Gobert-ing against the grain: Rudy’s fourth quarter success for the Utah Jazz

Rudy Gobert is one of the most impactful fourth quarter players for the Utah Jazz. His defensive presence and offensive efficiency keeps him on the floor during the game’s final minutes when most seven-footers see the bench.

For a number of years now, the NBA has seen a trend where teams are deciding to play frontcourt players who are more shooters, consistently hitting anything from floaters, mid-range jumpers and three-pointers, rather than lowpost-only bigs.

Teams like these types of athletes at the center and forward spots, especially in tight moments near the end of the game, because their shooting ability creates space and spreads the floor, creating more opportunities to score from the perimeter. Think about former Utah Jazz players Mehmet Okur and Al Jefferson.

This strategy usually leaves traditional non-shooting bigs on the bench during the final minutes of a close game–players who are efficient close to the rim but lack shotmaking skills and generally struggle guarding every position on the floor. However, one old-fashion frontcourt star who is breaking this trend is the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert.

The seven-foot-one center is averaging 8.3 fourth-quarter minutes a game, the most by any starter in the league seven feet or taller and the second-most by a Utah Jazz player, trailing only Donovan Mitchell.

This year, Gobert is averaging four points a game in the fourth quarter, trailing on Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic, while shooting the team’s second-best percentage from the field in the fourth, hitting 66.7 percent of his shots. He also averages 1.8 free throw attempts per fourth quarter, tying Donovan Mitchell for most on the team.

His ability to extend and earn the Jazz possessions is also a leading factor for his fourth-quarter play. Gobert averages 3.4 rebounds per final quarter, which leads the team and the league for anyone seven-feet or taller.

Gobert’s defensive abilities are what make him a star in the NBA. The reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year averages a half-block per fourth quarter, which leads the team and is tied for fifth in the league.

At the end of the day, the math that determines a winner in basketball is very easy–whoever scores the most points wins. This is what makes Gobert the most valuable asset for the Utah Jazz. His average fourth quarter plus/minus score is 1.4, meaning when Gobert is on the floor during the last frame of the game, the Jazz score 1.4 more points than their opponent.

Simply said, the Jazz win more games than not when Gobert is playing in the fourth quarter.

Whether he’s scoring from the field, drawing fouls and shooting free throws, rebounding the ball, or blocking shots, Gobert’s clutch play is winning games for the Jazz. He’s a big man anomaly. Non-shooting bigs are usually played off of the floor in the fourth, but not Gobert. Rudy plays–and wins–the most critical, final possessions of the game.