NBA Draft 2013: Utah Jazz Center Rudy Gobert and what to expect from a mystery

Mike Stobe

Unless you work for the Utah Jazz, then you haven't met Rudy Gobert as many times as I have. Mychal had a way longer interview with him than I did, and you all should watch it immediately again right now.


Who is this guy, though?

Now I've had more data points to go off upon, and I still want to know who he is. Now, Mychal and I saw him at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last month. And well, honestly, he looked like a bubble lotto guy there. On Day 1 after we had just seen the centers I felt as though it would come down to the potential of Gobert vs. the polish of Kelly Olynyk. we already have two guys who have the potential and little polish in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Kelly has the range to supplement their brawn, and is older than both of them right now, while being a rookie. So if you went for need, in your rankings you would put Kelly ahead of Rudy.

However, in a draft like the 2013 draft where there was very little separation between the #11 guy and the #31 guy you should probably swing for the fences and attempt to get a home run, right? So in this regard you go for the mystery instead of the boring old guy. And there is no greater mystery right now than Rudy Gobert. Sure, we have more data on him than some guys like Giannis -- but he's not on my team, so I don't really care.

What I do care about is what Gobert can be. And with his length, height, tenacity, and mentality . . . you know what he looked like at the NBA Draft combine?



No, not joking. Compared to the other draft hopefuls, this is what he was doing

Am I saying that Gobert is the next Shaquille O'Neal? No. I'm not. But by the same token, he's *NOT* not the next Shaq either. We don't know. It is possible that if he develops his body and his game, he could be very good. Or he could be bad. I don't know. The combine isn't everything. What little we did see there gave us mixed ideas. I loved how he always went to the rim, and tried to finish with contact. He's also a significant threat to change all shots, even when he rotates late. If you want a bench guy to try to dunk, get offensive rebounds, and block/change shots -- then I think it's possible that we have that with Rudy Gobert.

But we had that with Greg Ostertag, Kyrylo Fesenko, and Kosta Koufos. All three of them were limited and lost time to guys like Jarron Collins who wasn't a beast or athletic, but played many more minutes. Is this going to be Gobert's fate as well? I sure hope not.

Rudy was drafted #27 in the 2013 draft -- in fact because of what was happening on draft night I ended up having availability to interview him BEFORE Trey Burke who was picked almost 20 spots ahead of him. I was the guy who told him he was traded, the other credentialed reporters in the room didn't even know and were asking him questions about the Denver Nuggets.

Amar: Just to clarify, do you know if you've been traded or not?

Rudy: I don't know. I don't know yet.

Amar: . . . because it's been confirmed that you've been traded to the Utah Jazz.

Rudy: Okay.

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Well, as a #27 pick I think the first thing is to see what kind of players are available there. I don't want to compare him to "bubble lotto guys" because that phrase doesn't mean anything. And I don't think it's fair to compare him to High school / LSU version of Shaq either. That guy was a lot heavier and grew up playing basketball in the American system. So, let's look at the other guys at #27 over the last 40 years of the draft.

Draft Player Draft Player
1 1974 Leon Benbow 11 1984 Ron Anderson
2 1975 Walter Luckett 12 1985 Dwayne McClain
3 1976 Phil Hicks 13 1986 Dennis Rodman
4 1977 Glenn Williams 14 1987 Nate Blackwell
5 1978 Wayne Radford 15 1988 Shelton Jones
6 1979 Reggie Carter 16 1989 Kenny Battle
7 1980 John Stroud 17 1990 Elden Campbell
8 1981 Howard Wood 18 1991 Pete Chilcutt
9 1982 Fred Roberts 19 1992 Byron Houston
10 1983 John Garris 20 1993 Malcolm Mackey
Draft Player Draft Player
21 1994 Brooks Thompson 31 2004 Sasha Vujacic
22 1995 Mario Bennett 32 2005 Linas Kleiza
23 1996 Brian Evans 33 2006 Sergio Rodriguez
24 1997 Jacque Vaughn 34 2007 Arron Afflalo
25 1998 Vladimir Stepania 35 2008 Darrell Arthur
26 1999 Jumaine Jones 36 2009 DeMarre Carroll
27 2000 Primoz Brezec 37 2010 Jordan Crawford
28 2001 Jamaal Tinsley 38 2011 JaJuan Johnson
29 2002 Chris Jefferies 39 2012 Arnett Moultrie
30 2003 Kendrick Perkins 40 2013 Rudy Gobert

