Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert earned NBA All-Defensive First Team honors yet again. But his eyes are likely set on an even more prestigious recognition.
With only three teams remaining in the NBA Playoffs, the attention for many basketball fans is beginning to turn towards end-of-season awards. While most won’t be announced until the NBA Awards Show on June 24, the All-NBA Teams are brought to light sooner. On Wednesday, the NBA All-Defensive Team was revealed, and to no one’s surprise, defensive ace Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz found himself on the list.
Rudy qualified as the center on the NBA All-Defensive First Team, beating out Joel Embiid who landed on the second team. Perhaps most exciting about Rudy’s selection is that he earned 97 out of a possible 100 first-team votes at center. He was joined on the first team by Eric Bledsoe, Marcus Smart, Paul George and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Meanwhile, the All-NBA Defensive Second Team was comprised of Jrue Holiday, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green and the aforementioned Embiid. This is no doubt a hearty group of defensive bulldogs, though many were quick to express chagrin at the fact that P.J. Tucker, Patrick Beverley and Myles Turner were left off the list.
I could certainly see each of those three being deserving over some who got nods, but with only 10 spots to award, there always will be snubs. That trio was among the top vote-getters that found themselves just outside of the list.
That aside, though, it was an exceptional sign for Utah Jazz fans to see the Stifle Tower earn his rightful place on the First Team All-Defense. Gobert was absolutely stellar on that end of the floor yet again this season, anchoring the league’s second best defense, posting 2.3 blocks per contest and altering shot after shot at the rim.
Additionally, per UtahJazz.com, Rudy Gobert also finished first in the league in box plus-minus (5.0), second in total blocks (187), second in shots contested per game (16) and fourth in defensive rating (100.4). Those are all great marks that paint a nice picture of what Gobert was able to do, but still don’t even quite do justice to the marvelous impact he has on the defensive end.
Although the First Team selection is a nice honor, there’s no doubting that it feels pretty much the norm for Gobert at this point. He knows that he’s asserted himself as a defensive force and should essentially expect himself to earn that nod at the center spot year after year. From here, the prize that he’s most certainly eyeing much more significantly is the coveted Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Rudy won that prize a year ago and is a finalist yet again for the recognition alongside Defensive First-Team teammates Paul George and Giannis Antetokounmpo, both of which are also ironically finalists for the MVP Award as well. It should be a tight contest between those three to see which one ultimately comes away with the award, but the fact that Gobert finished with such a high percentage of the First-Team center votes – 97 out of 100 – should bode well for his Defensive Player of the Year odds.
He’s certainly the choice among Jazz fans. Gobert remained prolific on that end of the floor, influencing the Jazz defense and hindering opposing teams in a way that few other players can replicate. Between swatting shots away, contesting any look coming his direction and forcing players out of the paint completely, there’s no questioning how revolutionary he is on defense.
Such a prolific gift could very well earn him a second straight Defensive Player of the Year Award, making him the first Jazzman ever to win it in back-to-back seasons. Mark Eaton won it twice as a member of the Utah Jazz, but it came in 1985 and 1989. Speaking of historical achievements, Gobert’s third-straight selection to the NBA All-Defensive First Team marks the first time a Jazz player has accomplished that feat since Karl Malone.
Outside of Gobert and Malone, John Stockton, Mark Eaton and Andrei Kirilenko are the only other Utah players to earn NBA All-Defensive honors.
So the announcement of earning first team is certainly a big deal, but not as big as the one Rudy hopes to hear in just over a month at the NBA Awards Show. He most definitely had the performance in 2018-19 to be worthy of a second straight Defensive Player of the Year Award. But will the voters reward him as such?
I predict that they will, especially based on how well he did in the All-Defensive vote getting. But we won’t know for sure until June 24th.