Rudy Gobert on NBA DPOY Race: 'Why Should I Be Penalized for Being Consistent?'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 7, 2022

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) looks on during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo/Nick Wass

Three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert doesn't want to be the victim of voter fatigue when the award is handed out this season.

The Utah Jazz star, the DPOY recipient in three of the last four seasons, told ESPN's Malika Andrews he might be a victim of his own success.

"If anybody else not named Rudy Gobert was doing what I do this year and having the impact that I have this year, they would be the frontrunner," he said.

Malika Andrews @malika_andrews

Rudy Gobert joined NBA Today to discuss DPOY: “If anybody else not named Rudy Gobert was doing what I do this year and having the impact that I have this year, they would be the frontrunner and it would be clear. … Why should I be penalized for being consistent year after year?” <a href="https://t.co/zR8u6ZDgbm">pic.twitter.com/zR8u6ZDgbm</a>

Gobert is averaging 11.1 defensive rebounds and 2.1 blocks, and a quick peek into the advanced metrics further solidifies his status as an elite defender.

He's third in defensive win shares (4.1) and tied for 13th in defensive box plus/minus (plus-1.7), per Basketball Reference.

According to NBA.com, the 7'1" center is holding opponents to 51.1 percent inside six feet and 48.8 percent inside 10 feet of the basket. Both figures are more than 10 percent lower their normal success rate.

ESPN's Tim MacMahon also noted how having Gobert on the floor has made a huge difference on defense for Utah:

Tim MacMahon @espn_macmahon

The most convincing case for Rudy Gobert to repeat as DPOY is Jazz's defensive rating with him on/off the court. Utah is 105.1 with him, which would rank first, and 112.3 without him (21st). The minus-7.2 difference is by far the best among top DPOY candidates. (1/2)

Voting on individual awards is always a subjective exercise, and that's especially true with Defensive Player of the Year.

Quantifying a player's contributions on defense remains difficult because outcomes aren't as binary as on offense. There's also the debate about whether the ability to guard multiple positions on the floor trumps being more of a rim protector like Gobert.

"I'm not taking anything from the bigs," Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart told ESPN's Tim Bontemps. "A vital part of the game is protecting the paint. But, as guards, we do a lot more before [our man] gets to the paint. ... Contesting the 3, contesting pullups, making sure he doesn't get to his spots."

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid offered a counter, arguing bigs occupy "the most important position on the floor."

"[Centers] call out all the coverages," he said to Bontemps. "They know what is going on. They call out the plays and stuff. That is the way it has always been. That's why most of the Defensive Players of the Year in the past have always been big."

One way or the other, this year's DPOY voting will fuel further discourse on the matter.