on the rim, that’s essentially what the Jazz have to do with him out there. The sub-.500 free throw shooting doesn’t help things much.

Passing is another area where Gobert is wanting. He had a total of just seven assists last season — all season!  It doesn’t look good even on a per-minute basis; if Gobert played 24 minutes per game, he’d have an assist about every third game. And it’s not just assists – he doesn’t pass a lot, period. According to the NBA’s player tracking, he had fewer passes per minute played than any other Jazz player (although Kanter was close).

 

What he’d have to improve to move up on the depth chart 

More than anything, Gobert has to address his free throw shooting if he’s going to spend 20+ minutes per night on the court. You can’t shoot 49% from the line and be on the court in any kind of pressure situations.

There’s a chance that in improving his technique relative to free throws, he might even develop a nice touch for short jumpers. If so, that’s gravy. He doesn’t necessarily need that; you can play big minutes in the middle for a good team even if your offensive range is limited. But any improvements in his offensive ability would help justify his minutes enough to unleash the havoc of his defense on other teams.

He also needs to get better at effectively and legally screening. Especially since he’s already a less-than-ideal P&R partner given that he can’t pop off the pick, it is extremely important that he not further diminish his effectiveness on the screen with offensive fouls or bad positioning.

And, as mentioned, he must improve as a ball mover. I wish we had player tracking from Vegas to see if he’s understanding and embracing Quin Snyder’s hot potato ideology. He and Kanter were the only Jazz men last year to pass the ball less than once per minute played. Again, seven assists in a season is just not enough.

 

But for now… it’s Kanter’s to lose

Gobert has a lot going for him, especially in terms of physical tools. But for now, I think Kanter has the inside lane on this one. In terms of skill areas, Kanter is far enough ahead that I think he really controls his own fate. If he does the little things, the things that require focus and discipline, I can’t imagine him surrendering too many rotation minutes to Gobert of anybody else.

Put another way: it’s easier for a highly skilled player to improve overnight in terms of effort and energy than for a raw player to improve overnight in terms of skill.

Of course, this isn’t about pitting players against one another, and the Jazz would do well to help both Kanter and Gobert realize their full potential. And either way this particular discussion turns out, the Jazz should gain from a developmental standpoint. If Gobert does indeed lap Kanter, it means he has developed enough offensively and figured out how to channel his unique, elite defensive abilities. If he doesn’t, it means Kanter has improved his focus and habits, and is doing the little things it takes to win.

When you win 25 games, nobody’s job is guaranteed, so I’m sure everybody will have to come to camp ready to earn things. But as of today, I think Kanter is penciled pretty heavily into that second big slot.

Author information

Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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World Watch: Utah Jazz Guys Tuning Up With National Teams http://saltcityhoops.com/world-watch-utah-jazz-guys-tuning-up-with-national-teams/ http://saltcityhoops.com/world-watch-utah-jazz-guys-tuning-up-with-national-teams/#comments Fri, 08 Aug 2014 19:13:48 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12476 Author information
Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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A hoopless August? No way.

A few Jazz players are keeping busy this summer in preparation for FIBA’s World Cup of Basketball in Spain. And even though that tournament doesn’t start until the very end of August, the exhibition lead-up has some Jazz guys lacing up starting this weekend.

Consider this your guide to when Jazz players suit up for their national teams, representing four different continents.

The whole basketball world is waiting to see more of this guy. (Photo from @ESPNAusNZ.)

The whole basketball world is waiting to see more of this guy. (Photo from @ESPNAusNZ.)

Australia

Dante Exum’s Australian Boomers begin a three-week exhibition tour this Friday. They have eight games scheduled in three separate weekend tourneys as part of their tune-up process for the World Cup. Then they begin the Cup with group play in a somewhat forgiving group. Lithuania will be their biggest challenger. Australia came out of the 2013 continental championships ranked 9th in the FIBA bwin World Rankings.

Exhibition (times shown in EDT):

