Jazz center Rudy Gobert has been known for at least half a decade as one of the premier defensive players in the NBA. Now, he is making a case as one of the best players in the NBA and a top candidate for the league's Most Valuable Player award.
Granted, it is early in the NBA season, but Gobert is averaging nearly 20 points and 20 rebounds per game for the 3-0 Jazz.
Gobert is a three-time defensive player of the year winner and two-time all-star who helped the Jazz to the best record in the NBA last season. When Gobert is on the floor the Jazz are nearly unbeatable and that bodes well for Gobert's MVP odds. Leading Vietnamese Sports betting site Bongdalu has Gobert 3rd in MVP votes behind LeBron James and Giannis.
It may come as a shock to the casual fan to have Gobert in their MVP mentions, after all most fans know Gobert for crying for not making the all-star team, or as being patient zero in the COVID-19 NBA shutdown. But Gobert has been dominant for years.
Gobert is a traditional center that does not play outside, at all. He wants to get the ball down low and wants you to bring the ball inside against him on defense. The Jazz defense is predicated on the wings driving the ball into the paint to try and go against Gobert - which often times fails.
One reason for Gobert's increased scoring, which was at 14 points last season, is Gobert's dramatic increase in free throw shooting. Last season Gobert shot around 60% from the line, this year he is at around 70%. He has also increased attempts from 5 to 10 a game.
In just the few games this season, Gobert has put up numbers that are only matched by Wilt Chamberlain. Chamberlain is the last player to but put 65 points and 65 rebounds through the first three games, and Gobert has now matched this.
The lack of strong defensive centers will also help Gobert reach this milestone, so long as the Jazz feed him the ball. The Jazz giving him the opportunity to accomplish this feat. The Jazz offense is built on three-point shooting, which Gobert is probably the worst three-point shooter on the Jazz. Gobert has also been picking up some scoring slack from Donovan Mitchell, who appears to not have fully recovered from last seasons ankle injury. But, the Jazz are a lot more efficient when Gobert is scoring. Gobert scoring down low will also open up more three-point attempts for the Jazz shooters as defenses will need to account for him
If Gobert can keep these numbers up, he will be a strong candidate for MVP. Despite having the best record in the NBA last year, the Jazz did not have a legitimate MVP candidate. a 20/20 average would be a remarkable feat in not just the modern NBA, but in NBA history. Wilt Chamberlain did it 10 times, and Nate Thurmond did it twice.
Gobert winning MVP would make back-to-back centers to win the award for the first time since 1994 and 1995 when David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon won the award. It might also signal a dramatic shift in basketball, with a bigger emphasis on the post.