Some of these guys don't even make the league, while the majority of the guys who do are not remarkable. So based on this method, it's likely that Rudy is not remarkable. But we've also seen a lot of rotation guys come from here and even a Hall of Famer. The larger group of these players who do succeed are bigmen who have defined skills and roles. Elden Campbell is a great example, if Rudy Gobert can be Elden Campbell will you be happy? Or do you expect lotto guy type success from a guy picked three spots from the second round?

If you looked at every 7' footer who has come into the league in the last 5 years you get a pretty interesting group.

NBA Draft . . Stats Per 36
Player Year Rnd Pick Team G Mins MPG PPG RPG BPG PPG RPG BPG
1 Brook Lopez 2008 1 10 BRK 246 8,417 34.2 17.4 7.6 1.7 18.3 8.0 1.8
2 Marc Gasol 2007 2 48 MEM 232 7,576 32.7 12.6 7.8 1.4 13.9 8.6 1.5
3 Roy Hibbert 2008 1 17 IND 232 5,288 22.8 10.6 5.7 1.5 16.7 9.0 2.4
4 Omer Asik 2008 2 36 CHI 230 4,424 19.2 5.5 7.0 0.9 10.3 13.1 1.7
5 JaVale McGee 2008 1 18 WAS 214 4,304 20.1 7.8 5.5 1.7 14.0 9.9 3.0
6 Spencer Hawes 2007 1 10 SAC 149 4,163 27.9 10.7 6.6 1.2 13.8 8.5 1.5
7 Yi Jianlian 2007 1 6 MIL 113 3,076 27.2 10.2 6.2 0.8 13.5 8.2 1.1
8 Robin Lopez 2008 1 15 PHX 178 2,591 14.6 5.9 3.3 0.8 14.5 8.1 2.0
9 Andrea Bargnani 2006 1 1 TOR 78 2,453 31.4 15.4 5.3 1.2 17.7 6.1 1.4
10 Tyler Zeller 2012 1 17 CLE 77 2,033 26.4 7.9 5.7 0.9 10.8 7.8 1.2
11 Greg Oden 2007 1 1 POR 82 1,816 22.1 9.4 7.3 1.4 15.3 11.9 2.3
12 Jason Smith 2007 1 20 PHI 133 1,760 13.2 3.9 2.8 0.5 10.6 7.6 1.4
13 Byron Mullens 2009 1 24 OKC 91 1,604 17.6 7.1 4.0 0.6 14.5 8.2 1.2
14 Timofey Mozgov 2010 3 61 NYK 130 1,577 12.1 3.9 3.1 0.7 11.6 9.2 2.1
15 Hasheem Thabeet 2009 1 2 MEM 135 1,395 10.3 2.2 2.7 0.9 7.7 9.4 3.1
16 Meyers Leonard 2012 1 11 POR 69 1,206 17.5 5.5 3.7 0.6 11.3 7.6 1.2
17 Kosta Koufos 2008 1 23 UTA 134 1,171 8.7 3.3 2.3 0.4 13.7 9.5 1.7
18 Aaron Gray 2007 2 49 CHI 88 1,026 11.7 3.4 3.7 0.3 10.5 11.4 0.9
19 Semih Erden 2008 2 60 BOS 69 928 13.4 3.8 2.8 0.4 10.2 7.5 1.1
20 Oleksiy Pecherov 2006 1 18 WAS 76 725 9.5 4.1 2.6 0.2 15.5 9.9 0.8
21 Kyrylo Fesenko 2007 2 38 UTA 70 564 8.1 2.5 1.8 0.5 11.1 8.0 2.2
22 Alexis Ajinca 2008 1 20 CHA 71 552 7.8 3.1 1.6 0.4 14.3 7.4 1.8
23 Donatas Motiejunas 2011 1 20 HOU 44 538 12.2 5.7 2.1 0.2 16.8 6.2 0.6
24 Hamed Haddadi 2008 3 61 MEM 86 528 6.1 2.2 2.2 0.5 13.0 13.0 3.0
25 Ryan Hollins 2006 2 50 CHA 45 444 9.9 3.2 2.2 0.7 11.6 8.0 2.5
26 Patrick O'Bryant 2006 1 9 GSW 39 255 6.5 2.6 1.7 0.5 14.4 9.4 2.8
27 Viacheslav Kravtosov 2012 3 61 DET 25 224 9.0 3.1 1.8 0.4 12.4 7.2 1.6
28 Robert Sacre 2012 2 60 LAL 32 203 6.3 1.3 1.1 0.3 7.4 6.3 1.7
29 Solomon Alabi 2010 2 50 TOR 26 181 7.0 1.5 2.3 0.4 7.7 11.8 2.1
30 Hassan Whiteside 2010 2 33 SAC 19 111 5.8 1.5 2.1 0.8 9.3 13.0 5.0
31 Jerome Jordan 2010 2 44 NYK 21 108 5.1 2.0 1.3 0.3 14.1 9.2 2.1
32 Hamady N'Diaye 2010 2 56 WAS 19 83 4.4 0.7 0.4 0.3 5.7 3.3 2.5
33 Cheikh Samb 2006 2 51 DET 18 83 4.6 0.8 1.3 0.6 6.3 10.2 4.7
34 Jeff Foote 2012 3 31 NOR 4 39 9.8 1.0 1.5 0.3 3.7 5.5 1.1
35 Fab Melo 2012 1 22 BOS 6 36 6.0 1.2 0.5 0.3 7.2 3.0 1.8
36 Steven Hill 2008 3 31 OKC 1 2 2.0 2.0 3.0 0.0 36.0 54.0 0.0

