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Believe it or not, the NBA regular season is coming to a close. While that’s a sad thing to hear, knowing playoff basketball is right around the corner helps ease the pain. The cement is almost dry for players’ seasons — meaning there’s not much time left to improve. On the other hand, the players who’ve been consistent all season won’t be hurt too much by a couple of bad games to end the year.
One player who has raised his level of play this season is Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert. Not making the All-Star team this year is a blemish on his resume, but Gobert’s impressive 2018-19 season could very well parlay him into an All-NBA selection. That carries a bit more significance than an All-Star berth, anyway.
Leading all NBA players in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus (DRPM) metric by a significant margin, the French big man could be well on his way to another DPOY award. Everyone knows how good Gobert is on that end. Where he hasn’t received quite as much recognition this year is on offense.
Averaging a career-high 15.8 points per game this season, Gobert has scored at a whopping 67 percent clip: a league-leading statistic. While his lack of range limits his ceiling a bit (98.2% of his attempts come within 10 feet of the basket), that hasn’t stopped him from being the 8th-highest scoring center in basketball. Averaging over 17 PPG after the All-Star break, it’s not hard to imagine Gobert doing so consistently. That would slot him alongside Andre Drummond as fifth among centers in points per contest.
Don’t assume it’s just points scored, either. Gobert leads the NBA in both screen assists and points created by those screen assists. He has no problem using his 245-pound frame to create space for his teammates. No one in the NBA sets more successful screens than Gobert. It’s an easy part of the game to forget, but a critical one nonetheless.
Quin Snyder’s squad is 17-6 since the All-Star break and is primed for a 4/5 matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers in the opening round of the NBA playoffs. This comes after holding a sub-.500 record at the turn of the year. Rudy Gobert’s offensive improvement and evolution as a player is a huge part of that. Although sophomore guard Donovan Mitchell is now a budding star in the league, he isn’t working alone. Gobert is now a top defender in the league, as well as an above-average force on the offensive end. Is it time to rethink how high the French Rejection’s ceiling truly is? You be the judge.