As I’m sure you’ve seen by now, some NBA fans recently had the audacity to suggest that Rudy Gobert may become better or already is better than San Antonio Spurs legend Tony Parker, the greatest French NBA player ever by far.
There is absolutely no merit in that claim and is not worth a second Air Alamo article, but buried in the replies of Shannon Sharpe’s reminder that Tony Parker does in fact exist, I noticed a much more interesting and worthwhile argument.
Charles, I don’t know you, but I love you. Rudy Gobert is one of the best defenders in the league and an NBA All-Star. Boris Diaw had a long career but not many individual accomplishments outside of winning Most Improved Player in 2006. Maybe Charles is wrong and Gobert has already beat out Diaw, but Boris is still the more valuable player.
Defining value in basketball has less to do with individual talent and more to do with how well you have a leadership role on a winning team. If it was based on skill alone, LeBron James would have won the MVP award every single year since 2009. Diaw is a less talented player than Gobert, but he certainly brings more value to a team.
The first piece of evidence is that one ring is simply more than none. Gobert doesn’t have any, Diaw does. That’s pretty much it. Rings matter.
In 2009, Diaw left Phoenix for Charlotte. The next season, in his first full season in Charlotte, the Bobcats won nine more games than they had in the previous season. A few years later, when he joined the Spurs, San Antonio won eight more games than the previous season.
The case for Gobert improving his teams is much less compelling. Statistically, he scored more than Diaw but not by much, and Diaw was a floor spacer while Rudy roams the paint. Diaw is a much better passer as well, and while his defense was never on the level of Gobert, he played his role very well.
The 2016-17 season was when Gobert really broke out. He averaged double digits for the first time, he led the league in blocks, and his shooting percentage went up considerably from his first three seasons.
It should also be noted that in 2016-17, Gobert’s Utah Jazz won 51 games compared to only 40 the year prior. An 11-game increase is more than Diaw ever had during one of his transition years. In 2017-18, the Jazz won 48 games. Still good, but not as good as the year before.
So what made 2016-17 so special? Was it Gobert’s breakout? Or was it the fact that 2016-17 was the lone season Boris Diaw played in Utah? Draw your own conclusions, but personally, I think Diaw was largely responsible for those 11 extra wins.
Gobert has been in the league for eight seasons. During those years, his Jazz has only won more than 50 games twice. Once was this season when they finished first in the Western Conference and the other was in 2017 -- when the second-most valuable French player ever moved to Salt Lake and showed Gobert how to be a baller.