SANTA MONICA, Calif. (ABC4 Sports) – The Stifle Tower reigns again.
For the second straight year, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, joining Mark Eaton as the only Jazz players to win the award twice.
Gobert is the first Jazz player to win the award in consecutive years. Eaton won it in 1985 and 1989. He is the 10th player in NBA history to win the award multiple times, joining Eaton, Kawhi Leonard, Dwight Howard, Dikembe Mutombo, Ben Wallace, Alonzo Mourning, Dennis Rodman, Hakeem Olajuwon and Sidney Moncrief.
Gobert received 65 first place votes, beating out Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (26 votes) and Oklahoma City’s Paul George (6) to win the award.
“It’s all my teammates,” Gobert said after accepting the award. “I say this all the time, but it’s a team game and when you have guys that bring it out every night, come everyday with the same focus and compete like we do, it’s inspirational.”
Gobert finished his sixth NBA season averaging career-highs in points per game (15.9), rebounds (12.9) and assists per contest (2.0). For the third-straight year, he was the anchor of a top-three NBA defense helping the Jazz hold a defensive rating of 105.2, which was the second best defensive rating in the NBA in 2018-19. The 26-year-old led Utah in rebounding average and the team had the best defensive rebound percentage (.759) of any team in the NBA last season.
“From the coaching staff, Quin, who is just a little competitive,” Gobert said, “to the Jazz organization, the Miller family, it’s just unbelievable for me.”
The back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year posted the best defensive box plus-minus (5.0) in the NBA, ranked second in defensive win shares (5.7) and ranked fourth overall in defensive rating (100.4) among all qualified players. He contested the second most shots per contest (16.0), also swatting away the second most shots in the League (187). Over the last three seasons, no NBA player has more blocks than Gobert (530).
Looking back at how far he has come in his career, Gobert seemed to be in disbelief.
“It means a lot,” he said at the post-show press conference after accepting the award. “I never thought I would be able to do [that]. When I started basketball, playing in France, I didn’t know any NBA players. I didn’t know anything about basketball, really. I was just having fun. I started to become more competitive year after year. Eventually I made it to the NBA, and I standing here today. So, I’m just very grateful.”
In addition to his contributions on the defensive end, Gobert led the League in field goal percentage (.669) and became only the second player in NBA history to total over 1,200 points, 1,000 rebounds, while also shooting over 65 percent in a single season, joining Wilt Chamberlain (1966-67). He finished with a league-record 306 slam dunks and totaled 66 double-doubles (second most in NBA), which was a franchise record for most point-rebound double-doubles in a single season (previously, Karl Malone with 62 in 1987-88).