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SALT LAKE CITY — Rudy Gobert finished third in voting for the NBA's Most Improved Player award, behind winner Jimmy Butler and runner-up Draymond Green.
Twelve of the 175 members of the media placed Gobert first on their ballot, more than Green's 11 first-place votes. But Green's advantage in second-place votes, 43 to Gobert's 32, was enough to give Green the edge. Butler finished with 92 first-place selections. Full voting results for the NBA's Most Improved Player award can be found here.
Gobert's turnaround was remarkable. After playing in just 45 games for under 10 minutes per game in Ty Corbin's final season in Utah, Gobert played in all 82 games for the Jazz this season, averaging over 26 minutes per game. But it wasn't just Gobert's playing time that made the difference: his shooting percentage, free-throw percentage, rebounding, assisting, steals, turnovers, fouls and points all improved this season, even adjusted for the additional playing time he received.
But it was Gobert's impact on the defense that really changed the Jazz's fortunes. After Enes Kanter's trade, and Gobert's subsequent move to the starting lineup, the Jazz were the best defense in the league by nearly any metric, a shocking ascent given their last-place finish by defensive rating in the 2013-14 season.
On an individual level, Gobert's tall and lanky frame allowed him to alter shots other big men couldn't; Nylon Calculus' rim protection stats credit Gobert's defensive play with 3.32 points saved per 36 minutes, more than any other player in the NBA. Gobert blocked 7 percent of opponents' 2-point shots last season, also leading the league.
Walt Perrin, Jazz vice president of player personnel, spoke about Gobert in Thursday's pre-draft workout: "I was fortunate to see him play in France, then he came over here and just wowed us with his workout. The improvement has been outstanding. I think it's ahead of the curve that we had for him. And he still has a long way to go; he can still improve a lot more. The coaches are looking forward to working with him again this summer and seeing how much more improvement he has in his game."