Despite being a 3x Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert still gets disrespected for his impact on that side of the floor. Anthony Edwards and Patrick Beverley are the latest to do it.
Edwards and Beverley diminish Gobert's defense
Following yesterday's 136-104 loss to the Utah Jazz, the Timberwolves' backcourt duo took the liberty of criticizing the Frenchman, despite Utah outscoring the T-Wolves by 25 in Gobert's 31 minutes on the floor. Beverley, who returned for Minnesota after missing six games with a left adductor strain, called him out first for not always guarding the other team's best player -- Karl-Anthony Towns in this case.
"If I'm Defensive Player of the Year, I'm always guarding the best player no matter what," Beverley said. "I'm not roaming. It's no discredit to Royce O'Neale or any of the others on their team, but if I'm Defensive Player of the Year, I'm not guarding Royce O'Neale. I'm guarding Mike Conley, I'm guarding Donovan Mitchell, I'm guarding [Bojan} Bogdanovic. You got Rudy Gobert out there guarding [Jarred} Vanderbilt. And every time I hear he's Defensive Player of the Year. So, uh, whatever."
Gobert spent most of the game guarding Vanderbilt, who, despite playing the four, mainly occupied the area around the rim, allowing KAT to attack more from the perimeter and off the dribble. So instead of matching him up directly against Towns, Snyder decided to use Rudy as a safety guy anchored around the paint.
This is something the Jazz use a lot, especially against non-traditional outside-scoring dominant big men, turning Gobert into the ultimate help defender. And the stats show it's bearing fruit.
After winning their fifth straight game yesterday night, the Jazz now rank eighth in the league in DRtg (106.6). Gobert, the team's No.1 defensive guy, leads the league in rebounding while being tied with Steph Curry for No.1 in Win Shares. He is also third in the NBA in Defensive Win Shares and third in blocks — 2.2 per game.
But despite once again being the best defensive player on one of the best defensive teams in the association, it seems the 29-year-old still doesn't get the respect he deserves. Because, after Beverley called him out for ducking the toughest individual matchups, Anthony Edwards criticized one of Gobert's biggest defensive fortes -- his shot-blocking.
What is causing the disrespect?
Edwards and Beverley aren't the first players to diminish Gobert's defensive impact. Ben Simmons, runner-up to Rudy for last season's Defensive Player of The Year, criticized the Jazz big man for the lack of versatility after dropping 42 on him despite not being labeled a scorer.
I'm one of those guys who can guard one through five. Obviously, there's a lot of respect for Rudy. I know what he's capable of. I know he's great down there in the paint. But he's not guarding everybody, and that's just what it is. He guarded me in Utah. I had 42. And apparently I'm not a scorer.
Ben Simmons, The Jump
Gobert's defensive stats throughout the years speak volumes. The fact he's won three DPOYs -- tied for 2nd all-time -- is also a testament to how good of a defender he is. So why do his peers keep focusing on the anecdotal anomalies instead?
Shaquille O'Neal's slander against Rudy's $205 million extension might have something to do with it. Since then, the Frenchman went from being underrated to being overpaid, and it seems people are doing their best to come up with criticism that goes along with such a narrative.
The fact remains that Utah's big man is one of the best defenders in the NBA. And his impact was noticeable even in yesterday's win, despite not guarding KAT, or putting fear in Edwards' heart.