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.
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.
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.
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.
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.