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Rudy Gobert’s blocks are down but he has never been better as a player

Protecting the rim is far from the only thing the Stifle Tower brings to the table

NBA: Utah Jazz at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

When the casual NBA fan or, heck, even the casual Utah Jazz fan thinks of Rudy Gobert, he/she doesn’t imagine him on offense. You, the reader, picture Rudy Gobert. Yes, right now. What’s he doing? Odds are, he’s reaching out his unnaturally long arms to reject yet another shot from some poor, unsuspecting fool who dared challenge the Stifle Tower.

Blocking shots is kind of Gobert’s thing. It, among other things, won the Frenchman the Defensive Player of the Year award last season even though he didn’t qualify for the blocks per game leaderboard because he only appeared in 56 games.

However, this season Gobert has seen a decline in his block totals and averages. After peaking at 2.6 BPG average two seasons ago, Gobert’s blocks have decreased to 2.2. Still formidable, but by the Gobert Standard, it could wind up being his second-worst season in terms of blocks if he slows down any more.

Yet, even with his blocks slowly declining, the 2018-19 season is almost unquestionably the best season Rudy’s ever had.

As of his last game against the Pelicans, Gobert is putting up career-highs in points (15.5), rebounds (12.9), assists (2.1), steals (0.8). He’s also only committed a mere 1.6 turnovers per game, the lowest of his four seasons averaging 30-plus minutes per game.

No player analysis would be complete without telling you how many other players have matched or exceeded each of those stats Gobert has put up. The answer is 12. And the only player on that list that isn’t a Hall of Famer (or well on their way) is Chris Webber. Throw in a final qualification of having less than 2.5 turnovers per game and that short, 13-player list is whittled down to one player: Rudy Gobert.

Going back to the discussion on blocks, it’s easy to argue that Gobert hasn’t taken any significant steps back defensively despite the decline. Andy Bailey has already drawn up a case for him to be just the ninth player to win back-to-back DPOYs (he also dipped his toe into the Gobert for MVP waters a while back).

It’s hard to say he’s improved as most metrics show an ever-so-slight decline in many areas from this season to last. But that’s going from the elite of the elite to only mostly elite of the elite. Cleaning the Glass puts the Jazz as the second-best defensive team in the league and it’s once again very much thanks to Mr. Gobert.

That leaves us with Gobert’s offense. Most of the Twitter world or at least the “points per game” Twitter world repeat the same drivel about him not being good on offense. That doesn’t account for Gobert’s 131.7 offensive rating, second only to Dwight Powell, or his not-too-shabby Offensive Real Plus-Minus rank of 11 among centers.

Just looking at his ability as a roll man in the pick and roll helps one appreciate the offensive prowess of Gobert. Among players with at least 100 possessions roll man this season, Gobert ranks first in free throw frequency, and third in scoring frequency and field goal percentage. He’s an elite rim-rolling center capable of throwing down dunks at any time or just laying it in if he feels like it.