Should the San Antonio Spurs target the former Defensive Player of the Year?
With Giannis Antetokounmpo signing his supermax extension with the Milwaukee Bucks, the free-agent class of 2021 lost its biggest whale. But Utah Jazz center and former Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert, could be looking for his next team in a few month’s time. Should the San Antonio Spurs be interested?
According to ESPN’s Porter Larsen, Gobert and the Jazz are still far from agreeing to any sort of extension. Gobert is a perennial DPOY candidate who wants the supermax contract he feels he deserves. The Jazz have reportedly offered a simple max worth about 30 percent of their total cap space.
There are fair points on both sides of the table here. Gobert is a truly elite defender with multiple All-Defensive Team selections and Defensive Player of the Year awards to his name. Those kinds of players, regardless of position, are highly valuable.
From the Jazz’s perspective, Gobert hasn’t proved that he’s able to grow on offense. Outside of interior scoring, rebounding, and setting screens, he doesn’t offer too much on that end of the floor.
And, as a small-market team, the Jazz have to be wary of tying that much of their cap space to a player who hasn’t proven he can take them to the next level.
The Donovan Mitchell – Gobert combination has been bounced in the first round in both of the past two years. If Utah views that as their ceiling, why would they sign themselves up for five more years of the same?
All of this sets up Gobert and the Jazz for an interesting season in which his name will be frequently brought up in trade rumors. And if he’s not dealt before the deadline, he could just walk to a new team in the summer. Could the San Antonio Spurs be that new team?
Adding Rudy Gobert would be redundant for the San Antonio Spurs
There’s no doubt that Gobert is a talented player who could help the Spurs. They’ve got an aging frontcourt and don’t have too many players who look like they can lead the Spurs big man rotation after LaMarcus Aldridge‘s time with the team comes to an end. And it’s not every day that a former Defensive Player of the Year hits the open market.
But there’s also a huge element of redundancy here. San Antonio doesn’t have a ton of promising up and coming talent in their frontcourt but they did just sign Jakob Poeltl to a three-year extension. Adding a rough equivalent in Gobert would certainly complicate the team’s relationship with their newly signed big man.
I can sense some incoming pushback on that “rough equivalent” categorization so here’s a look at how the two players compared in their respective fourth seasons in the NBA on a per 100 possession basis.
- Gobert: 21.7 PTS, 19.8 TRB, 1.9 AST, 4.1 BLK, 0.9 STL
- Poeltl: 15.2 PTS, 15.3 TRB, 4.7 AST, 3.9 BLK, 1.5 STL
Gobert has a slight lead in points, rebounds, and blocks but he’s blown away by Poeltl’s passing ability and Jakob also has a slight edge in steals. But the biggest number is one that hasn’t been mentioned yet.
Gobert is looking for a supermax deal. He wouldn’t be able to get that from San Antonio but for argument’s sake, let’s just say that any deal he would sign with the Spurs would have an annual value of $30 million, a slight raise from his current average salary of $25.5 million.
Compare that to the extension that Poeltl and the Spurs just agreed on that will pay Poeltl an average salary of $8.8 million over the next three years. Is Gobert a better player right now than Poeltl is? Yes, he is. Is he worth three times as much as him? Hell no.
Signing Gobert just a few months after re-signing Poeltl would almost certainly result in the Spurs moving Poeltl to a new team. There’s no reason for them to have that much money tied up into two similar players so you’d have to think that situation ends with Poeltl heading out the door. Walking down that path would be a huge mistake for San Antonio.
As I pointed out just a few weeks ago, one of the calling cards of the San Antonio Spurs as an organization is that they truly, deeply care about their players as more than just assets. They’re thoughtful and detailed in how they deal with their guys.
Signing Gobert just months after having long conversations about how Poeltl can grow his role over the next three years would be a slap in the face of the Spurs young big man and would also be a black mark on the franchises record of being upfront and honest with their players.
A reputation takes a lifetime to build and only a moment to destroy. The Spurs have spent decades cultivating their reputation as a high character, thoughtful franchise. Throwing that away to sign a player who’s so similar to the guy they just re-signed would be an egregious lapse in judgment.
Even without Giannis, the free-agent class of 2021 is still loaded. And while Rudy Gobert will have no shortage of suitors if he hits the open market the San Antonio Spurs should absolutely not be one of them.