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Forget All-Star, Rudy Gobert Should Be In MVP Discussions

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 – Forget the All-Star game. Rudy Gobert’s name should be mentioned in the league MVP conversation.

We’re only at the halfway point in the season and by season’s end the conversation may change but as of today, Rudy Gobert is my NBA mid-season MVP.

The Jazz are the hottest team in the NBA and Gobert is at the center of it all. He has not only been the steady influence during the Jazz run of 15 wins in 16 games but he is also “playing out of his mind” according to Donovan Mitchell.

“Defensively he’s a guy we rely on, obviously we all know that,” Mitchell told the Hoops Stream show on ESPN+ on Wednesday. “He’s a guy that has been continuously there. The support, the backbone, vocal leader, leads by example.”

A strong but clear statement from the face of the franchise calling Gobert the “backbone” of a team that has the third-best record in the NBA. Mitchell, the team’s leading scorer at a career-best 24.2 points per game added that when the team needs a bucket, they can count on the big guy.

“Offensively he has taken his game to new heights. I think he’s gotten like 20 and 15 like the past four or five games,” Mitchell said.

Well, not quite the past four or five games. Gobert has scored 20-plus in the last two games and averaged 16 rebounds in those games but if that’s what his team is remembering, then you know he must be playing at a very high level.

“We all know that he was snubbed for All-Stars (last season). We really want him in. He deserves to be an All-Star and I think he will,” Mitchell added.

He also deserves to receive recognition as one of the best players in the NBA. So let me tell you why I would name him the mid-season MVP.

First, who is Gobert up against for the recognition? Defending MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is leading the Bucks to the best record in the NBA. Luka Doncic is a second-year sensation taking the Mavs from second-to-last in the West to a playoff contender. Anthony Davis arrives in L.A. and helps a team that already had LeBron James go from outside of the playoffs to the top spot in the West.

But not many are doing what Gobert is doing for the Jazz this season, a team that has made an eight-game improvement through the first 40 games of the season from where they were a year ago. That’s the second-best jump in the NBA.

Gobert is the only player in the NBA averaging a point-rebound double-double while also shooting better than 65 percent from the field. He has more double-doubles than any other MVP candidate except Giannis, and he’s only five behind.

Defensively Gobert continues to be the dominant force that has earned him back to back Defensive Player of the Year awards. No player defends more shots per game than Gobert’s 8.6 and only 49.7% of those are successful.

He’s had five or more blocks in a game five times this season and is on pace to become just the second player in NBA history to have back to back seasons averaging at least two blocks per game to go with 10 or more rebounds while scoring 15 points on 65 percent from the field.\

According to NBA.com’s Sekou Smith Gobert is “a great example of the dilemma all voters face. Gobert wins Defensive Player of the Year but is conveniently left out of most MVP lists. Even when we know great defense wins championships, we tend to be offensive-minded with MVP or Player of the Year honors.”

Gobert does have a valuable offensive presence though. He leads the NBA with 11.3 points per game in the paint. He also creates offense in ways that don’t always show up in the box score. He dominates the NBA with a league-leading 7.8 screen assists per game. A screen assist is a screen for a teammate that directly results in a made field goal by a teammate. In other words, the Jazz score points because of Gobert.

Did I have to dig deep for some of this stuff? Sure. In fact, its almost a sure thing that Rudy does not win MVP at the end of the season but to leave him out of the conversation would be an oversight of a historical season being put together by the “backbone” of one of the top teams in the NBA.

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