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Now what? A look at Utah’s Rudy Gobert-less reality

The Utah Jazz will have to face the music without their star center.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

It’s deja vu all over again for the Jazz. A reckless player rolls into Rudy Gobert’s knee and sidelines him for a month-and-a-half early in the season. Last year, it was one of our own during practice. This year, it was Dion Waiters. And nobody outside of Jazzland seems to care.

Here’s Waiters’ response:

And here is Heat Twitter:

Okay, surely it’s not representative of all of Heat Twitter, but it’s cathartic to pretend it is.

In the end, debating who was nastier on the Internet is lame and boring. Where do the Jazz go from here? Well, up to this point our most-used lineups have featured Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert in the frontcourt. Here’s a snapshot:

No way around it: if your lineup averages an ORTG of under 90 and a DRTG of over 100, you’re gonna have a bad time.

One problem is that, because Derrick and Rudy both like to play in the paint, on pick and rolls opposing teams can sag off of Rudy and double Favs down low, or vice versa. Hard to roll to the basket when there are three big men there guarding it. One reason Favs scored so much last night was because Sefolosha took his defender outside, forcing Derrick's man to play up, leaving the paint more open than it's been all season. Here’s an example:

On this play, Favors is at the top of the key, about to set a pick. Sefolosha is hanging out with Timofey Mozgov in the block.

Now Derrick sets the pick for Joe Ingles, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is forced to move up to the free throw line, and Mozgov has to look both at the wide-open lane that has been created and at Sefolosha in the corner.

Favors and Demarre Carroll roll off the pick, Mozzy is still in his spot, and the lane is wide-open.

Joe passes to Derrick, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Mozgov try to collapse into the paint, but it’s too late: momentum is not on their side.

Here’s another good example of spacing:

Here, Favors starts at the top, with Thabo and Hollis-Jefferson in the mid-block.

Thabo moves to the elbow and looks for Rodney Hood on the backdoor cut, which is a good thought because the Nets defenders are all playing up, but he’s tightly guarded by Carroll. Meanwhile, Derrick is still at the top of the key.

Thabo moves from the elbow, handing the ball to Joe Ingles, forcing both Allen Crabbe and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to chase.

Now Crabbe and Hollis-Jefferson are guarding Sefolosha and Ingles, and Derrick Favors is alone with Quincy Acy in the paint. The left side is open.

Sefolosha passes back to Ingles and makes his move.

He splits the two forwards, driving to the left side, which is still wide-open.

Acy is forced to leave Favors and help Jefferson, but that gives Thabo all the time he needs.

One important caveat is that I’m not saying that Rudy Gobert being out is a good thing. It’s not. Both the offense and defense will miss him terribly.

What I am saying, though, is that neither Rudy Gobert nor Derrick Favors is being used properly. It’s best for the team when they aren’t on the floor together. The spacing that worked so well with Favors will work even better with Gobert when he is healthy again.

Now, I realize that these plays and others like them may be more a factor of the Jazz playing the Nets than anything else. After all, their frontcourt is terrible. It will be interesting to see if this space will help the Jazz offense against Karl Anthony-Towns and Minnesota, the team they play tomorrow, or Porzingis and the surprisingly-good Knicks, whom they play after that.

Get well soon, Rudy!