ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 21: Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz defends Dewayne Dedmon #14 of the Atlanta Hawks on March 21, 2019 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Rudy Gobert joins Antetokounmpo and George as finalists for the 2019 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award

by Aaron Falk

Rudy Gobert is once again a finalist for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award.

The Utah Jazz center was announced as a finalist for the honor on Friday along with Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Oklahoma City’s Paul George.

Gobert won the award a year ago and has had his sights set on adding to his trophy collection.

“It would mean a lot to win that award back to back,” he said recently. “There aren’t many guys in history that have done it. It would be great.”

Standing 7 feet, Gobert has been one of the most feared rim protector in the NBA for some time now. This season, the Stifle Tower ranked second in total blocks (187) and second in defensive win shares (5.7).

“He’s a guy that reminds me of a Mark Eaton, Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning,” Hall of Famer Charles Barkley said after Gobert was announced as a finalist on Friday night. “If you’re a great player, I don’t worry about one guy stopping me. But if you’re playing against a great shot blocker, you have to know where he is. Because even if you beat your man, you know have to beat two guys.”

The Jazz were the second-best defense in the NBA in the regular season, behind only the Milwaukee Bucks. Gobert said winning the honor would be an acknowledgment of his team’s success and dedication on the defensive end.

“It’s an individual award but it’s a team achievement,” he said. “Without all of my teammates and coaching staff and the work we put in the whole season, it’s not possible.”

The winner will be announced at the NBA Awards ceremony on June 24 in Los Angeles.

In addition to Utah’s defensive dynamo, the Jazz could be represented at the NBA awards by Kyle Korver, a candidate for the league’s Teammate of the Year award, and Donovan Mitchell, a finalist for the NBA Cares Community Assist Award.

“The nomination caught me off guard, to be honest,” Mitchell said recently. “A lot of the stuff I do is just because I have the opportunity and God puts me in positions where I can try to offer a helping hand. Just finding ways, day by day, to be better, be better in the community, find ways to be involved and help people out. At the end of the day with basketball, the air will run out. But being a good person is a daily thing.”

Korver, a 16-year NBA veteran, was traded back to Utah in the middle of last season. He did not waste any time becoming an integral member of the Jazz locker room. To that end, Korver was one of 12 players who were nominated for the award, which honors players based on selfless play, his leadership on and off the court, and his commitment and his dedication to his team.

“He deserves it,” Mitchell said. “As soon as he came here, I started bombarding him with questions. He’s a great teammate, great guy, great guy off the floor. It’s really cool to have a guy in his 16th year who is so down to earth and so willing to give that advice.”

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