N.B. Round 3, Pick #61 is my own code for "undrafted". It is an internally consistent code I use for other excel calculations.

These players are listed by their total regular season minutes over their first three seasons, and their associated points, rebounds, and blocks for those periods. Some of these guys are pretty good, some are, well, not so good. The funny thing is that the minutes don't follow a rhyme or reason. But overall we like to believe the better players rise to the top, regardless of their draft position.

So then is it fair to compare Gobert to Shaq? I don't think so. Let's compare him to all the 7' or taller players from the last 5 seasons who have been picked #20 or lower. This group is 23 players long and contains guys1 like Marc Gasol, Omer Asik, Jason Smith, Timofey Mozgov, Ryan Hollins, Kosta Koufos, Alexis Ajinca, and so forth. I think this is a interesting group that is headlined by some low draft picks who turned out to be rotation guys or better. Of course, this group has some unsuccessful players too. The average for the total group of 7' ers in the last 5 years is 5.1 ppg, 3.4 apg, and 0.7 bpg. The average for the Pick #20 or lower group is 3.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg, and 0.5 bpg.

The era of the bigman sure has diminished.

So I guess we bring this back to the beginning again. He's a mystery -- even one aspect of his game is all over the map, look at FT%:

  • 2010 (FIBA Jr. Team, G = 9) 45.8 ft%
  • 2011 (FIBA Jr. Team, G = 9) 40.0 ft%
  • 2012 (FIBA Jr. Team, G = 9) 81.5 ft%
  • 2011-12 Season (Cholet, G = 35) 42.9 ft%
  • 2012-13 Season (Cholet, G = 30) 69.7 ft%

There's a 40% range between his FT% between 2010 and today. And it is not following a trend. And this is just the most fundamental part of the game, a free throw.

I am not selling my stock in Gobert yet. I like him. He has a lot more upside than many players we draft this far down. He's very young, has off the charts measurements . . . we just need to get him in the gym with Karl Malone pronto.

He, Favors, and Kanter can give us all of the blocked shots, and all of the offensive rebounds.

Perhaps it's in his best interest to play in all of the D-League right now? I don't know.

Few people know what we have in Gobert, aside from a confident young man who is ready to play.

Amar: How big a change is it going to be from playing in France to banging with bigger and heavier guys every night?

Rudy: In France I played against heavy guys. They were like tall. 6'9, 6'11. Not 7'2 or 7'1. Just need to get better. I think I'm going to be good.

I think you are too Rudy. Even if we have no one to compare you to yet.

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