It was announced tonight that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert is a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player NBA Awards.
Prior to Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the NBA on TNT squad announced the finalists for the all-new NBA Awards Show that will take place on June 26th on TNT. As expected, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was announced as a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year Award, but in what was somewhat of a surprise to some, he was named as a finalist for the Most Improved Player Award as well.
Many thought he was deserving of being in the conversation for Most Improved Player, so it wasn’t exactly a shock that he was a finalist, but it was indeed a pleasant surprise. However, it also truly is well deserved. Rudy elevated his scoring figures from 9.1 points per game last year to 14.0 in 2016-17. He also raised his field goal percentage from 56 percent to 66 percent, his rebounds from 11.0 to 12.8 and his blocks per game from 2.2 to a league-high 2.6.
It was astounding to see Gobert get even better on defense than he had already been, but the leap he took offensively was what helped take his game, and that of his team, to an entirely different level. Interestingly enough, in my recent Utah Jazz Team Awards, I selected Rudy as Utah’s Most Improved Player as well, so hopefully that will bode well for his chances at winning the league award.
Gobert is joined by the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic as Most Improved Player Award finalists. All three have a very compelling case and a legitimate argument for winning the award so it will likely be a tightly contested competition.
Among the NBA on TNT crew, Charles Barkley pinned Rudy Gobert as his selection for this award, so hopefully Chuck’s choice ends up holding true.
The award that of course is most befitting of Rudy Gobert, though, is Defensive Player of the Year, so it was great to see him officially as a finalist for that recognition. Not only did Rudy lead the league in blocks and anchor the best defense in the league in terms of opponent points per game, but he also was phenomenal in an outrageous number of defensive stats. For an incredible list, look no further than the tweet below from Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey.
Unfortunately, Rudy’s in for an uphill battle if he hopes to go from Defensive Player of the Year finalist to the actual winner, given that his fellow finalists are the star-studded Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors and Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs. Green has been considered the favorite for most of the year and of course a superstar two-way player like Leonard can never be discounted.
Green is often credited for his ability to switch and defend multiple positions while Leonard is praised for being able to shut guys down on the perimeter. Rudy, meanwhile is of course an impeccable rim protector known for defending the paint exceptionally and altering countless shots.
In truth, each of these guys could be the Defensive Player of the Year in their specific defensive styles. But I suppose that’s what the NBA All-Defensive Team is for, which all three will undoubtedly be a part of, and only one can arise as the true Defensive Player of the Year.
For what it’s worth, the NBA on TNT crew didn’t have much to say about Rudy Gobert’s chances of winning DPOY and talked much more about Leonard and Green. Unfortunately I think that’s rather representative of how the media members voting for the award winners will feel as well.
Of course I’d be thrilled to see Rudy win both of these awards but I have a feeling that he won’t end up winning either, even though I believe that particularly for the Defensive Player of the Year Award, he’s extremely deserving.
If I had to guess though, I’d say that Draymond Green will likely win DPOY while the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo, will probably win the MIP Award.
Nevertheless it’s great exposure for Gobert (and for the Utah Jazz) for him to be listed among the finalists for these prestigious awards. Rudy has taken massive strides this season and there’s no doubting that he is an absolutely incredible player with continued room to grow.
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I truly hope he proves me wrong and ends up winning one or both of these awards, however, even if he doesn’t, these nominations are further proof that Gobert is a rising star in this league and has an incredibly bright future with the Jazz.
And with that being the case, I can hardly wait to see the next steps that he takes in the 2017-18 season.