French Center, Rudy Gobert, is a dark horse option for the Portland Trail Blazer in the 2013 NBA draft. He is not projected to be a top 10 selection, but Blazers appeared to have an interest in him early on. They monitored his progress while in France, and worked him out last Thursday, just one week before the draft.
Gobert stands 7’2” in basketball shoes with a mind-blowing 7’9” wingspan and 9’7” standing vertical reach. However; his game is not exactly polished and he contributes little on offense. Although, if the Blazers look to add a presence on the interior, Gobert is easily the most intimidating of the 2013 draft class.
If you have followed along with my hair-pulling, you already know that I do not want the Blazers to draft another project center. Coupling a rookie with last years’ 11th pick, Meyers Leonard, would slow the development of both as they compete for minutes. The Blazers have to commit to Leonard’s future or see him fade as a wasted prospect.
I am most concerned by Gobert’s lack of polish. It seems to me that his selling point is his height and length. Though astonishing, it does not necessarily make him a great basketball player. I don’t want to end up like the Memphis Grizzlies, who drafted down to the useless giraffe, Hasheem Thabeet in ’09, passing up James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holiday, and Ty Lawson.
Fortunately, I think Gobert offers more than Thabeet ever did, despite being so raw. His outstanding defense is worth our interest at least. Gobert ranked #1 in Pro A France for blocks per 40 minutes last season with 3.2 (along with 9.4 rebounds). If Portland wants to take a chance on him with the 10th pick, it could pay dividends.
Though perhaps of little consequence, I am also intrigued by the ‘French connection’ that could exist between Gobert and Batum. We saw the Spanish connection between Sergio Rodriguez and Rudy Fernandez elevate the play of both players in 2009, and if you follow other teams very closely you may have noticed Russian player, Alexi Shved, develop more quickly in Minnesota under the wing of Andrei Kirilenko. With Batum’s newfound passing prowess, he could find Gobert open under the rim for easy buckets and accelerate Gobert’s offensive development.
Of course, selecting Gobert probably means passing up on at least one of the following: C.J. McCollum, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tyler Zeller, or Shabazz Muhammad. I can’t officially condone this move, but if the Blazers make it, I will trust that they have their reasons. The 10th pick lies in a broad talent pool this year, so just about anything can happen.