Timberwolves

Rudy Gobert Is Facing the Same All-Star Bias He Did Five Years Ago

Photo Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Five years ago, former Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder sounded like a Minnesota Timberwolves fan today. “Rudy Gobert should absolutely be an All-Star,” he said in an ESPN interview on February 2, 2019. “He’s one of the most impactful players in the league,” Snyder continued. “This is clear, not subjective, and shows the process of selecting All-Stars is flawed.”

“For all the kids watching,” Gobert told reporters in 2019, “you’re basically telling them that defense doesn’t matter, that winning doesn’t matter.”

Gobert struggles with the same reality on the first-place Timberwolves. Defense doesn’t matter as much as offense in the eyes of many fans, players, and coaches. Likewise, winning doesn’t matter as much as the team you play for. The Los Angeles Lakers had two All-Stars even though they’re ninth in the Western Conference.

The fans’ collective outcry for Gobert has been audible to the Wolves fans who have been starved of winning for so long. After a disappointing, injury-plagued first season, Gobert has returned to being a defensive force again. In addition to his defensive, his screen setting and offensive efficiency numbers have also returned to his former All-Star levels. Doesn’t that mean Gobert deserves an All-Star spot?

In 2023-24, Gobert anchored the league’s best defense on the top team in the Western Conference. Minnesota has a 108.6 defensive rating, 2.2 better than the second-place Cleveland Cavaliers. Gobert anchors the defense with his 105.9 rating.

Gobert’s defensive rating is 2.7 points better than the team’s, suggesting that the Wolves are significantly better with him on the court. Cleaning the glass’s on-off numbers confirms that, showing that the team allows 5.7 fewer points per one hundred possessions when Gobert is on the court versus off.

His traditional stats have also been outstanding. He has 2.1 blocks per game and 0.6 steals per game, and averages 12.4 rebounds. Gobert has averaged 2.1 blocks, 0.7 steals, and 11.7 rebounds in his career.

Compare Gobert to other All-Star reserves not named Karl-Anthony Towns or Anthony Edwards, and you’ll see the gap in defensive ratings:

  • Kawhi Leonard
    • 113.5 team rating
    • 109.3 individual rating
    • +4.2 net difference
  • Anthony Davis
    • 114.7 team rating
    • 115.8 individual rating
    • -1.1 net difference
  • Paul George
    • 113.5 team rating
    • 111.6 individual rating
    • +1.9 net difference
  • Stephen Curry
    • 117.7 Team rating
    • 119.6 individual rating
    • -2.1 net difference
  • Devin Booker
    • 115.3 Team rating
    • 114.3 Individual rating
    • +1.0 net difference

Gobert has a +2.7 net difference between team and individual defensive rating, better than everyone but Leonard. While defensive rating factors in the talent around each player, the difference between individual and team ratings suggests that an already good defense becomes truly elite when Gobert plays. Given the large sample size of minutes played by each player listed above, the net difference gives a clearer look at the player’s impact on the court. Gobert has an All-Star-level defensive rating.

But it’s harder to make a case for Gobert offensively. Gobert is averaging 13.4 points per game, ranking him 111th in the NBA. Gobert’s 1.2 assists per game also doesn’t help his case, ranking him 47th among centers and 292nd in the league. However, traditional stats have never shown Gobert’s offensive value.

Gobert has a 115.6 offensive rating, the second-best of his career and fifth-highest on the Wolves. That’s largely because Gobert posted a career-low 12.2 turnover ratio, which measures his turnovers per 100 possessions. Gobert’s 65.7% true shooting percentage ranks tenth in the NBA among all players who play 25 or more minutes per game. The combination of not turning the ball over with efficient shooting has made Gobert a crucial ancillary piece in Minnesota’s offense.

Gobert’s ability to set screens and absorb defenders might be his best attribute. NBA.com tracks screen assists. Gobert is seventh in the NBA at 4.6 assists per game, resulting in an estimated 10.9 points per game. His 10.9 screen assist points rank only behind Domantas Sabonis and Jalen Duren. Gobert’s ability to set screens that result in points has been a large part of Minnesota’s offense and isn’t reflected in a typical box score.

Below is one of Minnesota’s go-to plays when they need a basket, where Mike Conley uses a Gobert handoff and screen to make a pull-up three:

Rudy Gobert’s All-Star Case has complicated his entire career. Gobert is elite defensively, perhaps playing the best defense in his 11-year career, including three Defensive Player of the Year awards.

Gobert is phenomenal at the more physical offensive tasks, like setting screens and battling around the rim. However, those benefits are often overlooked in an offensive league because they do not show up on the box score. Gobert is arguably more deserving of an All-Star than some other players.

Regardless of his snub, Gobert may have said it best himself after the 2019 snub. “I’m grateful,” he said, “for the team I have.” Wolves fans can say the same because they have Rudy Gobert.

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