Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert fly under the radar among casual NBA fans. Opposing coaches, players, and scouts are worried about these two, but somehow they still aren’t regarded as All Star caliber players - Gobert is easily a top 5 center in the league (in my estimation no center in the game right now has a greater impact), and Hayward is arguably the 4th best player at his position (LeBron, Durant, Leonard). They both deserve an All Star nod this season, and both are unlikely to be voted in.
Part of the reason for this is that the casual fan likes numbers and production - particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Points, assists, and rebounds are the 3 most basic stats taken into consideration in All Star voting. Unfortunately for the raw production of Hayward and Gobert, the Jazz play at the league’s slowest pace; a mere 93.3 possessions per game. For comparison, the Golden State Warriors use 104.6 possessions per game - 12% more possessions than the Jazz.
[Disclaimer: I realize that extrapolating the production of Hayward and Gobert is oversimplified, and there would likely be fluctuations in efficiency, production, and usage, but I feel like those fluctuations could just as easily trend in either direction. Nothing is so black-and-white, but for argument’s sake I’m going to assume a steady increase in production that matches the hypothetical increase in possessions.]
Hayward’s current production of 22 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1 steal, and 0.3 blocks per game is All Star worthy in and of itself. If the Jazz used as many possessions as the Warriors, Hayward’s raw production would increase to roughly 25 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game to go along with 1.2 steals and 0.5 blocks per game. There isn’t a huge difference in production, but hitting the 25 PPG mark would put Hayward near the top 10 in the NBA in points per game and would likely vault him to All Star status this season.
Gobert’s production currently stands at 12.4 points, 12.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.7 steals, and 2.6 blocks per game. An increase in Jazz possessions from 93.3 to 104.6 would bump those numbers to roughly 14/14/1/1/3. Those are pretty silly numbers for a modern NBA big man. 14 rebounds and 3 blocks per game (which would put him #2 in RPG and would massively increase his lead in BPG) to go along with 14 points a night would likely be enough for Gobert to at least be a coach’s selection.
Hayward is posting careers bests in FT%, 2P%, TS%, eFG%, USG%, TOV%, FTr, TRB%, PER, ORtg, DRtg, WS/48, OBPM, DBPM, and BPM. He’s posting the best FG% since his rookie season (with nearly double the USG%), the best 3P% since the 2012-13 season, and is on pace for career-bests in OWS, DWS, WS, and VORP. He’s scoring from everywhere on the floor - his shot chart shows him taking at least 11% of his shots from each of the zones, with more than 56% of his shots coming at the rim or from the 3 point line - the two most efficient shots in basketball.
Gobert is posting career-best numbers almost universally across the board, with his advanced metrics looking more impressive than just about any other big man in the league. The fact that he was, until recently, #1 in both ORtg AND DRtg is downright absurd (he’s currently #4 and #1, respectively). He’s been the NBA’s best rim protector for 3 seasons in a row, and this season he’s posting the best FG% allowed at the rim while contesting more shots than anyone else in the league - and it’s really not close in either category. Gobert’s Diff% (the difference between the FG% he allows and the opponents season average FG%) is best in the league, at -7.5%. (Quick side note, Hayward is 6th best in the NBA, with a Diff% of -5.8%. Exum is #1 among point guards, at -4.1%. #benchmack)
Gobert’s current season most closely resembles Dikembe Mutumbo’s prime years in Atlanta. Mutumbo’s 5-year averages in Atlanta and Gobert’s current production are nearly identical across the board (Gobert has a significant edge in a few categories, particularly in TS%, FG%, WS/48, and ORtg). If I were to lay them out side by side, the two would be all but indistinguishable. Mutumbo was an 8-time All Star - with 4 of those appearances coming in his 5-year stint with Atlanta. And right now, Gobert is as good as or better than Mutumbo with an obsessive drive to continue to get better. He is simultaneously an NBA throwback and a modern-day nightmare for opposing coaches. He single-handedly ruins opposing gameplans and frustrates NBA offenses night after night. He is one of the NBA’s only #1 options on the defensive side of the ball.
Hayward has an all-around game that few in the NBA possess. His prowess in every facet of the game makes him one of the most unique players in the league, with only a handful of players in the game today having a more well-rounded game. He’s a top-20 player at the moment and he’s just entering his prime. Each season, he improves his body, his game, and his production. As of this writing, neither Hayward nor Gobert are in the top 40 in NBA fan voting for the All Star game. Neither are in the top 10 among West frontcourt players. That’s not likely to change. And that’s OK.
I can honestly say that I hope both of these players get snubbed this season. Gobert and Hayward both have a desire to be the best at what they do. They both work their butts off every offseason to shore up weaknesses and improve upon their strengths. They train like men possessed in the offseason. Gobert got a huge paycheck and started playing BETTER after signing the deal. Over 7 seasons, Hayward has transformed his body like few in the NBA before him, packing on roughly 30 pounds of muscle since his rookie season. I don’t think either of them will become complacent after making an All Star team. But I can all but guarantee that, if snubbed, both of them will train with a vengeance, fire, and purpose that has rarely been seen in the NBA.
I want to see Hayward and Gobert both reach their ceilings. And their growth will be accelerated if they’re pissed off. Long-term, it’s probably better for them to be snubbed (remember Karl Malone being snubbed, and how unstoppable he was afterwards?). Short-term, snubs for these two may cause the Jazz to go on a tear post-all star break and climb the Western Conference. It could motivate the team in the postseason when they face off against the NBA Darling Warriors and their 4 all star players. It could ignite a spark in the franchise that will eventually lead them to an NBA finals, with Hayward and Gobert leading the way.
Please, NBA. Snub Hayward and Gobert. And after you do, prepare yourselves. Hayward and Gobert will use it as fuel.