Exploring why 3-time DPOY Rudy Gobert is heavily disrespected despite boasting a Hall of Fame career resume

Denver Nuggets v Minnesota Timberwolves - Game Four
Rudy Gobert with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2023

It's no secret that Rudy Gobert is not the most liked center in the league, despite a Hall of Fame-worthy resume.

He's not targeted by many teams regardless of his defensive talent and three DPOY trophies. The Utah Jazz were mocked for giving the Frenchman a $200 million extension in 2020. When the trade to Minnesota was announced last summer, social media erupted in laughter, with many criticizing the Timberwolves for overpaying for Gobert's services.

So, why is Rudy Gobert so disrespected in the league? He certainly has the accolades and statistics to back up his talent. He has consistently averaged a double-double for the last seven seasons along with excellent defense. He led the league in blocks in 2017 and has had over two blocks a game in a season eight times in his 10-year career.

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However, the 7-foot-1 center has never been recognized as a winning player in his NBA career.

The Utah Jazz eventually gave up and entered a rebuild, and the Minnesota experiment has certainly not worked out so far. Let's take a look at why Rudy Gobert has a negative image in the league.


Why is Rudy Gobert disrespected in the NBA?

Rudy Gobert of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2023 NBA playoffs.
Rudy Gobert of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2023 NBA playoffs.

It's easy to say Rudy Gobert is playing in the wrong generation. He would have been a force to reckon with during the less spacing era of the 20th century. Now, the game is a lot quicker with too much shooting and spacing, often deeming traditional defensive centers like Gobert useless.

Let's take a look at his game. Gobert is infamous for having little to no offensive skillset. His primary contribution to the team is on defense, and in a league that values scoring and shooting more than anything else, Gobert is the antithesis of the ideal player.

He averages close to 14 points a game, and almost all his points come via either assists or offensive rebounds leading to putbacks. He needs to be set up for a shot under the rim through a playmaking ball-handler, as he hardly ever creates his own shot.

Gobert shoots 79% of his shots within three feet from the basket and less than 1% from beyond 10 feet. Needless to say, he has no jumpshot, and one has rarely seen him use his post moves and footwork to get a bucket.

Whenever he does try to dribble the ball or is left to create his own shot, the possession often ends in a "Shaqtin A Fool" moment. The endless highlights of missed layups, turnovers and awkward attempts doesn't help his case.

Gobert also cannot make plays out of the post like many centers can today and has never averaged over two assists per game in his career.

Moreover, even his defensive prowess diminishes in the postseason. He's often dubbed as a regular-season player who cannot produce in the playoffs. NBA analyst Nick Wright said on his show 'First Things First' last year:

"I've never seen a player in any sport be so clearly impactful in a positive way in the regular season and then not just useless in the postseason but a clear detriment in the postseason as Rudy Gobert."

Rudy Gobert's teams have consistently deteriorated in the postseason on both sides of the court.

The alarming factor is that the team's defense worsens, too. The Utah Jazz, at the height of their recent postseason runs with Donovan Mitchell and Gobert, dropped nearly 2-5 points in defensive rating in the postseason compared to the regular season. Opponents posted a 3 to 4-point increase in their offensive rating in the playoffs than they did against the Jazz in the regular season.

The drop in efficiency is not entirely Gobert's fault, but he's certainly the one blamed for it. The Frenchman plays mainly in the paint, and opposing teams capitalize on that and hunt for open threes.

Instead of running to the rim and finding the "Stifle Tower," teams instead set screens at the 3-point line for the player that Gobert is supposed to be guarding. The offense is aware that Gobert is incapable of guarding the perimeter and will sag off in the paint or the elbow. This defensive scheme is called "drop coverage."

During the 2021 Western Conference semifinals, the LA Clippers exploited Gobert camping in the paint and constantly used the drop coverage to launch open threes. In Game 6 of the series, then-sophomore Terance Mann dropped 39 points on 71% shooting with seven 3-pointers using this strategy.

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In the 2022 first-round series against the Dallas, the Mavericks deployed the same strategy and used Maxi Kleber as a stretch-five to take advantage of Gobert's drop. Kleber made 8 threes in Game 2 of that series.

It's easier to keep passing until you find an open man on the perimeter than attacking the paint and challenging Gobert at the basket, especially in the modern era when players are encouraged to launch more threes. Gobert's rim protection is often overlooked due to this phenomenon, and hence, his image has taken a beating.

As mentioned above, the drop in defensive efficiency is not entirely Gobert's fault. He rotates at the right time and provides help defense when necessary, but his teammates have always been poor at defending the point of attack.

Many 3-point attempts would have been wide-open layups if the big man hadn't rotated over at the right time.


Can Rudy Gobert fix his reputation?

Anthony Edwards and Rudy Gobert with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2023 NBA playoffs
Anthony Edwards and Rudy Gobert with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2023 NBA playoffs

Rudy Gobert has had the misfortune of playing with a lot of poor perimeter defenders, which makes his job tougher. His time in Salt Lake City didn't amount to anything except individual honors, but he needs to capitalize on the opportunity he has with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The front office certainly needs to acquire more defenders in the backcourt, and the coaching staff needs to figure out a usable substitution pattern for him and Karl-Anthony Towns. However, Gobert definitely needs to work on his offensive skills if he wants to improve his reputation.

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Edited by Bhargav
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