It’s been a tough month for the Utah Jazz. Outside of a miracle shot from Bojan Bogdanovic and seeing Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in the all-star game this has been one of the most depressing months of Jazz basketball I can remember
There are a lot of reasons for the losing. For example, Bojan Bogdanovic has been in an extended shooting slump. He’s shooting 32% from three in his last 10 games. Joe Ingles is even worse. In his last 18 games Ingles is shooting 29% from three. Before the Washington game it was 27% . Mike Conley has had a very up and down season with an incredibly rough start and then an extended period of missed games.
But probably the most difficult thing to overcome has been the complete loss of defensive identity.
During this last stretch of games Rudy Gobert has not looked like the Rudy Gobert Jazz fans have watched during his entire NBA career.
According to NBA.com the Utah Jazz, since January 27th, have an offensive rating of 12.7 and a defensive rating of 117. For the entire season before that? The Jazz had an offensive rating of 111 and a defensive rating of 106.
Something is going on with Rudy Gobert.
Tony Jones and Zach Harper recently talked about the Jazz most recent debacle with the benching then unbenching of Mike Conley and discussed everything that happened. But they also discussed what is going on with Rudy Gobert.
You can listen to it here.
One of the things mentioned by Tony Jones is that Rudy Gobert looks like a player that is saying if you don’t get me the ball on offense then you can get your own rebounds and you’re on your own defending your man.
That definitely pans out when you look at the Jazz’s defensive rating.
A lot of people will hear that and immediately point at Gobert saying that’s not a team-first mentality. And they’re right to some extent. This stretch of losses for the Jazz has really hurt their chances for a home court advantage in the playoffs. They are going to really struggle to get home court advantage at this point. And if they continue playing at this level, is it even a given to make the playoffs?
Right now Rudy Gobert is not only looking to win games, he’s also looking to secure a super max, which he could sign with the Jazz right now if they wanted to give it to him. Because he hasn’t received it yet, it’s clear that Gobert was told by the Jazz they want to see how the season pans out. Why else would they not have given it to him at this point? The only other reason would be they don’t feel good about giving the supermax to him.
So if you’re Rudy Gobert and you know these things, you’re feeling extra pressure to prove your value.
But what if you’re team continually is missing you when you’re wide open like this?
These are the possessions that I don't understand from Utah. No idea how they miss Gobert here. DHO and he slips. Smart does not help on wkside he's open. Swing to Bogdanovic and he is still open. pic.twitter.com/EjXeE6GD5D— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) February 27, 2020
The last month is what happens.
Gobert is the best defensive player on the planet when he wants to be. He affects opposing offenses like no one else in the league when he’s on the floor. But apparently that’s not enough for the Jazz to give him a supermax yet. That means Gobert is trying to prove his worth while also dealing with a team that still hasn’t found itself this far into the season.
This could be oversimplifying things. Maybe Gobert knows that supermax is coming but is getting tired of the effort from other players on the team. After all if the Jazz are going to meet any of the expectations they set for themselves, the defensive effort from everyone on the team needs to improve.
The truth is all these problems don’t originate from any singular player. It’s not Mike Conley, it’s not Rudy Gobert or anyone else. The root of it all comes from the miscalculations of the front office and an inability of the coaching staff to make this work this far into the season. The front office put the team into this position. They’re the ones who gave up the assets they did to trade for Mike Conley. They’re the ones who have put Rudy Gobert in this position. And if they knew there were chemistry issues at the trade deadline, they’re the ones who did nothing about it.
The jury is still out with the Mike Conley trade and it may very well work out. Quin Snyder hasn’t given a lot of reasons for Jazz fans to believe he will take them over the top, but there’s still time to get there.
There are many paths this team could have gone on this season. This one is definitely not the one the Jazz expected, or wanted. But it’s clear now that the Jazz didn’t want to learn Rudy Gobert’s value this way. Now it’s becoming very apparent what happens when Rudy Gobert isn’t anchoring the defense and it’s a scary reality.