Things are heating up around the NBA.
The race for the playoffs in becoming ever so close as the Phoenix Suns look to chase down the Utah Jazz and as the Brooklyn Nets keep pace with the Philadelphia 76ers for their respective conferences’ #1 seed.
In the East, homecourt advantage is in a tiebreaker between the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics. In the West, homecourt is no sure thing with the injury riddled Denver Nuggets trying to hold off the star-less (for now) LA Lakers.
Even the play-in tournament is keeping things interesting in both conferences. The East is seeing 3 teams tied in “games behind” for the 10th and final play-in tournament seed. Out West, the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs are hoping to keep the New Orleans Pelicans at bay and face each other for a shot at the playoffs.
While injuries, postponed games, health protocols, and a myriad of other challenges, this season is exactly what the NBA wanted—full of competition, close calls, and exciting races to the finish.
One race in particular that is flying under the radar is Rudy Gobert’s race for a 1000 point, 1000 rebound, 200 block campaign, a prestigious set of thresholds accomplished in a single season just 23 times (beginning in the 1973-74 season).
Here’s the list (# of seasons with thresholds):
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 4
Hakeem Olajuwon: 3
Shaquille O’Neal: 3
Elvin Hayes: 2
David Robinson: 2
Tim Duncan: 2
Dwight Howard: 2
Bob Lanier: 1
Bob McAdoo: 1
Artis Gilmore: 1
Dikembe Mutombo: 1
Rudy Gobert: 1
With Duncan’s upcoming induction and Howard’s 99.7% probability upon retirement, the list is comprised of all current and future Hall of Famers—well, except for Gobert, for now.
The most recent 1000-1000-200 campaign was logged by nonother than Utah’s favorite Frenchman. In 2016-17, Gobert notched 1138 points, 1035 rebounds, and 214 blocks in 81 games.
However, as mentioned previously, this season is unlike any other and presents serious challenges for Rudy in chasing another 1000-1000-200 season.
Unlike campaigns previous, the 2020-21 season will comprise just 72 games. You may be wondering how many times the aforementioned thresholds have been met in 72 games played or less. Well, exactly zero.
Bob McAdoo came the closest with 74 games played in the 1973-74 season.
Talk about a tall order.
Furthermore, Gobert missed his first game of the season in a Saturday afternoon against the LA Lakers due to injury or rest or abundance of caution (take your pick). Last game introduces a tricky presedence that will jeopardize Gobert’s chance at a historic season no matter how close he is now.
Speaking of which, where is Rudy relative to the thresholds?
Gobert is at 807 points, 759 rebounds, and 160 blocks. Said more succinctly, Gobert is pacing for 1023 points, 962 rebounds, and 203 blocks, assuming he plays 71 games, or plays in every remaining contest.
Boy is he ever so close, with a little breathing room in points and blocks.
Rebounds are the struggle at the moment, despite leading the NBA. Friday’s win over the Indiana Pacers, however, was a big step towards closing the gap where Rudy boarded an additional 23.
That will become Rudy’s 5th game of the season with 20+ rebounds, a league leading figure. In fact, NoDunks Inc of the Athletic has been tracking such high rebound outings, something they like to call “BIG BEEF”. It’s of such importance they compile rebound highlight reels (see below):
Despite the dominance on the glass, Rudy is still off pace.
Were Gobert to play 15 games the rest of the way, he’d need to average 14.2 points, 16.1 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game.
Were he to play 12 games the rest of the way, he’d need to average 16.1 points, 20.1 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game.
The numbers seem REALLY daunting, nigh impossible. For context, over Rudy’s last 15 games he’s averaging 14.5 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks.
Can Gobert accomplish what no player has in NBA history, reaching the 1000-1000-200 mark in a shortened, 72 game season?
He’s close but will likely finish just shy. The Jazz will likely continue to rest and protect their star ahead of an important playoff stretch. The front office and coaching staff may have waved the white flag on the #1 seed after Donovan Mitchell’s injury on Friday and sitting the rest of their stars Saturday.
No doubt we’ll continue to monitor Rudy’s progress. As round and satisfying are the 1000-1000-200 numbers, missing them by a hair won’t takeaway the dominance displayed by “Gobzilla” this season.
At the very least, fans can take solace in the knowledge that they’re getting the best version of Rudy Gobert we’ve ever seen heading into the most awaited postseason since the late 90’s.
As Ryan Smith said, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen... we’re [the Jazz are] just getting started.”