Mention Rudy Gobert and the first thing that comes to mind is his defense. The Jazz center is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and may well win the award again this season, Utah has a defensive net rating of just 92.2 when Gobert is on the court after the All-Star break, 14.5 points per 100 possessions better than when he sits.
However, Gobert can provide offense, too — he rolls to the rim, has soft hands, and knows how to finish at the rim.
Meaning he dunks. A lot.
In the second quarter of Utah’s win against Phoenix on Monday, Gobert finished off an alley-oop from Donovan Mitchell and it was Gobert’s 270th dunk of the season, setting an NBA single-season record (Dwight Howard held the record t 269 from his 2007-08 season; this stat has only been tracked since the 1997-98 season). Gobert averaged 3.7 dunks per game, just finishing plays around the rim as defenses focus on Mitchell, Joe Ingles, or can’t anticipate the passing of Ricky Rubio.
Gobert finished with five more dunks in the game as the Jazz almost had their own private dunk contest against the Suns’ interior defense. Gobert finished with 27 points and got the Gatorade shower for it.
Gobert isn’t going to be the only person passing Howard’s old record this season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has 262 dunks on the season. The race for most dunks this season is not over.
We just know it’s going at a record pace.
The NBA is financially incentivized to play more regular-season games to satisfy local-TV contracts.
How does that square with resuming play – currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic – with a play-in tournament and playoffs?
Marc Berman of the New York Post:
According to one source, getting some teams to a magical number of 70 regular-season games had been a goal, but in the last week has taken on less of a priority.
This stoppage is going to cost the NBA a lot of money. There’s no way around that. Not every source of revenue can be preserved. It’s about finding the optimal setup.
Importantly, canceling games could allow the NBA to reduce player salaries through force majeure. Of course, the union would consider that action when negotiating how to proceed.
LeBron James advocated for playing some regular-season games before the playoffs so everyone could get back into shape. But Steve Kerr called it very unlikely the Warriors would play another regular-season game. Perhaps, playoff-bound teams like the Lakers will play tune-up regular-season games while Golden State – the only team officially eliminated from the playoff race before the hiatus – doesn’t. It’d be a little odd to have such different formats, though. (Then again, these are odd times).
Considering this report, we ought to give more credence to the idea that Kerr knows something about the NBA’s plan and that the regular season is finished.
Nearly two weeks ago, the Lakers announced that two of their players tested positive for the coronavirus. “Both players are currently asymptomatic, in quarantine and under the care of the team’s physician… All players and members of the Lakers staff are being asked to continue to observe self-quarantine,” the Lakers said at that time.
On Tuesday, the team provided an update saying nobody on the team is showing any symptoms after a couple of weeks of quarantine.
“All Lakers players are currently symptom-free of COVID-19. The team will continue to follow the health and safety guidelines set by government officials, the Lakers and the NBA,” the statement said.
The Lakers’ players who tested positive were never publicly identified (in fitting with HIPAA regulations).
A total of 10 NBA players — plus five members of staff associated with teams — have tested positive for the virus that has upended life in the United States. None reportedly have had to be hospitalized. Players such as Marcus Smart and others have recovered and free from the virus.
The NBA remains suspended, with the league hoping to jump-start the playoffs in June, possibly with all the teams in one location.
The NBA draft is scheduled for June 25. Most expect that date to change as the coronavirus pandemic causes postponements around the world.
Apparently, the draft will come after the NBA season – whether the season is completed in a modified format or just cancelled.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
I think everybody in the league feels it’s almost impossible to have a draft if you still have a season that’s ongoing.
You can’t have a draft while teams are still playing. You can’t have some teams able to do trades because their season’s done and then some teams unable to do trades because they’re still playing.
It doesn’t strike me as difficult to hold the draft before the season ends. Teams wouldn’t be allowed to trade current players. The restriction would apply across the board, just like the interrupted pre-draft process. That’s not ideal, but compromises must be made amid this chaos.
Importantly, holding the draft sooner could appeal to both sides of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
It’d be an opportunity to hold a revenue-producing TV event. Obviously, drafted players wouldn’t attend a mass gathering. But with sports fans starved for content, people would watch the selections. A handshake with NBA commissioner Adam Silver is only a small part of the festivities.
The National Basketball Players Association should also push for an earlier draft. Prospects want information sooner so they can prepare for their next step – whether that’s the NBA, returning to college or playing overseas. That said, the union has bigger priorities than potential future members.
So, it’s easy to see why postponing the draft has gained momentum, even if that’s not a no-brainer solution.
The NBA season isn’t returning any time soon.
So, the closest thing you’ll get to live basketball on television is a video-game tournament between NBA players. The bracket has been revealed.
1. Kevin Durant (Nets)
2. Trae Young (Hawks)
3. Hassan Whiteside (Trail Blazers)
4. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
5. Devin Booker (Suns)
6. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)
7. Zach LaVine (Bulls)
8. Montrezl Harrell (Clippers)
9. Domantas Sabonis (Pacers)
10. Deandre Ayton (Suns)
11. DeMarcus Cousins (previously Lakers)
12. Michael Porter Jr. (Nuggets)
13. Rui Hachimura (Wizards)
14. Patrick Beverley (Clippers)
15. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
16. Derrick Jones Jr. (Heat)
I have questions:
- How does Hassan Whiteside have the same rating as Donovan Mitchell and a higher rating Devin Booker?
- Does being extremely online bode well for Kevin Durant?
- Is Donovan Mitchell, who spent his coronavirus isolation playing video games, in the best game shape?
- Will Zach LaVine redeem himself?
- Will players use their own teams? If so, will Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton both use the Suns, Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverley both use the Clippers? If not, the most interesting aspect of this tournament – to non-esports aficionados – could be reading way too much into which teams players pick.