Utah Jazz: Ranking Rudy Gobert among NBA’s top centers

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Utah Jazz
Nikola Vucevic (David Banks-USA TODAY Sports) /

3. Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic

2020-21 PER 22.9, VORP: 4.2, BPM: 5.1

For some fans of the Utah Jazz, this may add insult to injury. We’re ranking a player with a measly 0.2 Defensive Box Plus/Minus (DBPM) over the one-man Defensive Player of the Year dynasty Rudy Gobert?

Frankly, the numbers dictated the outcome, and the one they call Vooch paced Gobert by comfortable margins in both VORP and BPM. We have a hunch that might have something to do with offense.

Vucevic had a banner year in 2020-21, finishing out the season with 23.4 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. Offensively, there is little Vucevic can’t do. His 38.8% accuracy on 5.8 three-point attempts per game last season designate him as the first stretch-5 to appear on this list. Meanwhile, those 3.8 helpers a night belie a player with great positional passing chops. Those pair nicely with Vucevic’s lethal inside game. If the double team comes, he’s likely to find an assist from it, and if it doesn’t…the opposing squad likely has trouble.

The only factor holding Vucevic back is one that has likely held him back, to some extent, for his entire career: defense. With slow feet and an unexceptional wingspan, he’s below average whether protecting the rim or defending in space. His 0.9 blocks per night last season reflect these limitations.

Still, those who maintain that the game is, as they say, about a bucket, will love this placement. Vucevic created them in a multitude of ways for the Orlando Magic for a long time, and he’ll be plying his trade for the newly formed all-in, all-offense Chicago Bulls next season.