Mario Chalmers and Shaquille O’Neal Called Rudy Gobert’s Defense Overrated | Truth Is, Minnesota Timberwolves Center Is Better Defender Than Both

Basketball Hall of Famer and four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal has always been very opinionated, and when he doesn’t like something he isn’t afraid to say it. That’s how he is every Tuesday and Thursday on NBA Tip-off on TNT along with Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Kenny “The Jet” Smith.

One player O’Neal has long been hard on is Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert, who’s won three DPOY awards and is the prohibitive favorite to win a fourth. 

Shaquille O’Neal Agrees Rudy Gobert Is Overrated Defender

Despite Gobert’s defensive prowess, O’Neal isn’t ready to call him a great defender. Former Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers agreed with O’Neal during a recent appearance on “The Big Podcast.”

He even called Gobert an “overrated defender” something Shaq quickly thanked him for saying.

Is “Stifle Tower” Really Overrated?

O’Neal is on record saying if he played in today’s era that Gobert would be barbecue chicken trying to guard him. That’s not really saying much because O’Neal made all of his defenders look like that during his illustrious playing career. During the episode with Chalmers, O’Neal piggybacked his comments saying this about Gobert as a defender. 

“I never thought he was a great defend player either,” O’Neal said. “See what it is, there’s not a lot of centers that are making him play defense. Like he’s not doing that sh-t against Joker cuz he’s got to be engaged. But when he’s going up against another guy, he’s 7-6, of course, if you lay it up, he’s going to block it. But defense to me is guard the guy and shut him down. You want to impress me? Hold Joker under 15 points. All that weak side blocking shots, that’s cool. But it’s not going to work against guys like me, Joker and Embiid.”

Shaq Made Some Good Points about Rudy Gobert’s Defense

Shaq has a point about Gobert not being a great individual defender, and he can’t play in the pick-and-roll either. His strength is team defense and helping teammates.

His 7-3 height is also a deterrent at the rim, and that’s a huge reason that the Timberwolves have been the top defensive team (108.3 points per 100 possessions) in the league this season. During his time in Utah, Gobert also helped the Jazz become an elite defensive team. 

Rudy Gobert A Better Defensive Player Than Shaq?

O’Neal doesn’t like Gobert, but he is a better defensive player than O’Neal was. Shaq had the propensity to loaf on the defensive end, making three second-team All-Defensive NBA squads in his career. As for Gobert, whose specialty is defending and rebounding, he’s made six consecutive first team All-Defensive NBA teams from (2017-2022). 

Must Be The Money

Some of Shaq’s disdain for Gobert stems from the big contract he received from the Utah Jazz in 2020. That’s when he signed a five-year, $205 million extension, putting him at $41 million per season. 

The Frenchman is the odds-on favorite to win the DPOY award this season, which would his record-tying fourth. He’d be in rarified air, along with former NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo who’s the only player in league history to win the award four times. He did it once as a member of the Denver Nuggets, twice with the Atlanta Hawks, and once with the Philadelphia 76ers. No, Gobert isn’t the one-on-one defender that Mutombo was, but he’s pretty good for what the Jazz and Timberwolves have asked him to do. 

Shaq and Rio Chalmers may believe he’s overrated, but Minnesota’s defensive stats and efficiency say otherwise. This season Gobert is averaging 12.9 rebounds per game (second in the NBA) and he ranks sixth in blocks at 2.1 per game. If there was a stat for forcing altered shots, Gobert would lead the league in that category hands down. 

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