  • Friday 8/8, 9:15 a.m. – Finland… Update: Australia won 100-95, led by Brock Motum’s 17. Exum had 2 pts & either 4 or 5 assists.
  • Saturday 8/9, 9:15 a.m. – Ukraine… Update: Australia won 75-60, Exum with 14-3-3. Motum w/ 4 pts, 3 reb.
  • Monday 8/11, 12:00 p.m. – Lithuania… Update: Australia lost 78-91, Exum with 5-4-1, Motum with 10 (5/6 FGs).
  • Tuesday 8/12, 12:00 p.m. – Finland… Update: Australia lost 81-87, Exum with 10-1-2, Motum with 12 & 4.
  • Friday 8/15, 12:00 p.m. – Ukraine (in Nice)… Update: Australia won 74-65. Exum with 4-3-3 in 18 reserve minutes, Motum with 11-5.
  • Saturday 8/16, 12:00 p.m. – Phillipines… Update: Australia won 97-75, Exum with 8-5-6 in 21 reserve minutes, Motum w/ 7 & 12.
  • Sunday 8/17, 2:30 p.m. – France… Update: Australia won 76-74, Exum with 2-1-2 (1/8 shooting) in 15 reserve minutes, Motum w/ 6 (no rebounds).
  • Friday 8/22, 2:30 p.m. – Finland… Update: Australia won 80-57. Exum with 0-4-4 in 20:39 off bench, Motum 7 & 4.
  • Sunday 8/24, 1:00 p.m.- France… Update: Australia lost 50-73. Exum with 6-0-1 in 20 bench minutes, Motum 4 & 3.

World Cup Group Play (8/30 through 9/4):

  • Slovenia, Korea, Lithuania, Mexico, Angola

How much of a role will Exum have? The Patty Mills injury means it will largely be Exum and Matthew Dellavedova manning the point. And since Australia likes to have two handlers on the floor at all times, I imagine that means both these guys will see a ton of minutes. This could be a real coming out party for Exum, who hadn’t played for close to a year until Summer League, but now gets a minimum of 14 games to find his conditioning and comfort zone again.

How much of a role will Brock Motum have? The Jazz aspirant will probably be the 4th or 5th big man in the Boomers’ rotation. I would expect he’ll see a bit more burn during the tune-up matches than in Spain.

Rudy Gobert will be a part of France's second unit. (Image from FFBB.com.)

Rudy Gobert will be a part of France’s second unit. (Image from FFBB.com.)

France

Rudy Gobert’s national team likewise has a full schedule of tune-up games coming up this month. Like Australia, France will spend the next three weekends at tournaments, played throughout France. Then they head into group play in Spain. They come in with a #8 ranking, but got a really tough draw in terms of groups. Spain, Serbia and Brazil are all top 11 teams. This group is rough.

Exhibition (times shown in EDT):

  • Update: As Audiris points out in the comments, France began exhibition with a win over Belgium on July 29. Gobert had 16 & 6 w/ 2 blocks. I hadn’t included anything that happened previous to the original writing of this post. For more on that game, check out Audiris’ comment below.
  • Friday 8/8, 2:30 p.m. – Croatia… Update: France won 81-71, Gobert w/ 7 pts & 5 reb in 18 minutes.
  • Saturday 8/9, 1:00 p.m.  – Greece… Update: France won 81-73, Gobert w/ 13 & 10 in 20 minutes.
  • Sunday 8/10, 2:30 p.m. – Serbia… Update: France lost 69-79, Gobert w/ 6 & 4 in 13 minutes.
  • Friday 8/15, 2:30 p.m. – Philippines… Update: France won 75-68, Gobert w/ 2 & 0 in 6 minutes.
  • Saturday 8/16, 2:30 p.m. – Ukraine… Update: France lost 56-63, Gobert w/ 8 & 5 (4/4 FGs) in 14:30 as starter.
  • Sunday 8/17, 2:30 p.m. – Australia… Update: France lost 74-76, Gobert w/ 0 & 1 in 5:25 off the bench.
  • Saturday 8/23, 2:30 p.m. – Finland… Update France won 74-69, Gobert w/ 2 & 4 in 10 minutes.
  • Sunday 8/24, 1:00 p.m. – Australia… Update: France won 73-50, Gobert w/ 2 & 7 (4 blks) in 15 minutes.

World Cup Group Play (8/30 through 9/4):

  • Brazil, Serbia, Egypt, Spain, Iran

How much of a role will Gobert have? There aren’t a ton of large bodies after that. Gobert will probably play a decent role off the bench, and he may see the court even more during the exhibition matches.

 

Hayward hopes to lock up a Team USA spot. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Hayward hopes to lock up a Team USA spot. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

USA

Team USA has a shorter slate of friendly games than the other two, and then they’ll head into a group that includes only one other real power, and Turkey is a bit decimated due to injuries. USA still ranks #1 in the bwin rankings, which were last updated after last year’s continentals.

Exhibition (times shown in EDT):

  • Saturday 8/16, 9:00 p.m. – Brazil… Update: USA won 95-78, Hayward DNP-CD.
  • Wednesday 8/20, 7:00 p.m. – Dominican Republic… Update: USA won 105-62, Hayward w/ 4-1-1 and 2 stls in 14 min.
  • Friday 8/22, 7:00 p.m. – Puerto Rico… Update: Hayward with another DNP, after which he was released.
  • Tuesday 8/26 2:00 p.m. – Slovenia… Update: Who cares?!?! Just kidding, see below.

