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Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert quietly excels offensively, too

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Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy raved about Jazz center Rudy Gobert earlier this season:

“There’s a couple things with Gobert. I think, obviously defensively, he’s really, really good. He’s got great timing. He moves his feet well on pick-and-rolls. He protects the rim. And then offensively, I think you’ve got to give him a lot of credit, too. He plays exactly the way they want him to play and exactly the way he needs to play for them to be successful. And if you watch, he is always in pick-and-rolls. So, they lead the league in pick-and-rolls per possessions, and a great majority of them are him. And he’s content to play that and role and just keep running pick-and-rolls. You don’t see him stopping down in the post and bringing the offense to a stop. He doesn’t get many post touches at all. But he’s content to play that way, and so their team plays really well. That guy is a winning basketball player. Quin and has his staff have done a great job developing him. He was obviously a great pick for them. And you’ve got to give him a lot of credit, because all he’s concerned about –.”

Van Gundy suddenly stopped himself.

“I don’t know the guy at all,” Van Gundy said.

But then the coach kept rolling.

“Just watching from the outside, all he’s concerned about is playing the way he needs to play for them to win,” Van Gundy said.

To watch Gobert is to believe you know him. He plays hard and selflessly with little fanfare. He’s the type of player coaches love and casual fans too often overlook.

This is the time of year someone like Gobert tends to get more credit. Everyone gets caught up in offense during the season, for the draft and in free agency. But even cursory consideration of Defensive Player of the Year or All-Defensive teams forces people to evaluate the other end of the floor, and Gobert shines there. He is – or at least should be – running neck and neck with Draymond Green for Defensive Player of the Year.

But don’t discount Gobert’s offense. Even though he averaged a modest 14.3 points per game, he contributes mightily on that end. He’s a compete player.

Just two players have ever surpassed Gobert’s 14.3 win shares in a season while averaging fewer than 15 points points per game: Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.

“I wish more fans would know much more than just the points,” Gobert said. “But I’m happy that it makes us better as a team.”

So, let’s talk about more than just the points. Gobert helps the Jazz offensively in three primary ways:

Screens

Gobert is a relentless screener, on and off the ball. He ranks second in the NBA in screen assists, screens for a teammate that directly lead to a made shot by that teammate:

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But screen assists don’t fully capture Gobert’s value as a screener. He participates in pick-and-rolls that will never see him get the ball, but his roll to the basket collapses the defense and frees someone else.

“There are some actions that we run that are literally worthless if Rudy is not screening,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said.

“We need to continue to reward him for his rolling.”

Scoring at the rim

It’s easier to reward Gobert for his Yeoman’s work, because he has become such an efficient scorer.

He shot 70.4% at the rim this season, up from 61% last year. And he’s doing it on a healthy seven attempts per game.

Though he has grown in many areas, this is the crux of Gobert’s Most Improved Player case.

Scoring at the rim isn’t just about field-goal percentage, because even most poor finishers are more efficient at the rim than players generally are from other areas on the court. Generating attempts at the rim is a skill, and Gobert has become stronger to get better position and developed his hands to catch passes inside.

Plotting all NBA players by shots at the rim per game and field-goal percentage at the rim shows Gobert with an elite combination:

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Maybe he should shoot more often.

“I can’t say enough about Rudy’s unselfishness on offense,” Snyder said. “And like I said, I think our players are aware of it. The more we can involve him and get him touches, we want to do that, too.”

Offensive rebounding

After setting so many screens and rolling so hard, once the ball goes up, Gobert tracks it. He grabbed 13.6% of available offensive rebounds, 12th in the NBA among qualifying players:

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That list contains many low-minute role players who expel all their energy chasing rebounds. This is only one of Gobert’s numerous responsibilities. And he handles them with aplomb – even if he doesn’t receive enough credit.

“People look at stats,” Gobert said. “Most people don’t watch the games. Only a few people watch the games, especially us, because national TV two times a year.”

The right stats show Gobert’s two-way effectiveness. His defense has become appreciated, but his offense remains underrated. The Jazz scored 4.1 more points 100 possessions with Gobert on the floor than off.

Part of that is Utah’s rotation. Gobert often plays with the Jazz’s talented other starters, including Gordon Hayward and George Hill (another underrated player).

But if you watch, Gobert wasn’t merely along for the ride. He helped plenty offensively.

Utah’s playoff games will be nationally televised. Watch and find out.

Celtics’ Jayson Tatum on playing at Disney World: ‘Still not excited, not thrilled’

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum
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Celtics forward Jayson Tatum wasn’t going to sit out the NBA’s resumption due to injury concerns. Players like Tatum got the enhanced insurance they wanted, anyway.

But that doesn’t mean Tatum is eager to go to Disney World.

Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston:

I don’t blame Tatum one bit. Players are facing tight lifestyle restrictions, including be separated from their families and friends for weeks. Coronavirus is an ever-present threat. There’s a very important protest movement sweeping the country.

Who can easily focus on basketball at a time like this?

Of course, Tatum decided the pros outweigh the cons. The money is substantial (for players collectively more so than Tatum individually, though there’s a case for all players to do their part for each other), and the Celtics have a chance to win a championship.

But before coronavirus, Tatum thought he’d get that money and title opportunity. The only new aspects are the downsides.

I appreciate Tatum’s openness about the situation. He’s certainly not alone in feeling this way.

Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions. It’s just the unfortunate reality of the pandemic.

Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie done for season after coronavirus diagnosis

Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie
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No Kevin Durant. No Kyrie Irving. No DeAndre Jordan. No Wilson Chandler. No Nicolas Claxton.

And now the Nets will be without Spencer Dinwiddie, who has been battling a symptomatic case of coronavirus.

Spencer Dinwiddie:

The Eastern Conference playoff race is shaping up to be ugly. The Nets are decimated. The Wizards won’t have their best and second-best players, Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans. The Magic will probably be without Jonathan Isaac (who looked so promising) and Al-Farouq Aminu.

I don’t know how Brooklyn will proceed. Tanking raises ethical questions in normal times. When sending players to an uncomfortable bubble in the midst of a pandemic, it’s especially troublesome.

But the Nets have a clear incentive: They’ll keep their first-round pick only if they miss the playoffs. Otherwise, it goes to the Timberwolves (via the Hawks from the Taurean Prince trade).

Presumably, Brooklyn – with a healthy Durant and Irving and maybe a third star – would convey a much later pick next season (when the pick is still lottery protected).

In the meantime, Caris LeVert can step up as lead guard with Irving and Dinwiddie sidelined. Chris Chiozza should get an opportunity at point guard. Garrett Temple can play a larger role. Tyler Johnson adds backcourt depth.

Jordan’s and Claxton’s absences leave Jarrett Allen as the Nets’ only option at center (which could be freeing after a season of having to look over his shoulder). But he could use a backup. Maybe Amir Johnson.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Johnson, 33, hasn’t played in the NBA this season. He spent the last couple seasons with the 76ers, becoming gradually less effective. But he’s a savvy veteran who should fit in quickly.

Wizards: Bradley Beal not playing in resumption due to shoulder injury

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The Wizards (24-40) were selected for the NBA’s resumption at Disney World despite their lousy record. They were the only Eastern Conference team outside playoff position to qualify, and the league set up a relatively easy path for reaching the playoffs. Washington (5.5 games behind the Magic, 6.0 games behind the Nets) just had to get within four games of eighth place to force play-in games. Brooklyn will be without  Kevin Durant, Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Wilson Chandler and Spencer Dinwiddie.

What a golden opportunity for the Wizards.

But their highest-paid player – John Wall, who declared himself 110% healthy – won’t play. Their second-best playerDavis Bertansdecided to sit out. And now their best player – Bradley Beal – is done for the season.

Wizards release:

The Washington Wizards announced today that guard Bradley Beal will not participate in the NBA’s 2019-20 season restart in Orlando due to a right rotator cuff injury.  The decision was made in full consultation with Wizards Chief of Athlete Care & Performance Daniel Medina, Wizards Orthopedist Dr. Wiemi Douoguih, Beal and his representation.

“Bradley did everything possible to be ready to play, but after closely monitoring his individual workouts we came to the conclusion that it was best for him to sit out the upcoming games in Orlando and avoid the risk of further injury,” said Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard.  “Although he was able to play through the majority of the season with the injury, the layoff from March until now did not leave any of us feeling comfortable that he would have enough time to be ready to perform at the extremely high level we are all accustomed to seeing and agreed that not participating in the games in Orlando was the right decision.”

Beal experienced discomfort with his shoulder early in the season and worked with the team’s medical and performance staff to manage the injury.  The symptoms worsened over the course of the hiatus and he began to rehabilitate the injury with the intent of returning to play.  He will not travel with the team to Orlando and will continue his rehabilitation process over the summer.

“This was a difficult decision and one that I did not take lightly as the leader of this team,” said Beal.  “I wanted to help my teammates compete for a playoff spot in Orlando, but also understand that this will be best for all of us in the long term.  I appreciate the support of my teammates, the fans and the entire organization and look forward to returning next season to continue the progress we have made.”

Pacers guard Victor Oladipo became the first star to choose to sit out. Is Beal the second?

It’s a gray area.

Oladipo missed more than a year with a torn right quad tendon, returned for just 13 games then had another long layoff due to the season being suspended. He increased risk of future injury as his reason not to play.

Washington is citing a current injury. If Beal isn’t healthy enough to play, he’s not healthy enough to play. Players get hurt all the time. It could be that simple.

But players are also incentivized to claim injury here regardless of their actual reason for not playing. Given Beal’s standing in the organization, of course the Wizards would go along with whatever he wants.

If deemed to be missing games due to injury rather than personal choice, Beal would protect at least $2,376,581 in base salary. (With league-wide revenue way down, no players are getting their full base salary this season.) Beal would also protect an additional $297,073 of base salary for each play-in and playoff game Washington plays up to a total of $4,159,016 in base salary.

But get real. The Wizards were already the worst continuing team. And that was with Beal.

Though anything can happen in this high-variance setup, Washington looks like it belongs in the second bubble.

Free agent Gerald Green had offers, chose not to play in Orlando restart

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Gerald Green is a free agent veteran wing who shot 35.4% from three last season — the kind of player a lot of teams could have used heading into the NBA’s restart in Orlando. He was traded by the Rockets and waived by the Nuggets at the trade deadline because a foot injury and surgery that sidelined him for the season, but the delay before the restart gave him extra time to get healthy and he was medically cleared.

However, as teams start to land in Orlando today, Green is still at home.

This is by choice, several teams were interested reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

The Rockets had traded Green at the deadline as part of the four-team Clint Capela deal, which took them out of the running to re-sign Green.

Green will have offers come free agency this October, but for now he will be home watching the NBA restart on television, just like the rest of us.