Utah Jazz: Buying or selling 3 more players’ rankings in ESPN top 100

Utah Jazz (Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz (Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Utah Jazz
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports) /

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert ESPN top 100 ranking: 25

It almost feels miraculous that in the modern NBA, a non-spacing, non-switching big like Gobert could be named the 25th best player in the National Basketball Association. While the league may be generally trending away from players like Gobert, he remains an exception, coming off a season in which he was awarded his 3rd Defensive Player of the Year award. Certainly, he deserves his 25th overall ranking: the only question is whether he deserves a higher one.

The player ranked one spot ahead of Gobert is essentially his antithesis in Karl-Anthony Towns. A former number-one overall pick, Towns epitomizes the modern big: in fact, he’s arguably the best shooting center in NBA history. In 2019-20, Towns hit 41.2% of his 7.9 three-point attempts per game. Those are marks any guard in the league not named Curry would be satisfied to hit.

On the other hand, for every advantage Towns has over the Utah Jazz rim protector on offense, he may give up an equal amount on the less glamorous end of the floor. A comparison between the two star centers actually amounts to an interesting case study on its own. Last season, Gobert bested Towns in both of the key metrics we’re using in this exercise. His PER of 23.5 edged KAT’s 23.1, and his VORP of 3.6 towers (pun intended) over Towns’ 2.7 mark.

Towns, amidst personal tragedy and health concerns, had a down year last season, and ESPN may be banking on a return to his prior form. His 26.5 PER in 2019-20 is much more reflective of the type of superstar he’s widely regarded to be. The question is, has Towns earned that benefit of the doubt?

Next season, he’ll be sharing the floor with burgeoning superstar Anthony Edwards, as well as a ball-dominant, offensively gifted point guard in D’Angelo Russell. There are no guarantees that KAT can find his former footing. Meanwhile, his already problematic defense hit a career-low last season as he posted as a 113 Defensive Rating. Gobert, on the other hand, posted a characteristically elite 101.

Nobody is necessarily saying that Rudy Gobert is better at basketball than Karl-Anthony Towns. He is, quite obviously, a significantly less skilled offensive player. However, it feels likely that he’ll contribute to winning more significantly for the Utah Jazz than Towns is likely to for his Timberwolves, and that makes ESPN’s ranking in this case questionable-at-best.

On the other hand, Zion Williamson’s 23rd ranking feels like an open-and-shut case. His 27.1 PER and 3.8 VORP exceed both Gobert and Towns’ marks in each metric, and at 21, improvement is the assumed outcome heading into the 2021-22 season.

Still, the placement of Towns over Gobert shouldn’t sit right with fans of the Utah Jazz.

Verdict: Sell