World Cup Group Play (8/30 through 9/4):

  • Finland, Turkey, New Zealand, Dominican Republic, Ukraine

How much of a role will Hayward have? Update: After being on the Team USA roster for three exhibition games (and playing in one of them), Hayward was part of the team’s final cuts ahead of their trip to Spain, being officially released early in the morning on August 23, hours after the exhibition win over Puerto Rico. Per ESPN’s Marc Stein, Hayward was the first of those final four cuts to learn his fate, because he had seen the writing on the wall and had asked about his status. Therefore, Hayward will not make the trip to Spain with the rest of Coach K’s crew.

 

* * *

Note: I left Enes Kanter off this list because, last we heard, he was not planning to play  with the Turkish National Team. He is, however, still on their official FIBA roster, which needs to be trimmed from 21 to 12 at some point. My guess: we won’t see Kanter in Spain. Update: Kanter no longer appears on the roster page at the TBF website.

Here are some national teams that include players whose draft rights are held by the Jazz. Keep an eye on these teams as well.

Brazil

Raul Neto and his countrymen will look to provide some small degree of consolation for what happened in that other World Cup. Brazil is currently ranked #10 by FIBA, but they did not get an easy group once FIBA play starts. They’ll have to run a gauntlet of good programs to get into bracket play.

Exhibition (times shown in EDT):

Details of Brazil’s exhibition schedule are spotty, but I do know they start play Friday at the 3 Nations (or Nacion3s) tournament in Argentina and then have the ESPN-televised exhibition in Chicago against Team USA. If you know more details, let me know and I’ll add it to the page.

  • Friday 8/8, 8:30 p.m. – Argentina (3 Naciones tournament)… Update: Brazil lost 80-85, 3 points for Neto.
  • Sunday 8/10, 6:00 p.m. – Mexico (3 Naciones tournament)… Update: Brazil won 68-56, 7 points for Neto.
  • Saturday 8/16, 9:00 p.m. – USA… Update: Brazil lost 78-95. Neto with 6 pts, 4 ast, 3 reb.
  • Thursday 8/21 – Lithuania… Update: Brazil lost 61-64, Neto with 2 pts and 2 ast.
  • Friday 8/22 – Slovenia… Update: Brazil won 88-84, Neto with 4 pts and 2 ast.
  • Saturday 8/23 – Iran… Update: Brazil won 92-52, Neto with 10 pts and 3 ast.
  • Tuesday 8/26 – Mexico (in Granada)

World Cup Group Play (8/30 through 9/4):

  • France, Iran, Spain, Serbia, Egypt

How much of a role will Neto have? Neto has moved into the starting lineup for Brazil. At the South American Championships that concluded last week, Neto averaged more than 25 minutes per contest, best on the squad. I imagine he’ll continue to have a big role for Brazil across the Atlantic.

 

Croatia

You may have forgotten about Ante Tomic, but as long as the Jazz hold his rights, I’ll be keeping track of the ACB star. Croatia has slipped to #16 in the FIBA world rankings, but has a solid squad with a lot of NBA talent. Their group includes two of the top five teams, Argentine (3) and Greece (5).

Exhibition (times shown in EDT):

  • Friday 8/8, 2:30 p.m. – France… Update: Croatia lost 71-81, Tomic with 6 & 3 in 21 minutes as starter.
  • Saturday 8/9 – Serbia… Update: Croatia lost 83-84 (OT). Tomic did not play.
  • Sunday 8/10 – Greece… Update: Croatia won, 68-66. Tomic with 4 points.
  • Wednesday 8/20 – Spain… Update: Croatia lost, 64-82. Tomic with 7 points.
  • (Unclear whether there are additional exhibition games scheduled — if you know of any, let me know.)

World Cup Group Play (8/30 through 9/4):

  • Philippines, Argentina, Senegal, Greece, Puerto Rico

How much of a role will Tomic have? Tomic starts and plays big minutes for Croatia. Croatia hasn’t made final cuts and is still traveling with 15 players, but Tomic is a lock to play and a near lock to start.

