14. Rudy Gobert Hunt For Fourth DPOY
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Jazz open their season on October 20, just two weeks from today. With the clock ticking, we look at 50 things for Jazz fans to be excited about leading up to the 2021-22 NBA season. Coming in at number 14, Rudy Gobert chasing a fourth DPOY.
Rudy Gobert Hunting For Fourth DPOY
Rudy Gobert will enter year looking to earn his fourth Defensive Player of the Year award in the last five seasons.
Gobert was named the DPOY in June for the third time in the last four years, handily beating Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons who finished in second place.
The Jazz center earned 84 of the 100 potential first-place votes, beating Simmons’ 14 and Bam Adebayo’s single first-place vote. The rationale behind Gobert’s runaway vote was simple as the defensive statistics weighed heavily on the Jazz star’s side.
Gobert led the team to the third-best defense in the NBA and the best overall record last season. He also led the NBA in raw plus-minus at +728, ranked second in blocks per game at 2.7, and second in rebounds per game at 13.5.
He was also responsible for defending the most shots in the league and held players to the lowest efficiency on each attempt.
But can Gobert repeat his DPOY honors? Strangely enough, that may depend on who repaces the Jazz star when he’s on the bench.
The Favors Factor
In 2018, Gobert’s first DPOY season, the Jazz finished with the top defensive rating in the NBA. The team finished second in 2019, seeing Gobert repeat as the league’s best defender before dropping down to 13th in 2020, and watching the award go to Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Then, last they climbed back up to the third-best defensive team in the league, and Gobert took home the DPOY trophy once again.
The one change between those top-five finishes when Gobert won the award and the year when the Jazz fell out of the top-ten defensively was backup center Derrick Favors. The veteran big man was a mainstay in the Jazz rotation each of the three years Gobert was named DPOY but played for the New Orleans Pelicans in 2020 when the Jazz slipped to 13th.
In 2020 the team tried to replace Favors with names like Ed Davis, Tony Bradley, and Juwan Morgan, but none of the three options could adequately fill the long-time Jazzman’s shoes.
Now, after trading Favors to Oklahoma City in a salary dump in July, the Jazz will turn to Hassan Whiteside and Udoka Azubuike to carry a heavy defensive load when Gobert is off the floor.
How those two perform may be a key determining factor in Gobert’s DPOY candidacy.
But, while the Jazz will have to rely on Whiteside and Azubuike to man the paint when Gobert is off the floor, the Jazz center may get additional help when he is on the court.
In the offseason, the team added veteran forward Rudy Gay to the roster who should be an upgrade over the outgoing Georges Niang on the defensive end. Behind only Gobert, no player in the NBA held opponents to a lower efficiency on shots defended than Gay last season.
After a busy awards season last year for the Jazz, Gobert will once again look to take home the league’s DPOY trophy. Whether or not he can do it is one of the top 50 storylines for Jazz fans to look forward to counting down to opening night.
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