The Substance Report is an official rankings that I thought was necessary to come up with to determine which players throughout the league are most valuable to their team. Each day, for the next 10 days, there will be an article dedicated to a single player that demonstrates both his value to the league, but more importantly, the weight on his shoulders on his own team.
An example of the rhetorical questions to ask yourself throughout the readings of the ranking is something along the lines of, "What would the Warriors look like without Stephen Curry? How much worse off would they be as a team? Could they still win an NBA Championship if they just released him to the depths of a fiery hell? Would Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson's efficiency go up because they would have more shot opportunities with Steph out of the rotation?" and other important meditations similar to that nature.
This is what the rankings look like so far.
30. Lou "Two Girls and They Get Along Like I'm Lou Will" Williams
29. Domantas "Arvydas's Son" Sabonis
28. Montrezl "Holy Shit That Guy Tries Hard" Harrell
27. Mike "Never Leaving Memphis Because Cash Rules Everything Around Me C.R.E.A.M.!" Conley
26. Klay "Not Just Steph's Sidekick" Thompson
25. Trae "Ugliest Player in the League" Young
24. Ben "Kendall Jenner's Bae / Fresh Prince" Simmons
23. Nikola "Diet Jokic" Vucevic
22. Karl-Anthony "Who Was the Last Good Player With Two First Names?" Towns
21. Blake "Pray My Knees Will Be Okay Come April" Griffin
20. Devin "Should I Just Become a Point Guard?" Booker
19. Anthony "'I'll Tell On You To Rich Paul!' / AD" Davis
18. Russell "I Didn't Know a Professional Could Take Their Job Too Seriously / Why Not?" Westbrook
17. Joel "The Cameroonian Clown / The Process" Embiid
16. Bradley "Will Somebody Please Trade John Wall Already?" Beal
15. Donovan "Still Salty About His 2nd Place Spot In The ROTY Contest / Spida" Mitchell
14. Kemba "Can Do Cool Crossovers But May Never Win A Playoff Series" Walker
13. Luka "Thick and Slick / Halleluka" Dončić
12. Kawhi "Typically Silent, But Mostly Deadly / Klaw" Leonard
11. Kevin "Will Tell You He's Not Going To New York, But He's Probably Going To New York / KD" Durant
10. Stephen "How Does The Greatest Shooter Ever Not Have An Actual Usable Nickname Yet? / Chef" Curry
9. LeBron "Will Trade You In a Heartbeat / King" James
8. Rudy "Frenchman Who Looks Like He Can Lay Some Serious Pipe / The Steiffel Tower" Gobert
Rudy Gobert is one of the two best defensive players in the league in 2019. The Defensive Player of the Year Award is essentially a two-man race between him and Giannis, but if the award is gifted based on which player is most valuable to their team's defense then Gobert is the clear cut winner.
ESPN's Tim MacMahon wrote a piece defining Gobert's DPOY push and argued his case in the most simplistic, relevant, and accurate way:
"The case for Gobert is quite simple: No defender has been more dominant or made a bigger difference for his team this season."
I whole-heartedly agree with MacMahon, and that's why I have Gobert ranked so high on my Substance Report rankings list. The five year veteran is having a career season, and has demonstrated to the Western Conference all year long that he is not somebody you want to fuck with in the paint.
Rudy Gobert 2018-19 Statistics Per Game
15.9 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2.3 blocks, 0.8 steals, 67% FG, and 63.6% FT
Gobert is dominating on both ends of the floor, and is making other big men look like they just don't give as much of a fuck as he does. And maybe they don't.
He's putting up numbers that suggest he is an all-time rim protector, and one can only imagine how dominant his defense would be if he'd existed two decades ago in a league that was dependent on hard-line drives to the rim. The 3-point surge that's come to fruition over the last several years may have limited Gobert in some regards, but he's only improved over the last four seasons paralleled to the amount of threes attempted rising.
Having a post player that can set quality screens, roll to the rim effectively, and either pass or score out of that roll once the ball is in his hands is absolutely pivotal in this generation of basketball's pace and space system. With above average shooters around him like Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Korver, Royce O'Neal, and Joe Ingles, Gobert is relied on and asked upon to make the correct decision every time he dives towards the bucket following an on-ball or off-ball screen. The Jazz wouldn't be where they are at now if it weren't for Gobert's ascension.
The 5th seeded Utah Jazz will square off tonight against the James Harden led Rockets at 8:30 PM CT on TNT. Keep an eye on Gobert as he matches up with Houston's Clint Capela, because their matchup could be one of the several X-factors in this tight series.