 

Author information

Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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Rudy Gobert Scouting Report http://saltcityhoops.com/rudy-gobert-scouting-report/ http://saltcityhoops.com/rudy-gobert-scouting-report/#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 21:52:22 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=10160 Author information
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and general sports fanatic based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Nylon Calculus (Hardwood Paroxysm/Fansided Network), and can be heard on the airwaves for the SCH podcast and appearances with ESPN AM 700. With a strong background in both statistics and on-court fundemantals, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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Rudy Gobert, when he uses his verticality, is pretty amazing. Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Rudy Gobert, when he uses his verticality, is pretty amazing. Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

An idea that’s become more popular in the average NBA fan’s lexicon over the past decade or so is the term “project player”, or simply “project.” The label is given typically to guys picked in the later parts of the draft, although even lottery picks are occasionally given the moniker as well. Generally, it’s a title given to guys who have great physical potential and perhaps a couple above-average skills, but who are mostly raw in terms of NBA-level fundamentals and will need significant time to develop.

Teams who make an effort to stock up on picks over a short span of time, like the Jazz did this last offseason, will typically take on one or two of these “projects”, and Utah is no exception. 27th overall pick Rudy Gobert, for whom the Jazz traded up with Denver to acquire, fits the bill about as well as any first-round pick can in today’s league.

Gobert is one of the more remarkable physical specimens in league history, a true beanstalk among beanstalks. It’s rare enough in this world to be 7’2 and capable of running and jumping reasonably well; to have all that plus over a 7’8 wingspan is pretty incredible. Body type alone, he’s a stretched-out version of Anthony Davis, a lengthy mess of limbs that by itself becomes a force in certain small areas. He’s not above-average as a jumper or an athlete, but his sheer size makes up for a lot of that, and frankly he’d never have been picked so late if he had even slightly better than average athleticism.

But as far as how his talents have translated on the NBA court, Gobert defines “project” to a tee. He was a defensive force in the French Pro A league, averaging 1.9 blocks in just over 22 minutes a game, albeit in a small sample size of just 27 games. But as impressive as that sounds, there are scouts who’d argue that given his physical tools, he should be able to attain those kind of numbers in the French league in his sleep. In addition, the lack of a large sample and relatively pedestrian offensive numbers in France have made it difficult for talent evaluators to get a full picture of what Gobert will be able to contribute in the NBA.

There is one silver lining to evaluating a guy who’s only played 226 minutes all season, the vast majority against bench units and in garbage time: it only took me roughly an hour and a half to watch every single play the guy has been involved in during his time in the NBA, from various offensive and defensive play types to just his simple rebounds and blocks. So with that in mind, let’s take a rudimentary and hands-on look at Gobert and what the Jazz might be able to realistically expect from him in the coming years:

The majority of his upside is on the defensive end, and this is very unlikely to change at any point in his career. Shoddy previous competition or not, a 7’8+ wingspan with any reasonable level of intelligence is almost sure to yield at least a positive rim defender, if not an elite one. In addition, Gobert has deceptively quick foot speed for a man his size, perhaps his most underrated quality. It’s natural to assume some level of oaf-ishness, but when opposing players make this mistake, Gobert punishes them with his long strides and surprisingly nimble footwork, often surprising guys for blocks seemingly out of nowhere. Small sample size or not, he’s averaging nearly a block per game on not even 11 minutes nightly this season.

As was fully expected, his smarts and defensive knowledge will need time to catch up, and how long this takes and how heady he can become will play a large part in determining his value in the league. He’s already got fairly good instincts against the pick-and-roll, but vastly more complex NBA offenses will confuse him at times. He’s an excellent weak-side helper at the rim, but he can sometimes be a bit over-excited to give this help, allowing his own man to take a drop-off pass for an easy dunk. He also needs to ground himself a bit on pump fakes; watch Nikola Pekovic (Jazz big-killer, apparently) easily get him up in the air here:

Pekovic missed the bunny in this case, but you see the point – Gobert will need to improve here. That said, these kinds of habits are extremely common for younger big men, and it’s a fair assumption that the Frenchman will pick most of this up as he goes along.

A larger area of concern defensively, in my eyes, is Gobert’s strength down low. Like a lot of other string bean players, he’s somewhat reticent to bending his knees and getting as low as possible to leverage his size against thicker players, and teams have started to attack him in the post as a result. Of the 42 finished plays Gobert has defended this season, 25 have come in the post according to Synergy. The issue isn’t so much once his man receives the ball and goes to work, although he should and will improve in that area as well – rather, it’s in allowing his marks far too much leeway in getting favorable post position. Watch him here, from the same Wolves game against Pekovic, paying particular attention to Gobert before Pekovic touches the ball:

Rudy here is making very little effort to keep Pekovic from his sweet spot just a couple feet away from the basket. By the time the pass comes, there’s basically nothing he can do given Pek’s strength advantage and his position. Here’s another example, this one against Timofey Mozgov:

Mozgov is coming off a pick he set up high, and Gobert is recovering from his pick-and-roll coverage, so the initial positioning Mozgov gets is understandable. But before the entry comes in, Gobert has a couple precious beats – he needs to use this time to get low, leverage his size and move his man further away from the basket. Instead, he allows Mozgov to catch the ball with basically a foot in the paint, a recipe for disaster no matter how long your arms are. Gobert may never thicken to the point where he can rely on his weight alone to help him, so how well he learns other ways to move his opponents to less threatening areas will play a big part in how he pans out as a defender. But overall, his upside on defense is quite high if he can simply develop at the average rate for guys his age. Were he to exceed average development, there really might be top-10 defender potential given his absolutely insane length.

