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'When did he add that?' Gobert's offensive game has been there for awhile, but it's improving

(Scott G Winterton, KSL)



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SALT LAKE CITY — The Rudy Gobert "can’t play offense crowd" had a rough night on Wednesday in Utah's 129-96 shellacking of the Warriors.

The fact that the conversations still exist and that Gobert’s offensive ability is still a debate is frustrating to Jazz fans and even head-scratching to his teammates.

“What he brings to the table I don’t think you can find anywhere else,” Georges Niang said. “He comes to work every day, plays his tail off and he probably doesn’t get the credit that he deserves but that doesn’t matter to him. As long as we win games he is OK.”

But sometimes it’s hard for even the casual observer to deny Gobert’s skillset and impact. Wednesday against the Warriors was one of those nights.

When Gobert posted up Omari Spellman and dribbled into a running left-handed hook shot (or push shot — whatever you prefer to call it), it made Warriors TV play-by-play announcer Bob Fitzgerald wonder aloud, “When did he add that?”

Gobert probably won’t be shooting skyhooks with regularity any time soon — but it was that play that stood out to the people who don’t see Gobert play all the time. It was that play that provided evidence of the offensive game that so many have said is lacking.

But in that same game — heck, in the same quarter — Gobert showed time and time again, just how valuable he is on the offensive end.

Like when he made a quick cut into the paint as Donovan Mitchell set a back screen for him. Gobert caught a pass from Royce O'Neale and dunked it.

Or when he fired a bounce pass between two defenders to Joe Ingles for an easy layup.

Or when he dribbled in from the 3-point line, shook off Willie Cauley-Stein and then slammed it in for a two-hand dunk.

And that doesn’t account for the other five dunks he had in the first half of Wednesday’s blowout win. Or all the open shots he set up by rolling to the rim or just being on the baseline as an ever-looming threat.

“I think what has happened is regardless of who's defending him, he's been maybe the best at spacing,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “He hasn't sealed in the lane for too long. He's gotten flat on the baseline and created space for guy. And I think he's catching the ball so consistently, even outside his area.”

Mitchell has seen the improvement since he began playing with Gobert 2.5 seasons ago. He said that he’s more patient now, more confident in catching the ball and knows where to be to help his teammates the most.

“A lot of it is getting to right spots to attack and then has the angles to kind of get the drop-offs and lobs,” Mitchell said. “His roll definitely impacts a lot of the spacing because the guys have to come in and help and then we get out there and knock 3s down.”

The Jazz are the best 3-point shooting team in the league. Yes, they have great shooters, but Gobert is helping them get great shots.

“What he brings to his team is immeasurable,” Niang said. “People don’t understand that. They might look at stats and just judge it off that. How he impacts winning, you can never measure that.”

Well, you can — by wins. And the Jazz have now won 18 of their last 20 games. In those 20 contests, Gobert has been averaging nearly 17 points per game and 15 rebounds. He had 22 points and 15 boards on Wednesday. So, yes, he’s pretty good on the offensive end too. Even if some still refuse to see it.

“He's one of the guys it's put a lot of work in,” Snyder said. “And I think as much as anything, his footwork when he's catching the ball, he's doing some things, keeping his balance and finding people and finishing as a result.”

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