UTAH JAZZ

Why Do NBA Players Take Shots At Rudy Gobert?

Dec 10, 2021, 1:07 PM
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)...
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – Why do NBA players continue to try to take shots at Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert?

The Minnesota Timberwolves were the latest team to call into question Gobert’s three Defensive Player of the Year awards, claiming the Jazzman doesn’t defend the best player on the floor every night.

This is what Patrick Beverley had to say about Gobert after the Jazz 32 point blowout win over Minnesota on Wednesday.

“I’m guarding Mike Conley, I’m guarding Donovan Mitchell, I’m guarding Bogdanovic, you’ve got Rudy Gobert out there guarding [Jarred] Vanderbilt, and every time I hear he’s Defensive Player of the Year, whatever.”

Timberwolves teammate Anthony Edwards had a similar take on Gobert, arguing there are better rim protectors around the NBA.

“Anytime I go against [Kristaps] Porzingis, I don’t get no layups,” Edwards said. “I don’t get why we couldn’t finish on Rudy Gobert. He don’t put no fear in my heart, I don’t know why.”

Beverley’s argument mirrors that of Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons who claimed his ability to defend multiple positions outweighed Gobert’s value patrolling the paint.

But Simmons, Beverley, and Edwards aren’t the only players who have taken shots at Gobert.

Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal also tried to discredit the Jazz superstar last season claiming Gobert was unworthy of his contract.

“I’m not gonna hate, but this should be an inspiration to all the little kids out there,” O’Neal said. “You average 11 points in the NBA, you can get $200 million.”

O’Neal later posted a photoshopped photo on his Instagram page that showed him dunking over Gobert while he was playing for the Lakers.

“I would had 45 pts 16 rebound ten missed free throws in three quarters,” O’Neal captioned the photo. “He woulda had 11 pts four rebounds and fouled out in 3 quarters.”

For Gobert’s part, he’s laughed off the criticism, including that from Shaq responding to the message by simply laughing and saying, “I guess we’ll never know.”

Jake Scott and Ben Anderson discussed Rudy Gobert after the Minnesota Timberwolves comments in the player below. 

Why Do NBA Players Take Shots At Gobert?

So with the long history of players taking shots at Gobert’s talent and reputation, the question becomes why?

Truthfully, there are several answers.

Talent

First and foremost, Gobert is extremely talented and very successful. If Gobert hadn’t risen the to highest ranks in basketball, being named to All-NBA teams, All-Defensive teams, Defensive Player of the Year awards, and Olympic medals, nobody would care about his play.

In that sense, the criticism comes with the territory, just as it has for LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, and Kevin Durant.

When you do something at as high of a level as Gobert, fans and fellow players alike will try to find holes in your game and want to express those to the world, and that’s not lost on the Jazz center.

“I never take shots on anyone, but I just do my job,” Gobert said of the criticism. “Come in every night — I think when you when you’re the best in the world at something, people become insecure.”

He’s Unique

Gobert is now a non-traditional center.

Unlike the previous superstars I mentioned, Gobert’s game isn’t predicated on what he does on offense. While he’s one of the league’s most efficient offensive weapons, his defense is what truly elevates him to one of the greatest basketball players on the planet.

In the era of analytics, Gobert’s individual defensive numbers stand out in a way that we haven’t seen previously in the NBA, and as with anything new, it’s hard to understand and contextualize that impact.

It’s not difficult to measure scorers, even if we have a better understanding of what makes them great, but measuring a defensive player’s impact is difficult, and that’s made it hard to understand Gobert’s importance.

Gobert’s Nuanced Game

Gobert’s brilliance is in the nuances.

Again, as we’re prone to watching the ball when we break down basketball, Gobert is going to be easily forgotten about.

The Jazz routinely go several minutes without Gobert touching the ball, which makes it to forget about him on the offensive end. But for those watching more closely, they can see how Gobert’s screening, rolling, rim running, and vertical spacing put tremendous pressure on opposing defenses, even if it isn’t obvious upon the first viewing.

Defensively, Gobert has only led the NBA in blocked shots once, despite being one of the most feared rim protectors in the league. Often that’s because Gobert is so long and imposing, opposing players won’t even attempt a shot at the Jazz star, rather preferring to reset the offense rather than challenge his length.

However, even with players attempting to avoid Gobert, he routinely leads the NBA in total shots defended, while also carrying the lowest opponent field goal percentage as the player’s primary defender.

A Natural Outsider

It’s okay to recognize Gobert is a bit of a natural outsider.

When the Frenchman entered the league, he hadn’t spent several years at the highest levels of European basketball making a name for himself as one of the best players on the other side of the globe.

Rather, he was a longshot prospect who had unique tools and a raw game but was far from becoming a true superstar.

Additionally, hailing from France, Gobert’s English was shaky when he entered the league, and his naturally quiet demeanor can be easily misread by those who haven’t spent time around him.

Teammate Hassan Whiteside admitted he was surprised at how warm Gobert was when he joined the Jazz, saying the Jazz star was the first player to call and welcome him to the team. He also said his quiet nature may be partly to blame.

“He’s not really outspoken like that,” Whiteside said. “He’s not really saying anything back, he takes the high road a lot of times.”

Also, Gobert has shown some vanity that has times rubbed people the wrong way. The star center has spoken openly about his success and the hard work he’s put in to get there, and that may be offputting to some.

He’s also had two public moments that have drawn the criticism from players and fans alike, first having a tearful moment with the media after recalling telling his mom he’d been left off the All-Star team, and second, cavalierly touching microphones at a press conference to make fun of the COVID-19 pandemic just days before becoming the first famous face to contract the virus in the United States.

Jazz fans may feel the need to defend their superstar big man, and rightfully so, as he’s become one of the most misunderstood stars in all of professional sports.

However, what may ultimately determine Gobert’s reputation is whether or not he can win at the highest levels of the NBA, even if he’s already strung together a Hall of Fame career.

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