Offensively, there are more question marks. Gobert has never shown anything close to a competent jumper, and his free-throw shooting is predictably miserable. He also has virtually no passing game to speak of, from the post or elsewhere. His footwork is a positive, as I mentioned, but his lack of any other discernable skills with the ball in his hands prevents him from having any real impact in the post. But most disturbing is his ball-handling, or lack thereof. He’s averaging 27.2 turnovers per-100-possessions per NBA.com, the very worst mark of 40 centers averaging at least 10 minutes a night this year. He has a lot of trouble with simply catching and controlling the ball, especially in the pick-and-roll:

Again, he’s still very young and inexperienced, but this is certainly an area of concern for Gobert. Lots of bigs struggle with ball control, especially at his age, but most of the ones who make it as rotation players are able to supplement that with good off-the-bounce moves or decent jump-shooting, neither of which Gobert has shown any ability to do just yet.

The silver lining: should Gobert develop his ball-handling to acceptable levels, he’ll instantly become a huge pick-and-roll problem for opposing defenses. Ditto for his passing out of these actions (and with basically no evidence in either direction, your guess is as good as mine as to his potential here), but if he somehow managed to develop both these areas – a long shot, but certainly not impossible – he could be a legitimate defense-bender. Plays like this pseudo-side-pick-and-roll will become a lot more common if defenses consider him a legitimate shooting or passing threat:

Gobert is a work in progress on both ends of the court, a true “project” big man. The returns so far have been minimal in both expectation and actual performance, and the Jazz are in no hurry to make any immediate judgments. His floor is pretty low, as a worst-case scenario could easily see him never develop into a rotation-level NBA player. But for the low price they paid to get him (the 46th pick, Erick Green, and cash), this potential floor is well worth the big upside on the other side of the coin. Should Gobert exceed typical developmental curves, he could end up being a real force defensively and a major steal for the Jazz so late in the first round. Only time will tell.

Author information

Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and general sports fanatic based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Nylon Calculus (Hardwood Paroxysm/Fansided Network), and can be heard on the airwaves for the SCH podcast and appearances with ESPN AM 700. With a strong background in both statistics and on-court fundemantals, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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Rudy Gobert and How the D-League Helps Young Players http://saltcityhoops.com/rudy-gobert-and-how-the-d-league-helps-young-players/ http://saltcityhoops.com/rudy-gobert-and-how-the-d-league-helps-young-players/#comments Tue, 07 Jan 2014 19:08:30 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=9418 Author information
Laura Thompson
Laura Thompson
I grew up in California, but have been a Jazz fan pretty much since I was in diapers; I went to Karl Malone's basketball camp when I was 11 and I flew up to Utah in 1997 to go to Game 3 of the Finals. After graduating from BYU in 2008, I moved back to California to work in Marketing and have been doing that for the last five years. My favorite things in life are the Utah Jazz, basketball, food (whether cooking or consumption of), reading, church, black Labs, and the beach (though hopefully not in that order).
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Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

When word broke earlier in the week that both Ian Clark and Rudy Gobert had been sent down to the D-League for their second stint, I had mixed emotions. On one hand, they’d each get some much-need minutes, some time to develop their game and get into some sort of rhythm, something they haven’t been given the chance to do in their time with the Jazz so far. I’m having a hard time believing my eyes on this one, but it looks like the last time Gobert saw any NBA action was in a scoreless, six-minute stint against the Sacramento Kings on December 11. On the other hand, I’m struggling to understand why a shot-altering, long defender can’t get any time on a team that’s been at the bottom or near the bottom defensively all year.

In Gobert’s five-game stint with the Bakersfield Jam, he averaged 13.8 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 3.6 blocks per game in 28.4 minutes of play. Yes, it’s the D-League, but those are solid numbers, nonetheless. But two things have stood out to me: 1. the rebounding numbers, and 2. his free-throw percentage.

Rebounding is one of the areas where I think we can hope for, and maybe even expect, for Gobert to be consistent. We see that he’s raw and unpolished, so we expect inconsistency on the offensive end, but we hope for some consistency in rebounding. So seeing these consistent rebounding numbers—double digits in every game—are encouraging.

