Utah Jazz could benefit from having to play without Rudy Gobert

Utah Jazz (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Utah Jazz might just have to learn some defensive lessons the hard way.

When the Utah Jazz (29-11) take the floor against the Toronto Raptors (17-23) in Tampa, Fla., at 6 p.m. MT Friday, they could be without two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert for the first time this season.

On Friday afternoon, the Jazz listed their one-man SWAT team as questionable versus the Raptors due to his left hip contusion.

So if the 28-year-old Gobert indeed sits this one out, Utah would be without an All-Star starter for the second night in a row. On Thursday, 33-year-old guard Mike Conley rested a sore right hamstring while the Jazz fell at the Washington Wizards (15-25) in ugly fashion, 131-122, marking the fifth loss in the past eight overall outings for the league leaders.

Utah Jazz desperately needing a blaring wake-up call

Now, an absence by Rudy Gobert wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. Well, that is so long as it doesn’t turn into a long-term thing; after all, consider that backup big man Derrick Favors has a defensive rating that is almost seven points lower than that of “The Stifle Tower.”

But as for a potential blessing in disguise if Gobert is stuck on the bench — the Frenchman missed only five games combined between the two previous seasons — most of the other Utah Jazz regulars appear to now require a force-feeding of defensive intensity given their slothful efforts on that end as of late.

And there’s arguably no better way to demand more energy on defense than to take the unit’s best defender, by far, completely out of the equation for a game or two.

Sure, the defensive woes have particularly been evident on the perimeter. However, they are obviously related to the perimeter players’ overreliance on Gobert’s presence in the paint.

Case in point, the Jazz allowed the Wizards backcourt tandem of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal to drop 78 points while shooting better than 50 percent from the field but with only 11 attempts beyond the arc.


It’s as if guys are too often assuming Gobert will wipe up any messes stemming from their apparent “spectator strategy” in guarding playmakers.

Plus, as Gobert himself implied to the media after the latest troubling defeat, the Jazzmen, in general, must delete the cruise-control option altogether now that the losses are beginning to pile up as the group’s confidence seems to be on the verge of a nosedive:

“We have to realize we haven’t accomplished [expletive]. We get upset when people laugh at us on TV and disrespect us, but it’s on us to have respect for ourselves and understand that we’re not the champions. We are not a team that can just cruise.”

Yes, the Utah Jazz could quickly find out that constantly mashing the cruise-control button, especially without Rudy Gobert, would be the equivalent of cruisin’ for a bruisin’.

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Yet maybe this squad needs to learn that lesson right away. Before it’s too late.