Over the past few years, the French National Team has been able to make their mark as one of the elite teams on the international circuit. While they’ve remained respectable over the past decade, due to the likes of Tony Parker and Boris Diaw, these last few years have been a turning point for the organization. That run started during the 2011 EuroBasket, where they finished with a silver medal after 95-85 defeat to European powerhouse Spain.
Following that defeat, France continued to make their mark on the international circuit. After finishing 6th in the 2012 Olympics, France was victorious in the 2013 EuroBasket, after dethroning both Spain and Lithuania. One year later, the French squad finished with the bronze during the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup where they defeated the likes of Lithuania and Spain.
During that competition, Rudy Gobert made his debut on the national team. While he played in a limited role, averaging 15 minutes per game, Gobert was able to make a notable impact as he averaged 4.1 points, 4.8 boards and .9 blocks. That performance was headlined by him putting up 15 rebounds in France’s victory over Spain.
After an extremely successful 2014-15 season with the Utah Jazz, Gobert returned to the international scene to help push France to a second straight EuroBasket victory. While he’s still part of a jacked front-court that includes Nuggets center Joffrey Lauvergne and Boris Diaw, Gobert was looked at as one of the team’s biggest x-factors.
Those expectations have seemingly been met, as France currently holds a 7-0 record during the tournament, at the time of this piece. Gobert has been a big factor behind that he’s averaged 9.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 21 minutes per game. Gobert appears to have been improving over the course of the tournament, as recently had two straight double-doubles against Israel (15 points and 10 rebounds) and Russia (12 points and 10 rebounds).
Looking into that game against Israel, Gobert was able to quickly establish himself as an absolute force in the pick-and-rolls. With Israel not having a big that can match up to the 7’2, 240 pound Gobert, the French big was able to easily work his way to the paint thanks to the combination of size and quickness. Once he reached the paint was where he was really able to exhibit his dominance through a flurry of rim-rocking dunks or some athletic up-and-under layups.
Perhaps it was due to the open nature of France’s offense, but Gobert has looked to be a step quicker than what we’ve previously seen. In the matchups against Israel and Poland, Gobert has looked more comfortable with working alongside both the paint and perimeter. Inside the paint, Gobert exhibited excellent footwork by creating good positioning around the basket when he was surrounded by one or two inside defenders. And from the perimeter, Gobert displayed an ability to seamlessly set multiple screens in the same possession.
While Gobert hasn’t been asked to display the mid-range game that he’s reportedly been working on, the 7’2 big has been doing a great job with the skills that he’s already familiar with. Shooting 69% from the field during EuroBasket, Gobert has still established himself as a fantastic pick-and-roll big, which is a skill that the Jazz will be looking for him to further utilize during the upcoming season.
Defensively, Gobert has continued to display his dominance as a defensive big. That label should still remain intact; the young big was instantly able to establish himself as a defensive force as he’s averaging 1.7 blocks per 20 minutes per game.
Gobert was able to accomplish those great averages by displaying the same skills that has allowed him to be one of the best defensive bigs in the game. Throughout the tournament, Gobert has been able to consistently display an innate switching ability, which has caught a lot of ball-handlers off guard.
A great example of that would be during the team’s matchup against Poland. On an early 3rd quarter possession by Poland (2:16 in the compilation video), Gobert was on the perimeter to defend a PnR that featured Wizards center Marcin Gortat. Although it appeared that Gobert was focused on Polish guard A.J. Slaughter, he had the wherewithal to switch off once it appeared that Slaughter was about to work it to Gortat. Following that, Gobert was quick to follow Gortat to the rim, where he finished the play with an impressive block.
Perhaps the most promising aspect of Gobert’s work on the defensive end was how he’s been able to work as a ball-hawk. Due to the combination of awareness and his 7’8 wingspan, Gobert has consistently been able to display an ability to work around the perimeter and either work in the passing lanes or simply steal the ball away from ball-handlers. Averaging 1.6 steals per game, Gobert currently ranks 5th among EuroBasket competitors.
Rudy Gobert will have more opportunities to display himself during this tournament, as he and France are only three games away from winning their second straight EuroBasket. The first step to that gold medal will take place on Tuesday afternoon against Latvia, where they will compete for a chance to face the winner of the Greece vs. Spain match-up.