What’s impressed me even more is Gobert’s improving free-throw shooting. When playing for the Jazz, he’s been shooting 42.4% from the line, worse than Shaq or Dwight-like numbers. In his five games in the D-League so far, he’s shooting 61.3% from the line—including 5-7 from the line in his last game—so we can see that he’s putting in the time to improve his free-throw shooting.

Also, in his last game, he had his best offensive performance, shooting 7-9 from the floor for 19 points to go along with 11 rebounds (six offensive, five defensive). He also tallied one assist, one block, and one steal, so he’s doing other things to help the team win, as well.

Backtracking a bit, in a great article on Hardwood Paroxysm yesterday, Derek James tackled the topic of the D-League and its lessening stigma, and specifically the case with Shabazz Muhammad. These two paragraphs were interesting:

Speaking with former D-Leaguers in the summer league helped me understand a lot about how the league benefits players that come through it. Not only are players able to stay in the same country as their friends and family, but they get the opportunity to play basketball in front of important basketball players. Several players such as Anthony Tolliver and Glen Rice Jr. have used the league to showcase their abilities and eventually get a foot in the door of the NBA when, in past years, they may have had to make the choice between playing overseas or remaining in the NBA as some team’s 13th man.

Yet, there is still a stigma that comes with a D-League demotion that is more prevalent than it is in Major League Baseball, perhaps because having those farm systems has been a part of its culture longer than you and I have been on this earth. However, as more teams get their own affiliate and learn to use it to get their developing players minutes and give their rotation players a way to ease back into the game after injury, maybe we’ll see that stigma fade. Maybe calling it a demotion doesn’t help, but doesn’t carry the same connotation when used in baseball or even hockey, so why should it be a negative one with the NBA?  Like it has in other major sports league, the NBA just needs to get theirs fully integrated and time will take care of the rest.

And Rudy himself had some similar thoughts when asked about his D-League stint by Sekou Smith:

“Everybody is probably not happy when they tell you they want you to do this, come to the D-League. I was not. I thought about it and I thought maybe it is not bad. I try to bring a positive attitude and say that it is good to get a chance to runs and play and see that it makes me better for the future. It’s good for me to get some playing time and just have fun.

“But I don’t want to say that it is better to be here than in Utah. I think anybody who is a professional would rather be in the NBA.”

Given Rudy’s improving game, hopefully there will be more minutes for him in 2014 because, as he said at the end of that article: “My hope and my goal is in about three years we can be trying for the title and, of course, I expect to be a big part of that.”

Until then, we’ll just continue to enjoy pictures like the one Ian Clark posted.

Photo by Ian Clark

Photo by Ian Clark

Author information

Laura Thompson
Laura Thompson
I grew up in California, but have been a Jazz fan pretty much since I was in diapers; I went to Karl Malone's basketball camp when I was 11 and I flew up to Utah in 1997 to go to Game 3 of the Finals. After graduating from BYU in 2008, I moved back to California to work in Marketing and have been doing that for the last five years. My favorite things in life are the Utah Jazz, basketball, food (whether cooking or consumption of), reading, church, black Labs, and the beach (though hopefully not in that order).
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Ian Clark and Rudy Gobert D-League Debut Review http://saltcityhoops.com/ian-clark-and-rudy-gobert-d-league-debut-review/ http://saltcityhoops.com/ian-clark-and-rudy-gobert-d-league-debut-review/#comments Tue, 17 Dec 2013 19:09:45 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=9180 Author information
Dakota Schmidt
A Wisconsinite who spends way too much time watching mediocre basketball. Started to love the game as I watched the "Big 3" era of the Bucks in the early 2000's but was eventually raised on the teams lead by the likes of Michael Redd, Desmond Mason and Andrew Bogut. Those mediocre teams helped me grow an appreciation for the less than spectacular style of basketball which has lead me to different gigs with Queen City Hoops (Bobcats), Ridiculous Upside (D-League) and now Salt City Hoops.
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Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

One of the paths towards respectability for a number of teams in the NBA is to assign some of their younger players towards the NBADL (NBA Development League). While the D-League has been around since the early parts of the 21st century, the league has only started to catch on with the majority of NBA teams in the past few seasons. In that time span, a good portion of the more successful NBA teams (i.e Golden State, Boston, Houston, LA Lakers, and Oklahoma City) have acquired their own D-League affiliate to help mold and groom their younger players. Players like Terrence Jones, Jeremy Lamb, Reggie Jackson and Patrick Beverley have gone through the NBADL as they grew into the productive NBA players they currently are.

