Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert lands at No. 15 in SI’s Top 100, beats out Gordon Hayward

Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert found himself listed 15th on Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 NBA Players list, one spot ahead of a particular former teammate.

In keeping a close eye on the release of Sports Illustrated’s list of Top 100 NBA Players, it was fun to see three members of the Utah Jazz – Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood – earn spots on the back half of the list. On Tuesday, SI revealed numbers 50-31 in which, unsurprisingly, no Jazz players were to be found, but on Wednesday as they put out 30-11, the newest face of the Jazz franchise found himself on the list.

That player, of course, is reigning All-NBA Second team and All-NBA Defensive first-teamer Rudy Gobert, who came in at number 15 overall.

Considering the caliber of guys who finished ahead of him as well as the fact that Gobert’s incredible 2016-17 season went rather uncelebrated by much of the national media, it was an extremely good spot to see him land at in this year’s edition of the Top 100. Although some fans who are unfamiliar with just how good Rudy is may take issue to his landing in the top 15, Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver set the record straight and had the following solid things to say:

"While the basketball intelligentsia now unanimously views Gobert (14 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 2.6 BPG) as one of the league’s elite defensive players, numerous statistical measures consider him one of the league’s elite players, period. The NBA’s leading shot-blocker and Defensive Player of the Year runner-up rebounded from a knee injury that marred his 2015-16 season to deliver a career year across the board in 2016-17. The 25-year-old center helped lead the Jazz to their first playoff series win since 2010 and set new career-highs in scoring, rebounds, blocks, and FG% while ranking second league-wide in Win Shares and eighth in both Real Plus-Minus and WARP. All things considered, Gobert was 2017’s biggest All-Star snub.Gobert’s development as an ultra-efficient pick-and-roll target aided his ascension. Not only did the Stifle Tower improve Utah’s No. 3 ranked defensive efficiency by 6.9 points when he took the court, he upped the Jazz’s improved offense by 4.1 points too. Although his range is strictly tied to the paint and his ball skills are limited, Gobert’s finishing ability and commitment to pursuing second-chance points will make him a key prong in Utah’s team-based approach to replacing Gordon Hayward’s offense. More importantly, Gobert’s proven ability to lead an elite defense, regardless of how many of his teammates might be injured at any given moment, makes him the best reason to believe in Utah’s post-Hayward chances. The Jazz might have lost their top scorer this summer, but they retained their most indispensable all-around player."

Golliver hit the nail on the head in my book as he touched on several aspects of Rudy’s game that many who haven’t watched him all that much likely wouldn’t know. I particularly enjoyed his final sentence where he referred to Rudy as Utah’s “most indispensable all-around player.”

Calling him such translates over very well to my next point. I’m certain several Jazz fans will be overjoyed to see that SI actually pinned Gobert higher on their top 100 than former Jazz All-Star Gordon Hayward. How much higher, you ask? Exactly one spot. Gordon Hayward came in at number 16, just behind Rudy Gobert.

There’s no question that Hayward was Utah’s best scorer last season. However, in terms of the player that had the most impact night in and night out, the nod has to go to Rudy Gobert. Not only was he the anchor of the defense, but he was also the heart and soul of the team who refused to ever take a play off and always sought to energize and motivate his teammates.

His impressive stats on both ends of the floor clearly earned him a top-15 bid and with a heightened role in 2017-18 as he hopes to ease some of the team’s burden after losing Gordon Hayward, he could potentially see himself take an even further rise among the NBA’s top talent.

It’s worth noting that Gobert also finished ahead of Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside who many have compared him to, and several have even attempted to argue is the superior player. While Whiteside is certainly a phenomenal player, his rim protection and offensive efficiency simply don’t match up to Rudy’s. Thus, it came as little surprise that he actually was named in the rankings a day prior to Gobert as he came in at number 34 overall.

At the end of the day, rankings such as these are a nice estimate and an exciting precursor to the NBA season. However, by and large they are little more than guesswork. Sure, there’s a lot of past data to base these projections off of and I very much respect the work of Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney. Nevertheless, specific circumstances, players on new teams and any combination of scenarios could drastically change how these rankings truly end up shaking out.

Next: Utah Jazz: Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio eye playoff bid

Still, it’s pretty cool to see Gobert receive some much deserved acclaim and I’m sure he will be motivated to prove that placing him ahead of his former teammate Gordon Hayward was no mistake and that even a respectable 15th overall isn’t good enough for where the Stifle Tower hopes to end up come season’s end.