The Utah Jazz have a solid, but until last night, somewhat unspectacular presence at the Rookie Game. Back when it was just a game for rookies Bryon Russell came off the bench in 1994. In the 2000s, when the game became a contest between Rookies and NBA Sophomores, (x2), (x2), Paul Millsap (x2), and had their moments -- but outside of Williams' injury abbreviated performance, none really dominated. The newest era of the Jazz has been well represented by , , Trey Burke (x2), , and .
Unlike previous eras where the team was comprised as a mix of draft picks, trades, and free agents, the current era is mostly draft picks. And the Jazz need to make sure they pick the right players, develop them swiftly, and hope they can bring the team back into relevance. A good litmus test is to see if they get into this exhibition game. And the good news is that so far only, , and have not made it, out of the younger crop of draft picks. Truly, 5/8 isn't bad, even if one of them (Favors) only made it as a Soph as an injury replacement.
One thing no Jazzman has done in this exhibition was shine; well, that is until last night. Rudy Gobert is undoubtedly a real NBA rising star now. He is foreign. He is demonstrative. He makes highlight plays. He is efficient. And he plays at a position that is lacking in future stars. As a result, it's clear that the NBA will add him to their long list of players to help promote down the line. NBA PR aside, his NBA status is solidified by his play on the court. And last night he had the best night ever for a Jazzman in the rookie game.
Every Rookie game contestant's boxscore:
Okay, so from B-Russ down to, uh, D-Ex (no, never say that again) the team has had 14 guys in the showcase. If you will hog the ball enough, and score points you'll be the first to get noticed. If you look at the Shots per minute value (SPM) you see that most of our players were a little too team-oriented for this type of game. Three times we've had a player take more than half a shot per minute, Deron Williams in '07, and both of Trey Burke's games. Rounding it out to five you can add Paul Millsap's adventure as a rookie in '07, and Rudy last night. Next is actually scoring, which eliminates Trey's first foray into the event, but gives you Trey's second (17), Rudy (18), Deron (19), and Sap (22). Deron was the most impressive here because he did this in 14+ minutes, and got injured, and then took himself out of the game. You could argue that D-Will was on his way to winning the MVP of this game, in his Soph season.
The second way to get noticed is to make highlight plays. Gobert had monster dunks and monster blocks. He also added going end to end on a play, and just generally being hard to miss. He has that covered.
The third aspect of turning heads is to have a complete game, aka Andrei Kirilenko -ing it. There are many fine examples of our players doing this, and being overlooked. After all, it's behind pure scoring, and highlights, so it's not hard to see why. Gordon Hayward had 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks in his game -- but no one was even talking about him. Ronnie Brewer similarly had 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block and no one batted an eye, even after he went 6/6 from the field during the game.
Rudy seems to have figured it out, though. Have good numbers, but in a crazy distribution. Rudy, despite having solid passing ability and great court vision for his size, did not register and assist on this night. He did pull down 12 rebounds, block 3 shots, and steal the ball once. That gets you noticed.
The fourth, and final aspect of getting noticed is to play a good game. That means doing the extra stuff, being a good teammate, helping the offense flow, setting screens, and so forth. Andrei did a lot of that in his games, and the guys he played with took it upon them to not really repay back the favor. Even after he essentially won that game for the Sophs (in his second year) by calling them in during breaks to set up defensive assignments and clamp down on the Rookies in the second half. These things are the least overt, and least rewarding. Rudy set screens, and pass the ball to the guy who then got the assist, and so forth. He was a good teammate, and his help defense was invaluable for the World Team.
All in all, Rudy did all four of these things, and he's really blowing up right now. We already knew about him, but that's because we've followed his entire career very closely. So what he's blowing up? How does it stack up to all the other players before him?
These players ordered by BARPS (primarily), and by BARPS/MIN (secondarily):
Yes, Rudy is the boss. Sap, D-Will, Ronnie B, and Trey Burke's last night fill out the Top 5 Rookie game performances by a Jazz player. Gordo, AK, and Fav are all honorable mentions.
For the Jazz it's more than having a player get noticed, it's making sure that the whole club is on the same page, and that all of the younger guys who were drafted / acquired as rookies, get better and help contribute towards wins. Like I sad, 5/8 made it do this game, and that's pretty good for this period of Jazz history; a period that will clearly be dominated by the performance of Rudy Gobert.