We just finished the “contract watch” for two-time reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finally signed the Milwaukee Bucks’ supermax offer earlier this week.
Before we could take a breather, there’s a new one on tap: Rudy Gobert’s for the Utah Jazz. He’s nowhere near the superstar that Giannis is, but he’s a valuable All-Star too, so other teams ought to be on the lookout.
Gobert is entering his eighth season in the league, all of which are with the Jazz. He has shown no signs of wanting out of Utah’s small market, but just like any player, he wants to get paid, like supermax-type of paid.
The negotiation is unlike Giannis’s case, wherein the team star just wants to be surrounded with better players. It’s not particularly about skill too, since Gobert is one of the best at the center position, having been a three-time All-NBA and four-time All-Defensive Team member, as well as a two-time Defensive Player of the Year winner.
The question mark is on the Jazz’s side, obviously, and it’s most probably rooted on the change that has altered game. With the faster pace, higher volume of outside shots, and all, it’s not a big man-driven league anymore – 10, 20 years ago, Gobert would’ve gotten a supermax in a snap, but now, bigs would have to be defensive and also be reliable from outside the paint, enough to add spacing on the floor.
However, it didn’t help that he had a tough time imposing his defense – his supposed forte – on Denver Nuggets counterpart Nikola Jokic in their 2020 playoff match-up. The Jazz got bounced by blowing a 3-1 series lead, with Gobert giving up 27.7 PPG to Jokic in those three consecutive defeats.
The December 22 deadline awfully close and Jazz fans should hope there’s a solid back-up plan. We’ll soon see if the Jazz’s new owner, Ryan Smith, who was officially welcomed by the NBA board today, can work something out. He’s a 40-year-old billionaire businessman, so he should be able to have a ton tricks up his sleeve.
For now, we can only assume that they’ll place the Frenchman on the trading block if a deal isn’t likely, where they can at least get something in return. Back in 2017, it was too late before they realized their then-All-Star Gordon Hayward was intent on signing elsewhere.
Once trade talks begin – if Utah indeed goes down that road – look for the Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, and Dallas Mavericks to be the top suitors. All are nice fits for a giant defender like Gobert, who’s only 28 and is still in his prime.