In the past few seasons, Utah has been one of the teams on that separate spectrum as they’ve rarely have used the D-League in the past few seasons. Tony Wroten, Kevin Murphy, Jeremy Evans, Kosta Koufos, Morris Almond, Kyrylo Fesenko and CJ Miles round out the small list of current (Evans) and former players who have been assigned to the D-League by Utah.

That list expanded over the weekend as rookies Rudy Gobert and Ian Clark were moved to the Bakersfield Jam (Utah’s current affiliate) refine their skills as the Jazz start their road trip out east. The duo of Gobert and Clark joined an incredibly skilled Jam team that featured Atlanta’s Dennis Schroeder and NBA alums Brian Butch, Damion James, and Ike Diogu who was acquired mere days before the Jazz players landed in central California.

In their D-League debut, Gobert, Clark and the Bakersfield Jam squared off against the Reno Bighorns (D-League affiliate of Sacramento). On a Bakersfield that featured a wide array of solid players, guard Ian Clark really didn’t get an opportunity showcase his overall skills as Schroeder, Diogu and top 30 prospect James Nunnally took over the majority of the offense. With that said, Clark was still able to be somewhat productive on the offensive end as he finished out the night with 14 points on 5-16 shooting from the field. As he can tell from the following reel, Clark was able to spot up from the perimeter (2-6 from beyond the arc) and penetrating to the rim.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwVSgi5ilcM&autoplay=0]

While Clark had a very pedestrian D-League debut, 7’2 center Rudy Gobert had a fantastic night against NBA alum Mickell Gladness. Not surprisingly, Gobert used his amazing frame to his own advantage as he was able to use his 7’8 wingspan to snatch nine offensive rebounds over the 6’11 Gladness. While his long arms were the main factor behind his success on the offensive boards, Gobert was still able to successfully box out the BigHorns front-court which is a solid sign for a raw player like himself.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcRDRgt-FsI&autoplay=0]

Sticking with the offensive side of the ball, Gobert’s main ability on that end of the court is still using his large 7’8 wingspan to dunk in lobs or just barrel his way to the rim and put it in. Since he’s still only 21 years old and still incredibly raw, Gobert will need to utilize this D-League opportunity to define his offensive game. A small glimpse of that was in the above clip as Gobert was able to nail a small hook shot near the basket. Overall, Gobert had an extremely efficient scoring performance as he laced up 16 points on 7-10 shooting.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoEknwzVZu0&autoplay=0]

To the surprise of practically nobody, Rudy Gobert was an extremely effective defender in his D-League debut as he worked as a huge 7’2 brick wall to the opposition. Aside from his solid six blocks, Gobert stood in the way of a barrage of Bighorn players who tried to penetrate their way to the rim. While the skill level is clearly better in the NBA, Gobert should still be able to be an effective defender in the NBA simply because of big frame and above average mobility.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vX7Kx6BIiuM&autoplay=0]

While it shouldn’t be expected that Clark and Gobert will stay in the NBADL for an extended period of time, both of the two players could face interesting challenges as the Jam will play against the Idaho Stampede (D-League affiliate for Portland) and Santa Cruz Warriors (affiliate for Golden State). What makes those matchups interesting for Clark and Gobert would be the high level of athletes that they’ll have to work against. For example, Clark will have the opportunity to work against four top-30 prospects in Santa Cruz’s Cameron Jones and Seth Curry and Idaho’s Dee Bost and Pierre Jackson. Meanwhile, Gobert will be challenged against Idaho’s Dallas Lauderdale and Santa Cruz’s Dewayne Dedmon who are some of the most efficient offensive front-court players in the D-League.

Author information

Dakota Schmidt
A Wisconsinite who spends way too much time watching mediocre basketball. Started to love the game as I watched the "Big 3" era of the Bucks in the early 2000's but was eventually raised on the teams lead by the likes of Michael Redd, Desmond Mason and Andrew Bogut. Those mediocre teams helped me grow an appreciation for the less than spectacular style of basketball which has lead me to different gigs with Queen City Hoops (Bobcats), Ridiculous Upside (D-League) and now Salt City Hoops.
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JazzRank #9 – Rudy Gobert http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-9-rudy-gobert/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-9-rudy-gobert/#comments Tue, 15 Oct 2013 18:51:46 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=8002 Author information
Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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Editor’s note: This is the fifth in the annual series from Salt City Hoops ranking the current players on the Utah Jazz roster. Throughout the preseason, we’ll count up through the current Jazz roster, from worst to first, profiling each player as we go along. The profiles are individually written by Salt City Hoops’ staff of writers, while the ranking was selected by me (Andy Larsen). To go through JazzRank articles from this or past preseasons, visit our JazzRank category page. Rudy Gobert is #9.

