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Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert’s 2016-17 season is on the precipice of greatness

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If we’re being objective and letting the numbers tell the tale, and not market size, we’re going to see history made this year.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz could end up on the F.B.I.’s most wanted list for being master criminals. The draft day trade that pried Rudy Gobert away from the Denver Nuggets (for the draft rights to Erick Green and cash) was, basically, a heist. It was like Oceans 11, but the biggest star wasn’t an actor - but the prize itself. Flash forward to Gobert’s fourth year in the league and he’s about to make history. I’ll get to that part at the end of this article, but it’s a big huge deal. It’s a 7’2 sized story that the National media seems to be completely unaware of. But first, we need to look at what Rudy has done so far this year.

Gobert, a snub for the All-Star game, is having a great season. He came into this league being branded a defensive player. Today he is a defensive force of nature. If he was in HBO’s Game of Thrones he would be The Wall. He’s #1 in all of the categories that matter for a center. Which is why I believe that the future Defensive Player of the Year needs some love for the All-NBA teams as well. But that’s not up to me.

It’s not up to Rudy either.

But what is up to him is how he plays on the court. Checking the team stats today I came across the fact that he already has 800 points, 800 rebounds, and 150 blocks on the season. That tickled a part of my brain and I had to investigate that. And what I found out is that Rudy is having one of the best ever seasons for a New Orleans / Utah Jazz bigman.

That may not mean much to you, but I’m the defacto Jazz franchise historian online, so it means something to me.

Looking at every single guy to play for the Jazz, there have only been 75 different times when a Jazzman finished the season with at least 400 points, 400 rebounds, and 50 blocks, while averaging at least 4.50 ppg, 4.50 rpg, and 0.70 bpg. I’ll list the players here:

  • Ten times: Karl Malone (1987, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002)
  • Nine times: None
  • Eight times: Thurl Bailey (1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991)
  • Seven times: Mark Eaton (1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991); and Paul Millsap (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)
  • Six times: None
  • Five times: Derrick Favors (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
  • Four times: Andrei Kirilenko (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006); and Ben Poquette (1980, 1981, 1982, 1983); Mehmet Okur (2005, 2006, 2009, 2010); and Rich Kelley (1976, 1977, 1978, 1979)
  • Three times: Al Jefferson (2011, 2012, 2013); Greg Ostertag (1997, 2003, 2004); and Rudy Gobert (2015, 2016, 2017)
  • Two times: Danny Schayes (1982, 1983); Donyell Marshall (2001, 2002); Otto Moore (1976, 1977); and Truck Robinson (1978, 1979)
  • One time: Felton Spencer (1994); James Hardy (1982); Jeff Wilkins (1982); Olden Polynice (2000); and Wayne Cooper (1981)

Now averaging 4.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, and 0.7 bpg isn’t a very high barrier to entry. A 75 season club isn’t that exclusive. But among this group are some really talented Jazzmen. The Mailman, for example, is excellent. He was a player who came to the NBA overlooked and with a chip on his shoulder. Karl made it his religion to prove people wrong.

Malone rebounds
Are you going to wake up early every day to pray at the Altar of the Iron Church?
Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

And few people worked harder on their games than he did.

Of course, who can avoid talking about Mark Eaton. Eaton logs six different seasons in this data set where he finished the year with 300+ total blocks. He wasn’t much of a scorer though, and finished with double-double season averages never in his career (and only once in Per 36 stats). On the opposite side of the spectrum, offensive minded Al Jefferson never averaged a double-double either, the most he ever rebounded per game was 9.68 on year.

The two-way center has been very elusive in a Jazz uniform over the four plus decades of the team.

When you parse down the n=75 data set to just the players who averaged at least 10.00 ppg, 10.00 rpg, and 1.00 bpg you get n=6. Karl Malone x3, Truck Robinson x1, Rich Kelley x1 . . . and the 2016-2017 Rudy Gobert experience. Among these six different seasons the one with the most rebounds and blocks is obviously Rudy’s.

And that brings it all back to the 800 / 800 / 150 season that Gobert is having right now. Has anyone in a Jazz jersey done that before? The answer is Rich Kelley with the New Orleans Jazz back in 1979. Kelley was 25 and averaged 15.66 / 12.83 / 2.08 that year. He was overshadowed by bigger performers on the team (Pistol Pete Maravich being one of them), and mostly forgotten in time. This year Gobert, at age 24, is averaging 13.14 / 12.72 / 2.49. That’s comparable, and admirable because it’s at that 800 / 800 / 150 plateau. But that’s not historic, even if just one other Jazz player has done that.

Searching Basketball-Reference.com we can find that this thing has happened before. In fact, 33 players - including Rudy - have done it: Tim Duncan x9, Dikembe Mutombo x9, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar x8, Patrick Ewing x8, Hakeem Olajuwon x8, and so forth (full list here).

Duncan shoots over Mutombo

But 800 / 800 / 150 still isn’t exclusive enough. What about 1000 / 1000 / 200?

Yeah, that’s more like it!

Well, according to Basketball-Reference.com we see that only 11 players have ever done it. EVER. Kareem x4, Shaquille O’Neal x3, Hakeem x3, Timmy x2, Elvin Hayes x2, Dwight Howard x2, David Robinson x2, Artis Gilmore x1, Bob Lanier x1, Bob McAdoo x1, and Dikembe x1. (List here)

2013 NBA Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Every player who has done it is in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

And Rudy is going to be the 12th. Ever.*

(N.B. The database for bball-ref is limited to the box scores that they have available, which goes back to the 1980s. Also, please be note that blocks were not a recorded stat in the first few decades of the NBA, so legends like Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell do not show up on these lists.)

In order to achieve 1000 / 1000 / 200 our man Rudy has to get 146 more points, 173 more rebounds, and 38 more blocks. There are 17 games on the schedule and nothing is going to stop the team’s anchor from getting on the floor. His finishing averages would have to be 8.59 ppg, 10.18 rpg, and 2.24 bpg to get to that Epic level.

Really though? He’s going to crush those numbers.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Since the All-Star Break he’s averaging (rounding up) 15 / 14 / 3 per game. This month? So far he’s shooting 72.5 FG%. GET RUDY THE DAMN BALL! He has an ORTG of 133. What in the name of Memo is going on?

We’re seeing history. That is what’s going on.