NBA: Rudy Gobert named 2024 NBA Defensive Player of the Year

AFP , Wednesday 8 May 2024

Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert won the 2024 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award on Tuesday, matching a league record by taking the honor for the fourth time.

Timberwolves
Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets guards Rudy Gobert #27 of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first quarter during Game One of the Western Conference Second Round Playoffs at Ball Arena. Photo: AFP

 

The 31-year-old Frenchman previously captured the award in 2018, 2019 and 2021 while with the Utah Jazz and this season was a key player on a T-Wolves squad that was the NBA's top-ranked defensive club.

Gobert matched the all-time record four Defensive Player of the Year awards won by Detroit's Ben Wallace (2002, 2003, 2005, 2006) and Dikembe Mutombo in 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2001 with Denver, Atlanta and Philadelphia.

The 7-foot-1 (2.16m) star missed Minnesota's playoff victory at Denver on Monday so he could be with girlfriend Julia Bonilla, who gave birth to their son earlier in the day.

"Romeo is the name and he's doing great," Gobert told US NBA telecaster TNT. "A lot of blessings. Just really grateful."

Gobert received 72 first-place votes from a media panel with fellow Frenchman Victor Wembanyama, the 20-year-old San Antonio Spurs prodigy named Monday as the NBA Rookie of the Year, second with 19 first-place votes and Miami's Bam Adebayo third with three.

Gobert averaged 14.0 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocked shots and 1.3 assists a game this season for the Timberwolves.

"Rudy has driven the defensive culture here," Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. "It's a testament to his impact, his presence and what he has infused into the team of how important defense is and how great it can be when we play it."

Gobert said the secret to that success was building a group of players determined to dominate defensively.

"It's great teamwork," Gobert said. "We love to get individual awards and all these things, it's great, but we can't do it alone and I really have a lot of gratitude for ... all my teammates believing in me, allowing me to do what I do best every day and just try to change the culture up here in Minnesota.

"It's great for the guys for buying in and coming every single night with the same mindset. We wanted to be a defensive-minded team and we've been able to do that."

The T-Wolves led the NBA in fewest points allowed per game and kept foes to the league's lowest shooting percentage.

Minnesota swept Phoenix in the first round of the NBA playoffs and lead defending champion Denver in their best-of-seven battle, the last while new dad Gobert watched a blowout win from home.

"It was incredible," Gobert said. "As a competitor you always want to be there for those type of games. The guys, they did the job, and not just did the job but did it in incredible fashion defensively and offensively."

Great things take time

 

Gobert, traded to Minnesota from Utah in July 2022, became the first T-Wolves player to capture the top defender award and said he never doubted Minnesota could contend even after last year's first-round playoff exit.

"I always said great things take time. Winning is never something that happens overnight," Gobert said. "You need to overcome adversity. You need to have some ups and downs as a group and build that resiliency.

"This year in training camp, day one we said we wanted to be the top defense in this league. Every guy worked on his body and everybody has put in the work every single day.

"Now we're here with one goal in mind and that's to try and get this championship."

Gobert helped France take Olympic silver in Tokyo and will be a key player for his homeland at the Paris Olympics.

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