Enchanté, Monsieur Gobert.

Now seems like the perfect time to get to know Rudy Gobert, who comes in at #9 on Salt City Hoops’ preseason player ranking.

That ranking could be high or low for Gobert; his impact is probably among the most difficult to forecast given a number of factors. First, we’ve heard mixed messages about his readiness level. Second, it doesn’t appear clear yet whether he’s penciled into head coach Ty Corbin’s early season rotation or not.

Here’s what we do know: so far he has played just 17 minutes in the preseason, the least of any of the serious contenders for spots in the 4/5 rotation. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter understandably lead the pack, but even Jeremy Evans’ and Andris Biedrins’ minute totals (62 and 34, respective) suggest that Gobert might be on the outside looking in at the 4-man rotation up front.

In the long run, that might be okay. The Jazz have the option of being patient with Gobert as both a basketball player and an asset. They really only have until February to see how Biedrins can be leveraged as an expiring chip. The reality is that only one of these guys will get a rotation spot. One will be the fourth big, logging 15-20 minutes a night, and the other will wait for garbage time or foul trouble to make his brief appearances.

Whether Gobert is able to wrest minutes away from Biedrins probably depends on these three areas:

  • His elite skills: Rebounding, shot-blocking
  • Areas for improvement: Below-average athlete, limited offensive arsenal
  • Jury’s out: Overall defense, screening

Neither guy has been a factor so far on offense – the end of the floor where the Jazz, so far, desperately need help – but both have been decent rim protectors and rebounders in their limited preseason minutes.

Gobert has averaged a rebound every 3.4 minutes so far in the preseason, which is exactly the rate he boarded at in Summer League. Rebounding and shot-blocking are two stats that Kevin Pelton says translate fairly well into regular season projections, so we’re likely to see a similar rate of rebounds in whatever minutes Gobert logs this season.

That’s good news for Swat Lake City, too: Gobert blocked over 4 shots per 36 minutes in Summer League. If that rate held, he could play just 12 minutes per game and still wind up in the top 20 for blocks per game. That might be his biggest claim right now to unseat Biedrins as the fourth big, although in non-statistical terms, Biedrins’ positional D looks a bit better than Gobert’s right now.

Gobert also has to watch his foul rate if he’s going to earn minutes away from his Latvian peer. The first problem with his foul rate is that he won’t be able to stay in the floor. Right now he’s averaging a foul-out every 17 minutes. But just as important is the impact those fouls will have on his defensive efficiency, since a lot of those fouls come while challenging shots. He’s the type of fouler that’s going to put a lot of guys on the line.

After watching Summer League and preseason, it’s clear that the other type of foul Gobert will struggle with is the moving screen. When you’re shaped like an 86-inch-long string bean, it’s hard to look like you’re holding a straight-up position, and as a result it’s easier for the refs to detect motion when there is little or none. One of Gobert’s top priorities right now should be learning how to set effective, legal screens. If he does that, and continues rebounding at the rate he has held up in July and October, it will be hard for Corbin to keep him chained to the bench.

On offense, his role will be limited. In France, he primarily scored off of cuts and putbacks, which is why he had an extremely low usage rate (he used just 6.7 possessions per game in French league competition, 9.3% of Cholet’s total). He had a crazily efficient 72% True Shooting percentage on those 6.7 possessions because he basically only attempted a shot when he got the ball at point blank range. And as a 60% free throw shooter, you don’t want him going to the line much more than you want Biedrins heading there (although Gobert’s form looks better so he probably has a better chance of improving from the stripe).

The other reality of Gobert’s game that hasn’t been discussed a whole lot is his overall lack of athleticism. He tied for the second-slowest sprint in Chicago last May (behind Kelly Olynyk) and also had the second worst lane agility test (DeShaun Thomas). He also had the lowest max vertical and second lowest standing jump (again, behind Olynyk). You could argue these matter less given his size and length, but the reality is that the Frenchman is a bit slower and more earthbound than his NBA peers on the whole.

At the most broad and oversimplified level, Biedrins and Gobert are actually similar players right now. Both are good rim protectors (albeit in different ways) and neither guy is going to do much on offense other than shoot ducks in the proverbial barrel. So who plays those minutes now probably depends on whether the Jazz are more interested in realizing Gobert’s potential or preserving Biedrins’ value as an asset. Both are noble pursuits, but I think they may opt for the latter since there’s a tighter clock on Biedrins’ trade possibilities..

Either way, we’ll get glimpses of Gobert all season and his elite NBA skills (rebounding and shot-blocking) will likely have us asking for more.

Author information

Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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