NEW YORK – The road for the Utah Jazz to a possible NBA Finals berth runs through guard Donovan Mitchell. But that pathway is steered by the all-world defensive prowess of center Rudy Gobert. As great a player that Mitchell is, Utah would not have produced the NBA’s best record and earned the Western Conference’s top seed if not for the steady and dominating play of Gobert.
That became official when the league announced that Gobert has been named the 2020-21 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
This marks the third NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award for Gobert, who also earned the honor in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. The 7-1 French native is the fourth player to win the award at least three times, joining Dikembe Mutombo (four), Ben Wallace (four) and Dwight Howard (three).
Gobert received 84 first-place votes and earned 464 points from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters. Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons finished in second place with 287 points (15 first-place votes). Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, the 2016-17 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year, finished in third place with 76 points.
Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote.
In his eighth NBA season, Gobert led the league in defensive rebounds per game (10.1), total defensive rebounds (720) and total blocked shots (190) and ranked second in blocked shots per game (2.70). He recorded six games with least 15 defensive rebounds and eight games with five or more blocks. Gobert grabbed a season-high 20 defensive rebounds against the Warriors on March 14 and blocked a career-high nine shots against the Chicago Bulls on March 22.
According to NBA Advanced Stats, Gobert ranked second in the NBA in defensive win shares, which measures a player’s defensive impact on winning. He defended the most field goal attempts at the rim in the NBA (549) and held opponents to 50.1 percent shooting on those shots, the third-lowest mark among the 27 players who defended at least 300 shots at the rim this season.
Behind Gobert, Utah finished third in the NBA in defensive rating (107.5) and second in opponents’ field goal percentage (44.7). The strong defense helped propel the Jazz to a league-leading 52-20 record and the top seed in the Western Conference for the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
Selected as an NBA All-Star for the second time, Gobert averaged 14.3 points and 13.5 rebounds in 71 games this season. Gobert led the NBA in total rebounds (960) and ranked second in rebounds per game. He also shot an NBA-high 67.5 percent from the field, leading the league in that category for the second time in the last three seasons.
Gobert, the 27th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, has career averages of 12.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.24 blocks in 545 games, all with the Jazz. He was voted to the NBA All-Defensive First Team in each of the previous four seasons.
Featured Image Caption: October 25, 2019 © Mark Hammond/News4usonline – Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert in warmups before his team play the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.