When the news broke that Anthony Davis had requested a trade from the New Orleans Pelicans everyone looked at their team and wondered if a trade would be possible for the superstar big.
Any sane Jazz fan knows that the Jazz don’t have any disposable assets to make something happen, nor is it likely that the Jazz are on the list of 3-4 teams (as reported by Brian Windhorst) that Anthony Davis would like to be traded to.
And that’s fine, the Jazz don’t need him because he wouldn’t impact the game any more than Rudy Gobert already does.
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at a few reasons why.
But before we start, let’s make it clear for the filthy casuals that no one is going to argue that Anthony Davis isn’t a more overall talented player than Rudy Gobert. He simply has the ability to do more on the court than Gobert does in terms of scoring.
But we’re not here to talk about overall talent. We’re talking about impact.
Our own Andy Bailey has an awesome catch-all stat showing the top impactful players in the league. Not surprisingly, Rudy Gobert is right up there with Anthony Davis.
Current top 25 players in the NBA this season, according to the AVERAGE OF THEIR RANKS in 10 catch-alls...— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) January 29, 2019
Real +/- Wins
Player Impact +/-
Player Impact +/- Wins
Total Points Added
Win Shares per 36 MIN
Game Score per 36 MIN
Cumulative Game Score pic.twitter.com/SDsIFshol9
This also plays out on NBA.com when you look at the on-court/off-court differences for Rudy Gobert, who leads his team by a mile in net rating. (this also includes a shout out to the GOAT Joe Ingles.)
The Jazz have an offensive rating of 108.6 when Gobert is on the floor compared to 100.4 when he is off. Unsurprisingly, the Jazz are also better on defense when Gobert is on the floor with a 101.1 defensive rating compared to 106 when he is off. That is a massive difference and the reason the Jazz have been a playoff caliber team from the moment Gobert became a starter.
Just for comparison, here is the impact made by Anthony Davis.
So how does Rudy Gobert have just as dramatic an effect without all the skill that Davis brings?
The first reason is that Rudy Gobert sticks to what he does best, and then he does it better than everyone else in the league.
For example, a majority of the Jazz offense is run through Gobert with dribble hand-offs and pick and rolls. Gobert has become so good as a screen-setter, he leads the league in screen assists per game with 6.2 which, according to NBA.com, creates 14.2 points per game!
Gobert is also the best pick and roll big man in the league receiving the 4th most paint touches per game while leading the league in FG% for high usage players. Basically, if you run a pick and roll with Rudy Gobert as the rim runner, worlds are destroyed and dreams are shattered.
Gobert is also in the top 5 in offensive rebounds per game. When you consider his field goal percentage ... you get the idea.
Because he is such a force on the pick and roll, and under the rim, it creates incredible gravity that pulls defenders to him. It’s the same level of gravity that Anthony Davis creates, it’s just that the ball is in the hands of the pick and roll ball handler.
And that is the other reason Gobert’s impact is so big. He makes everyone on the floor a much better player.
Don’t believe me? Go ask George Hill what life is like without screens from Rudy Gobert. Hill’s career post Jazz is one giant frowny face emoji.
Also, and this is a story for another day, but how long did it take Gordon Hayward before he started missing those screens set by Rudy Gobert?
We all know that Hayward is recovering from a serious injury, but he’s in a Celtics system that should be creating more space for him with five shooters on the floor at all times. Even with all those advantages, he’s not getting to the rim nearly as much as he did in Utah.
Gordon Hayward is passing the ball on 50% of his drives to the rim compared to 33% from 2013-14 to 2016-17, and drawing fouls on just 5% of drives compared to 10%, Hayward's playmaking is good and his shooting will come, but he's still way too passive attacking the basket.— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) January 27, 2019
For the lazy nationals who will read this article pretending like they follow the Jazz, the reason is simple. If you watch Gobert in the pick and roll, his gravity is so strong that it pulls the opposing big completely away from the rim. The ball handler simply has to beat his man to the rim to score.
This is a simple dribble hand off play from the last game the Jazz played against the Wolves. After Gobert hands the ball to Ingles, watch how Karl-Anthony Towns has to account for Gobert leaving Ingles a clear lane to the hoop.
It’s so simple it’s almost unfair.
If the big rotates to stop the ball handler, a simple lob or bounce pass creates a dunk for Gobert.
If the defense sends a help defender, the ball handler just has to find the open shooter.
On a side note, the reason Utah is so much better with Jae Crowder on the floor is because it creates an isolation pick and roll with Rudy Gobert and (insert literally anyone who can dribble the ball) that results in muchos puntos at the rim or from the perimeter.
That’s why Utah is working so hard to find the long term stretch four of the future. Utah’s offense becomes unguardable with spacing and shooters, and that’s because Rudy Gobert is the offensive cornerstone. Yup, I just said that out loud. Well, actually, I wrote it because these are words, not my voice... Shut up.
And that’s why Rudy Gobert is just as impactful as Anthony Davis. He isn’t the #1 guy who does everything like Anthony Davis, but he does elevate everyone else on the floor. Now that the Jazz have a rising superstar in Donovan Mitchell, they have the formula to win a lot of games, including playoff games.
As far as defense, not a lot needs to be said. Rudy Gobert is the reigning DPOY and should win it again this year. His defensive impact is almost immeasurable when you consider how much offenses change based on when he’s on the floor.
Many of the lazy nationals will claim that Rudy Gobert can’t be on the floor when a stretch five is playing, but that means the offense of the other team is completely dependent on the stretch five shooting at a high clip.
And you want to know something scary? Stretch bigs on opposing teams aren’t shooting the ball at a higher level from three when Gobert is on the floor (Except Towns, that guy is insane.) A quick example, in the two games the Jazz have played the Nuggets this year, Nikola Jokic is shooting 1/10 from three.
How does he do it? Gobert will play opposing bigs halfway. He’ll mildly contest shots when the game starts to see how the big does. His presence alone is usually enough to alter the stretch big’s shot. If the big is making shots, Gobert will contest harder forcing the big to wither pass or drive to the rim. But because Rudy is in contention for 8th wonder of the world, he’s able to roll with most bigs all the way to the rim and either block the shot, or alter it for a miss.
If the opposing stretch big isn’t hitting shots, Gobert can simply rebound their miss or patrol the paint ready to remove the soul from any who dare enter his lair.
Gobert also combines his talent an insane motor. You can see that in his top four ranking in the league in contests at the rim. When you consider how many ball handlers yell out “NOPE!” when they see him coming, it’s no wonder the Jazz have a perennial top 5 defense in the league.
Gobert also takes offense at any shot that goes in, it’s an insult to his very core and he vows to make up for it on the next possession. He’ll bark at teammates that miss their assignments, too. This is partly because Gobert knows that his presence makes them a better defender giving them the freedom to gamble like they couldn’t anywhere else in the league. They have to take advantage!
As much as Gordon Hayward misses Gobert’s screens, he might miss Gobert’s defensive presence more. In Boston, any defensive mistakes he makes are on full display.
Long story short, Rudy Gobert is an absolute pleasure to watch play defense.
With all that said, this isn’t an attempt to downplay Anthony Davis. He’s an incredible talent who will most likely become a devastating partner next to Lebron James. This is just to show that Rudy Gobert impacts the game at the same level and why the Jazz are more than fine with Gobert as a cornerstone.
But Jazz fans already knew that.