He's has his ups and downs, and teams might be starting to adjust to his defensive skills -- see this superb analysis from Salt City Hoops' Ben Dowsett for more on that -- but everyone still loves Rudy Gobert. In fact, the top story on Grantland for most of Tuesday afternoon and evening was Zach Lowe's weekly column, featuring our very own Stifle Tower in the header image.
Lowe's piece is a larger (if you'll excuse the pun) look at the NBA's youngest centers and power forwards, but he spends several hundred words on Rudy. I won't quote him all, but there's a section toward the end that I find especially interesting:
[Gobert] is so much of a force already that the Jazz have to consider dealing Enes Kanter at the trade deadline. It's not a foregone conclusion; the cap will rise so dramatically in 2016 that Utah could re-sign all of its key young players and retain at least some breathing room. Kanter could also work as the jump-shooting third big Utah could start in (eventual) playoff matchups that call for more spacing - Utah's Boris Diaw, basically.
But it's all a matter of opportunity cost. If Utah trades Kanter, it's not just about the immediate return package. It's also about how it might use the salary Kanter would have eaten with the eight-figure deal he'll surely get this summer.
Gobert has butted his way into the Kanter discussion faster than Utah ever could have expected.
Lots have people have jumped to the conclusion that Kanter might be on his way out this trade deadline, so the Jazz can capitalize on him as an asset and clear the way for Gobert in the process. But would they be giving up on Kanter too soon? Here's a solid piece from 1320 KFAN's Ben Anderson weighing the pros and cons of that decision:
Jazz General Manager Dennis Lindsey allowed Paul Millsap to leave in free agency to the Atlanta Hawks, hoping to clear up cap room for future roster additions, only to see the power forward qualify for two straight All-Star games, leading the Hawks to the Eastern Conference's best record this season. Lindsey won't want to mar his reputation by allowing another home-grown Jazz prospect to flourish in another franchise's hands.
And what of Gobert's future? To this point in his career, Gobert has appeared in fewer than 100 games, having started fewer than 10. Can the Jazz afford to move Kanter in order to clear room for such an unproven prospect? Seven-footers are unique, and when they click with a team, they are potential franchise changers, but injuries are always a concern, and there is a reason successful big men of Gobert's build are few and far between. If the Jazz were to bet the future on Gobert, only to see it derailed by obstacles outside of their control, Kanter could be a franchise saving spare piece, or the one who got away.
It's an enviable conundrum for an NBA team -- oh, three starting-caliber big men? WHAT A PREDICAMENT -- but it's one I don't have an answer to yet. On one hand, Gobert's ceiling is definitely higher than Kanter's. On the other...well, I'm tired of seeing former Jazzmen flourish on other teams, like Millsap and Kyle Korver (both now All-Stars in Atlanta this season). I'd hate to see the same thing happen with Kanter. At the very least, it'll be an interesting story to watch as the trade deadline nears.
We've had a tumultuous relationship with rookie rankings so far this season. With three first-year prospects in solid rotation, almost every column devoted to rookie analysis has mentioned a Jazz player. But now a fourth rookie has gotten some love from CBS Sports' Sean Vecenie: the newly-contracted Elijah Millsap:
Finally, Elijah Millsap earned himself a full-season contract with team options for two more due to his hot shooting and defensive acumen in Utah. It's nice to see the Millsap tradition live on in the state after the Jazz were responsible for kickstarting his brother Paul's career prior to him flourishing with Atlanta over the last two seasons.
Truthfully, Millsap The Younger probably wouldn't be sniffing the Jazz lineup if not for injuries to fellow rookies Rodney Hood and Joe Ingles, not to mention Alec Burks. (Geez, we've had way too many SG/SF injuries, haven't we?) But he's been doing the most with his role, and it's nice to see him get some recognition.
Aw, man, that gif is bumming me out. Let's just move on to FanPosts.
Here's parelkid finishing his look at whether this year's Jazz team is better off than last year's:
To put it simply, both our offense and defense are each swinging the average score pendulum in our direction by about 2 points, meaning we are keeping games about 4 points closer than we were last year at this time. This is the difference between losing by more than two 3-pointers and losing by less than one 3-pointer. In perspective of possessions, this season on average we lose by 1 maybe 2 possessions (or one blown call in some games), and last season at this time we lost by 3+ possessions. By the end of the season last year we were losing by 4 possessions. The standard deviations also tell us that our offense is probably more consistent than last year's, while our defense is about as erratic as before game-to-game despite being better overall. Unless you were to compare standard deviations with the entirety of last season, in which case our defense is also ever so slightly more consistent this year. So I think it's safe to say we're making the steps we were hoping for, even if we're not seeing those stack up in the wins column. So keep being accepting.
And hansenjames compares Dante to a lump of clay, in a good way. Read, I say! It'll make your day!
Many moments in my life watching Stockton and Malone were done while my dad worked with clay. For some reason I thought of that tonight while watching the Jazz and Exum. I realized that Exum is a lump of clay. A prize, expensive lump of clay. But, still, just a lump of clay.
But, the neat thing about clay is, it's moldable. It can be formed into something if you work with it. But it takes time and patience. We've seen this year that Quin absolutely knows how to work with clay and can mold different players into something nice.
Okay, no more rhyming.
Presented without comment: Charles Barkley vs. advanced stats.
Presented without comment: Nick Young vs. dolphins.
The Lakers' reserve guard wore a huge smile, as usual, and a black sweater with the word "ROMANTIC" stretched across the front, a timely message with Valentine's Day looming and with Young recently saying he just needs some "love" this month to get his slumping game back on track.
Young then proceeded to stand in front of his locker and, with complete seriousness, recount an instance in which, he said, a dolphin tried to kill him.
Well, then. (Click through for the rest of the tail. Er, tale.)