SLAM Top 50: Rudy Gobert, No. 40

Checking in at No. 40 on the SLAM Top 50, Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz is in a category on his own.

Though there are 39 more players who have been projected by the composite of SLAM’s staff and contributing writers to have a bigger season than the 7-1, 24-year-old Frenchman, Gobert still can stake his claim as one of the most intriguing and unique prospects in the entire League. His impact on a game can be immense, albeit on just one end of the court.

Part of a 2013 draft-day trade in which Denver took him 27th overall, then traded him to the Jazz for a future second-round pick and cash, the lanky athlete made a quick impression in Utah. Midway through the 2014-15 season, the Jazz traded away their former third overall pick from a few years prior—Enes Kanter—after Gobert proved himself the future of that organization at center.

Despite missing 21 games last season in which he averaged 9.1 points per game, Gobert is in line for an extension on his contract with the Jazz that will most likely fall under the max category. For a guy who has yet to display the ability to catch the ball in the post and make a move to score with consistency, you might be asking, “What gives?”

Gobert will deserve every penny of a potential max contract, and it’s clear to see why if you have gotten the chance to see him play (you can’t be blamed if not because the Jazz were at the bottom of the national TV games played list the last few years).

Under coach Quin Snyder, the Jazz have developed an identity as one of the best defensive teams in the League since he took the gig and the insertion of Gobert into the starting lineup midway through Snyder’s first campaign is the primary reason why.

As the anchor, everything is funneled in from the perimeter to him and Gobert has been stellar thus far in that role. Last year he averaged 2.2 blocks and 11 boards, but perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Gobert’s defensive prowess is his ability to play with such a presence while rarely being in foul trouble.

His work on the glass, on both ends, is also a huge reason why Gobert is among the Top 50 (and climbing). He rarely relinquishes second-chance opportunities if the ball is within arm’s reach defensively, and he’s averaged 3.2 and 3.4 offensive rebounds per game the last two seasons.

Gobert’s length has been well documented (7-1 height, 7-9 wingspan and a standing reach of an absurd 9-7), but coupled with a fluid athleticism, some bounce and a frame that has continued to add mass and strength, he can be a fixture among the NBA’s best bigs so long as he remains healthy.

Offensively, he really has just been able to finish put-backs, throw down lobs or convert open dunks off drives and dishes from Jazz guards. At the free-throw line, he shot 57 percent a year ago but his shot doesn’t look so broken that repetition couldn’t help that number improve.

Entering his fourth season, any marked improvement offensively from Gobert would be icing on the cake for the Jazz who already rely on Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rodney Hood and Alec Burks for the bulk of their scoring punch.

As it stands now, they’ve already got their game-changing centerpiece defensively in Gobert. If he ever becomes half the threat on offense he is on D, he will be knocking on the door of the top 10 in the SLAM Top 50.

Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2016-17—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.

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