We’ve arrived at the final installment in our Utah Jazz Q&A. Yesterday we predicted the Jazz final record and what to expect come playoff time. Today, we look at Gordon Hayward’s, and Rudy Gobert’s, chances at making the NBA All-Star Game. Plus, our panel discusses NBA awards and accolades.
Will Hayward and/or Gobert make the All-Star roster?
John: One of them will, and I’m leaning toward Gobert. Hayward’s the third best SF in the West, and while most don’t consider Gobert the best center in the NBA, he’s arguably the best defensive player.
James: I think Rudy has the better chance to make it, just because I’m guessing there are coaches out there who’ve realized what we already know, Rudy’s the best center in the league. In the end it comes down to matchups, as well. I think Rudy has a better chance of beating out Deandre Jordan than Gordon does beating out a Klay Thompson, for example.
Greg: They damn well better make it. The Jazz are a playoff team, so you can scratch the whole “you shouldn’t be an All-Star on a losing team” argument. Also, both players are having career years and are top-five players at their respective positions.
Dan: Hayward will make it on the coaches’ vote. You can see by how teams approach Jazz games that coaches have a healthy respect for what Hayward can do. The way people around the league are talking, he’s no longer a cutesy candidate. People are talking about him like he’s already an All-Star. Rudy deserves the honor, but might have to wait and see if someone else has to duck out due to injury.
Ryan: As a Top 5 team in the West, the Jazz are definitely deserving of some All-Star representation and, in my estimation, both Hayward and Gobert have earned their spots. Whether or not they actually get them could be another matter entirely.
In my mind, their chances boil down to a couple of factors, assuming neither is named an All-Star starter. First, there’s the question of how many players the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers send to the game. I feel like the combined number should be around five or six, but it could be as many as eight or nine. Right off the top, things start to get tricky for the Jazz duo (and less than great for the league, in my opinion).
The second thing to watch, and one that is difficult to gauge, is how Western Conference coaches will view good players on bad or underperforming teams, i.e. Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Damian Lillard. I think all three are proven All-Stars. If all three make it, however, it could mean that one or both of Hayward and/or Gobert get left out.
The last thing to consider is injuries. For example, does someone like Blake Griffin play in the All-Star Game after missing time and, if not, does a Jazz player get the call as an injury replacement?
Time will tell.
Will Rudy Gobert win defensive player of the year or All-Defensive team honors?
John: Yes and yes. I still see the Jazz finishing as the #1 defensive team in the NBA, and that will primarily be because of Rudy Gobert.
James: He absolutely deserves it, but no. So much of these awards are popularity contests decided by people who probably spend a few seconds deciding on it after watching their 15th Warriors game of the season. Rudy has been out of this world this year, and the advanced numbers show it, but who’s to say if the people deciding will see it.
Greg: Right now, I think the award is his to lose. He leads the league in blocks and defensive efficiency while firmly establishing himself as the NBA’s premier rim protector. And when you look at his on and off-the-court numbers, his case becomes that much stronger.
If that’s not enough, then use the argument that Rudy is the best defensive player on the league’s best defensive team.
Also, if a player wins the Defensive Player of the Year, then he’s almost certain to make an All-Defensive Team. So the chances are looking pretty good for Rudy.
Dan: DPOY is a tough get while Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green have bigger names, but he’ll finish top-3 in the voting and should definitely win All-Defense.
Ryan: Should he? Absolutely. For my money, he changes the game defensively more than any player in the league. However, given the way he’s been snubbed by voters in the past, I have a hard time making any sort of declaration about Gobert bringing home the year-end hardware.
You should seriously look at some of the All-Defensive ballots from the last two years. Insanity abounds.
With the Jazz now among the Top 8 or so teams in the league, Gobert’s exploits are definitely receiving more attention now. But until it’s actually announced that he’s received that recognition, I’m not going to predict anything.
Who is the NBA MVP?
John: First guy to average a triple-double in decades: Russell Westbrook. The Thunder are a lottery team without him.
James: The MVP has to be Lebron James. His stats aren’t quite as gaudy as Westbrook and Harden, but is there any doubt, if he were on those teams, he couldn’t do the same things? I say give the MVP to the most valuable player and not make this an award for best stats.
Greg: Russell Westbrook is having a historic season while currently averaging a triple double — something that was deemed impossible and a relic of a bygone era, like hitting .400 or rushing for 2,500 yards. He’s also the most entertaining player in the league and has been the cornerstone to a depleted Thunder team.
However, Russell Westbrook is not my MVP pick.
The award belongs to James Harden. Why? He’s third in the league in scoring at 28.6 ppg, while also leading the league in assists at nearly 12 per contest. And while Harden will never be a lockdown defender, his defensive improvement from a year ago is significant.
But the biggest reason why Harden is my MVP is how much he’s helped the Rockets improve. Last season, the Rockets limped into the 8th seed with a 42-40 record. Halfway through this season, the Rockets are third in the west and on pace for a 60-win season. Sure, a lot of this is due to Mike D’antoni’s system and the additions of Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon — who complement Harden’s game perfectly — but to deny what Harden’s value is a fool’s errand.
Dan: MVPs almost always come from 50+ win teams, so James Harden has the edge over Russell Westbrook. But with half a season to go, we still can’t discard the possibility that someone else will jump into the conversation.
Ryan: Russell Westbrook. That is all.
There you have it. Our three part Q&A series comes to an end.
I wanna thank our panelists for taking part in this. As we’ve discussed, the Utah Jazz have had an extremely successful season to this point, led by potential All-Stars Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward. They hold destiny in their own hands, with an opportunity at homecourt in the first round and potential advancement to the second round. Surprises include Gobert, Hill and Ingles. The sky’s the limit for the Jazz.
Greg Foster is also a contributor for TornBySports. Follow him on Twitter: @Johnny_UT