Going into the 2021-22 NBA season, Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz have made their goals for the year clear.
As a team, the Jazz felt they had the kind of group that could bring Salt Lake City its first title — especially with Gobert anchoring one of the best defensive units in the league.
Individually, Gobert wanted to win another Defensive Player of the Year award, which would have been his third straight win and would tie him most times winning the award in league history.
Alas, Gobert and the Jazz didn’t achieve their ultimate goals, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of. While Utah may not hold the Larry O’Brien Trophy this year, Gobert had arguably the best season overall of his nine-year career.
“Rudy is rated on a lot of different things, sometimes two at the same time,” head coach Quin Snyder said. “The fact that we’re even doing this analysis of a guy who can actually protect the rim and go out and challenge all three says a lot about what he’s capable of. His ability to do that is key to how we play in defense.”
He finished the year second in the NBA with 53 double-doubles, an average of 15.6 points and a career-high 14.7 rebounds. He also posted career highs in field goal percentage (71.3% – league highs) and free throw (69%).
Even with his impressive offensive stats, Gobert still finished third in the NBA’s DPOY voting, cementing his spot as the league’s premier defensive big man.
Despite his position as one of the greatest defensive players of all time, Gobert has always faced an insane amount of criticism. Many from players, coaches and the media alike don’t give Gobert the respect he deserves – a notion he doesn’t care about as long as the Jazz win.
“If anything, when people keep talking about you, if they’re talking about you in some way, it means you’re doing something right,” Gobert said. “If anything, the more noise there is, the harder it becomes to take these people seriously. When you excel at what you do, the world will recognize you for who you are and what you do. …C is my state of mind.”
Another year, another DPOY Award finalist.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) April 17, 2022
Although his defensive prowess is not up for debate, many in the league still question Gobert’s ability as a complete player. They consistently hit on his perceived lack of attacking play, seeing him as a mere dunker rather than a goalscorer.
He added an array of skills on the attacking side of the ball. From a eurostep to a mini-jumper and the ability to play under control and find the open man, Gobert has proven himself to be someone whose defenses need to account for that end of the field.
Gobert made NBA history this year, finishing with the best true shooting percentage in league history at 73.24%. He now holds five of the top 20 spots in league history.
“If you’re the best in the world at something, people get uncertain and try to discredit you,” Gobert said. “People are going to try to discredit what I do, what we do as a team. … It’s been the same all my career. I’m just going to keep winning awards, winning trophies and hopefully helping my team to win something bigger than that.”