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Could the Utah Jazz rebuild around Rudy Gobert?

What would a rebuild around Gobzilla look like?

Utah Jazz v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

If you’re a Utah Jazz fan, you’ve been gearing up for this upcoming off-season. After yet another playoff collapse and a consecutive massive disappointment, everything seems to be on the table for the Jazz. Depending on which side of the argument you’re on, or if you sometimes get attached to players, it might not be a fun next couple of months. The crossroads that this era of Jazz basketball was at, has come and gone, and it’s very hard to think that the roster the Jazz roll out for the 2022-23 season will be at all similar to what is was the past few seasons.

So, what’s the play? Trade Rudy? Trade Donovan? Trade both of ‘em, blow it all up?? Jazz fans have bounced nearly every idea off the corners of the universe the last few weeks, since ya know, they don’t have any team to watch in the NBA playoffs now. One of the more popular rumors that have picked up with quite the intensity lately is trade talks for Rudy Gobert. He’s already been mentioned from several sources to be linked in trade talks and interest from a handful of teams including Atlanta, Toronto, and Dallas.

Rudy has been the main target of criticism for the Jazz’s playoff struggles in the eyes of some Jazz fans and general NBA watchers over the last few seasons. Although him getting “played off the floor” has already been statistically debunked, many place the blame for the Jazz’s inability to defend or punish small-ball lineups in the post season solely on Gobert’s shoulders. We don’t need to get into how that argument is flawed today, but it’s because of that argument that Gobert finds himself possibly on the trade block, among a few others things and the Jazz just needing a shakeup in general.

There has been alot of talk around the Jazz and “rebuilding”. Most of these talks have been about rebuilding and re-tooling around Donovan Mitchell. He’s the younger, more marketable NBA star, with a pretty tall ceiling despite some struggles in clutch games, particularly this last season. However, there have been rumors for years about Mitchell wanting to leave Utah. If Mitchell really does want to force his way out via trade, that’s where pandora’s box gets opened. If Mitchell doesn’t want to be here long-term, but Rudy goes, how does that change the Jazz’s rebuilding plans?

It’s actually pretty fascinating to think of how the Jazz could possibly rebuild around Rudy Gobert, if that were the route they chose to go. It may not be likely, but it’s possible - especially given Mitchell’s coming decisions. What would that re-build look like? If the Jazz were going to re-build a team supporting Rudy Gobert’s strengths, helping with his weaknesses, what would they do?

First thing’s first, they need a point guard. A great one. One that could help Rudy punish small-ball lineups. This might have more to do with overall coaching scheme than anything else, and maybe that’s the next thing that Rudy might need to excel; a scheme adjustment. Everyone knows who Rudy is. He’s not going to be effective with his back to the basket, no matter who is on him. But getting Rudy a point guard that can further elevate and utilize his strengths in the pick-and-roll as an elite roller, and actually throw him a decent lob, would be huge. The Jazz’s inability, or reluctance, to find Rudy in the paint was pretty weird sometimes.

Something that the Jazz had plenty of the last few years was shooting. In 2020-21 the Jazz put together one of the most impressive team three-point shooting seasons in NBA history. Unfortunately, 2021-22 didn’t have the same magic. But to re-build around Rudy, some of this elite shooting would have to stay. The Jazz’s offense was unstoppable at times when the ball was flying around; either getting an open three, or a dunk from Rudy Gobert. For an offense to thrive around Rudy, shooting has to be there, and it has to be good.

If you watched the Jazz this season, and last season, and the season before that, you knew that their biggest weakness, especially in the playoffs, was perimeter defense. Getting torched by guards all night every night got really old really quickly the past few years. Even though they have the best paint protector in the league on their team, the Jazz need more wing defenders that can switch and hold their own against elite scorers. It’s kinda crazy to think that Rudy was probably one of the better perimeter defenders against guards the last few years. Getting more athleticism and length on the court to play defense alongside Rudy would be awesome to see. It’s scary for other teams to imagine a Jazz defense that actually has talented and willing defenders besides Rudy. If the Jazz went all-in on defense, length and athleticism surrounding Gobert, that could be a pretty tough team to score on. My personal pipe dream for the Jazz is to go after Gary Trent Jr. Yes, the guy that Donovan Mitchell put some disrespect on a few years ago.

Gary Trent Jr is a hooper. Averaged 18 points per game last season on 38% shooting from three. Big, tough, long (6-10 wingspan), dude who can defend and give you some pretty great scoring options on the other end of the floor.

Point guards, passing, shooting, scheme changes, perimeter defense, length, athleticism; in summary, all things that a hypothetical rebuild around Rudy Gobert might look like. With the NBA draft approaching, and the Jazz having zero picks as of right now, things might get interesting as they try to make some trades to get some picks. When things start shaking up, which they are going to, how will the Jazz re-tool, and around whom? Buckle up, it’s going to be a crazy summer.