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Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) yells at a referee as the Utah Jazz and the Milwaukee Bucks play a Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 2, 2019. (Scott Winterton, Deseret News)
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NBA Analyst: Rudy Gobert Climbing List Of MVP Candidates

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert snagged the eighth spot on Sekou Smith’s NBA MVP leaderboard.

Smith, a veteran NBA reporter, has Gobert moving up the list because of his “defensive dexterity and the essential nature of his role on the team’s defense.

“If coach Quin Snyder’s team has any chance of challenging in the top-heavy Western Conference this season, they’ll have to do it with defense,” wrote Smith.

This season, Gobert is averaging 14.5 rebounds per game (tied for second) and is putting up 1.9 blocks per game. Smith went on to compare Gobert to a lockdown cornerback in football – players don’t test him because of his reputation.

Smith’s Top 10:

  1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
  2. LeBron James, LA Lakers
  3. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
  4. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
  5. James Harden, Houston Rockets
  6. Anthony Davis, LA Lakers
  7. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers
  8. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
  9. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
  10. Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder

Included in the list were five more potential candidates, Gobert’s teammate, Donovan Mitchell, was included on that list of 15.

The Utah Jazz are in the midst of a historic run, they’ve won 12 of their last 13 games and 17 of 19 overall en route to a 30-13 record, tied for second-best in the Western Conference – and Gobert is the cornerstone of the defense.

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

Gobert’s role on the defense is well known, but he has also been making an impact offensively. In the team’s past two games he has scored 20 or more points. His season average sits at 15.4.

For the past two seasons, Gobert has been the NBA’s defensive player of the year, but it is no secret that while defense comes first to the Jazz, the rest of the league is geared toward offense, including the MVP voters.