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Gobert’s Defensive Development Begins To Intimidate Opponents

Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz warms up before a game against the Sacramento Kings at Vivint Smart Home Arena on October 26, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Rudy Gobert has been called the Stifle Tower and the French Rejection, but maybe he should be called the Intimidator. After the 2-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year blocked 5 shots in Utah’s 103-95 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves – his menacing play went far beyond swatting shots.

Two nights after Karl Anthony-Towns scored 29 points and made seven 3-pointers against Gobert and the Jazz, Towns was basically shut down and only made 5-10 shots. Gobert has adapted to covering big guys who can bomb it from the outside.

“He’s learned how to defend while he’s out on the perimeter,” said KSL Sport’s Ben Anderson on the most recent Jazz Notes podcast. “He’s figured out how to get out there further and make sure his footwork is better…If he’s going up against traditional stretch (big guys), he’s going to go out there and do a nice job. But he also switches well out on the perimeter and can move his feet and stay in front of people. As long as (Gobert) is…(and) with a little bit of footwork he is going to be able to do that.”

Gobert’s defense went well beyond stopping Towns from downtown.

“Rudy not only cut off (Towns’) 3-point shots, but cut off those passing lanes. There was a possession…where Rudy closes out and jumps over a screen to get back in front of Karl Anthony-Towns. Towns is so frustrated that Rudy is right on him at 35-feet that he basically threw the ball at his teammate. It was like a spike of a bounce pass…That’s great because you’re getting the ball out of his hands and (they’re) having to start the offense over with 12 to 14 seconds left on the shot clock.”

Anderson said Gobert’s timing has been almost been perfect on pick and roll rotations as he is able to cover both his man rolling to the basket and the other defender driving to the basket.

Podcast co-host Cleon Wall said Gobert’s perfect timing was on display against Memphis’ Ja Morant last Friday in a play that almost saved the game for the Jazz.

“Rudy didn’t come off his guy…he stayed…(Morant) had to twist around and then put up a little floater,”  said Wall.  “By that time, Rudy knew Morant was committed and then he was able to move.  And because he was able to read it perfectly and due to (Gobert’s) quick reaction, he was able to block that shot.”

Wall also wondered if Gobert has psyched out so many other players in the NBA now that he can cover so much ground.

More From Bojan

Bojan Bogdanovic’s 30-point performance against Minnesota helped to put the Jazz over the top, but Wall wants more offense from the Croatian sharpshooter.

“I feel like I’m being unfair to Bojan,” said Wall. “You want to take that (scoring) pressure off of Donovan.  And when you think of the next best guy, you think of Bojan.”

Anderson helped to clarify Wall’s desires.

“He’s more likely to be a guy who scores 30-points one night and 10 the next than to give you 20 (points) every night,” Anderson said.  “I think you need to find the difference between those two nights. Can you still win the games when he scores 10?  Because the Jazz aren’t losing games when he’s scoring 30.”

Anderson believed the Jazz will be happy with Bogdanovic’s play over 82 games, but that other guys – like Mike Conley – need to bridge the scoring gap when Bogey struggles from the field.

The guys also talk about Mitchell’s gunning from outside and Utah’s second-quarter scoring problems on the Jazz Notes podcast.