• Adam Bushman

Gobert and All-Star Weekend: A Perfect Match

Gobert’s game was uniquely perfect for the All-Star game, and gave critics exactly what they wanted: excitement


Rudy Gobert dominated the All-Star Game in limited minutes Sunday and provided plenty of excitement

Rudy Gobert is no stranger to critics.


He’s dealt with the snide remarks and the disbelief throughout his career.


"When I was a kid”, said Gobert after being announced as a 2020 NBA All-Star, “When I said I was going to be a professional player, people were laughing at me. Then when I said I was going to be in the NBA, people were laughing at me. Same when I said I was going to be an All-Star... it's pretty amazing to be there today.”


Unsurprisingly, fans around the NBA took to Twitter to throw shade Rudy’s way. Below are actual comments still floating around the Twitterverse bemoaning Gobert’s selection to the All-Star reserves.


“Unattractive playing style”

“Not sitting right”

“Not fun to watch”

“Basically useless”

“Sub in someone else”

“He isn’t even American”


Though stunningly insensitive, naive and embarrassing as they were, Gobert paid them no mind like usual. As he’s done every day of his career, he let his game do the talking.



In just 18.5 minutes of play, Rudy Gobert tallied 21 pts, 11 rbs, 2 ast, and 1 blk, amassing a 23.9 Game Score. That Game Score tied him with Giannis Antetokounmpo for the 2nd highest score.


As impressive as Gobert’s stat line was, many continue to argue that the All-Star game is all about excitement and highlights, not tallying numbers.


To say Gobert didn’t bring excitement and highlights to Sunday’s All-Star game is to admit you didn’t watch.


Rudy Gobert’s game was perfect for the 2020 All-Star game, and brought the excitement and highlights fans crave with his dunks, defense and clutch finishing.



Dunks


No play garners quite as much excitement in the NBA as the dunk.


Even in the modern NBA where teams are taking three-point shots at record rates, the dunk continues to be the most common highlight in SportsCenter’s Top 10. The dunk contest continues to be the most anticipated event on All-Star Saturday night.



Fans want to see rim-rocking dunks any way they can get them. Fortunately for the NBA All-Star game, they were blessed with the all-time single season leader in dunks.


Last season, Rudy Gobert broke Dwight Howard’s single season dunk record with 315 dunks. This year he continues to throw the ball through the hoop, leading the league again at 180.


Gobert leads fellow All-Stars by a handy margin: 33 more than Giannis Antetokounmpo, 52 more than Anthony Davis, 82 more than Ben Simmons, 117 more than LeBron James.


You get the idea: Gobert dunks more than anyone.


Through three quarters of Sunday’s All-Star game, both teams tallied 49 made dunks, 18 more than made three-pointers.


Eight out of Gobert’s ten made shots were dunks, many of which came in highlight fashion. Following many of these throw-downs, the reactions of fans in the stadium and fellow All-Stars were anything but reminiscent of Gobert’s social media critics.



Watch as Gobert follow-dunks Trae Young's missed three at the end of the 2nd quarter (video above).


Rudy makes an impressive, athletic play to secure the ball and then packs it with tremendous force. The reaction of Team Giannis' bench says it all: "OH MY"


"OH MY" moments are what the All-Star Game is all about. Rudy had many such moments, contributing mightily to the excitement of the game.



Defense


Casual fans and select media have always pointed to the All-Star Game being for and about offensive players. Of all arguments for Gobert not being an All-Star, this tends to be the most common.


Despite the game being offense-driven, these same fans and media routinely complain about the All-Star game not being competitive and that defense is an afterthought.

Ironic, no?


This year fans got what they wanted: more defense which lead to a more competitive game.

2019’s All-Star Game had the winning team (Team LeBron) posting a 140.1 ORTG. This year, Team LeBron posted a 120.1 ORTG.


Rudy Gobert, two-time DPOY, contributed to the improved defense in a big way. Of all players on both teams with 18 min played or greater, no one had a better personal DRTG than Gobert, who did not play in the defensive oriented 4th quarter.


Fans, media, and players fell in love with the new format, featuring the Elam Ending, where the final period has no game clock and instead requires the winning to to hit a target final score.


The 4th quarter of Sunday’s game had Team LeBron with a 102.7 ORTG. How fascinating that a predominately defensive period of the All-Star game was the favorite aspect of many.


How cool, and fitting, would it have been to watch the two-time DPOY continue to wreak havoc in the 4th quarter?


Not only did each team’s efficiency decrease with improved defense, but this year’s event saw an increase in steals + blocks from 24 in 2019 to 39 in 2020.


Gobert is extremely familiar with racking up the block highlights.


In January, Gobert led the Utah Jazz to a win over the Dallas Mavericks at home, sealing the victory with a chase-down block on the Mavs’ Delon Wright.



Rudy continued his block party in the All-Star game by swatting a routine layup attempt from Anthony Davis in the 2nd quarter (video above). The excitement resulting from that swat far exceeded the luster of a routine layup from the baseline.


Fans wanted more defense and got it. Rudy Gobert was a big part of why that aspect improved, and did so while also generating exciting highlights.



Clutch Plays


Part of the All-Star game appeal is seeing the best in the world go head-to-head with the best in the world. The bright lights, the clock tick ticking down, the defender in your face.


Though deprived of playing time in the 4th quarter, Gobert saw some clutch-esque time at the end of the 3rd Q, which sawTeam LeBron close the lead late.



With 12.4 seconds remaining, Team Giannis needed a bucket to tie the game. Trae Young, with Ben Simmons running him off the 3P line, threw a line-drive alley-oop to Gobert for the flush, tying the contest with 2 seconds left.


Just 30 seconds before, Gobert was hanging on the rim once again after receiving a pass in the pick and roll from Kyle Lowry.


Few players were able to contribute to important plays on Sunday with Team Giannis’ coach Nick Nurse avoiding substitutions.


Gobert, however, found himself in the thick of an important stretch in the 3rd quarter and provided as much value, if not more, than any other player.



On the surface, Rudy Gobert may not appear to be the ideal NBA player to entertain in All-Star weekend. His game, however, translated perfectly to that stage.


By bringing vicious dunks on nearly every made shot, Rudy brought what fans want and did so in highlight fashion.


Fans and media wanted more defense. Gobert was the perfect candidate to improve this area and did so in highlight fashion.


When things got hairy and plays needed making, Gobert was there to hold off Team LeBron and did so in highlight fashion.


Rudy Gobert was one of the brightest starts of the 2020 All-Star Game.



When adjusting Game Score to 36 min of play for each All-Star, Rudy still remains 2nd, far above players the casual fan would call "exciting", like James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Devin Booker.


Fans wanted entertainment and, like it or not, they got it from Rudy Gobert.


Haters gonna hate. Rudy didn’t win over every doubter with his performance.


But at this level, the presence of haters should actually be a compliment.


They wouldn’t hate if you were great.

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