I first became interested in Rudy Gobert after reading this SB nation article by Tom Ziller. This was the only mock draft that I saw with Rudy Gobert in the lottery at the time. Apparently, Sam Presti of the Oklahoma City Thunder was the only GM in the league to personally scout Rudy. Sure, other teams sent scouts, but Sam Presti was interested enough to watch this 20 year old play. This is the same guy who saw the defensive potential in Serge Ibaka (24th pick in 2008) and wanted to trade up for Bradley Beal last year. So if Sam Presti is interested, then so am I.
The more I read about this Rudy Gobert kid, the more I become intrigued. He has been getting a lot of buzz at the combine and is reportedly performing well. There is not a lot of tape out there on him, but I believe he has a lot of potential. More importantly, I think he can reach this potential with the Washington Wizards.
I was initially worried about taking another international bust in the lottery, so I looked up some issues the BF community had with Jan Vesely and then checked how Rudy is different. First thing I noticed was the age difference. Jan was 21 and closer to being a fully developed player (which wasn't much) than Rudy Gobert who is 20. Next, I checked DraftExpress for the free throw percentages of the two players. This is a big issue with Jan and is usually a good indicator of how well a player can shoot. Jan shot an abysmal 43% with Partizan in the Euroleague and 54% in the Adriatic league. Rudy Gobert on the other hand shot a respectable 60% in 3 games during the Eurocup, but had a solid 70% FT percentage in 27 French league games.
Another difference is familiarity. I imagine moving to another country for any career can be difficult, especially if you have not mastered the language. Jan came here and had to work through this barrier. If the Washington Wizards draft Rudy Gobert, I don't think that he will have this issue. He will immediately have a connection with a co worker in Kevin Seraphin (also from France) who has already gone through this process. They play the same position and Kevin Seraphin has an elite skill that every GM is drooling for Rudy Gobert to have: a hook shot. Rudy showed off some of his jump hooks recently at the combine, but I believe Kevin can help him master it. With a 9'7 standing reach (more on that later) this jump hook would be unguardable. I can already imagine him getting doubled in the post while passing to a cutting John Wall or kicking out to 3 point shooters like Bradley Beal and Martell Webster.
The last difference is the potential. Rudy Gobert is big and has a lot more potential than Jan Vesely. In terms of basketball height (standing reach), Rudy Gobert (9'7 standing reach) is the closest I have seen to Yao Ming (9'7 to 9'8). Maybe having the difference in height shifted to his wingspan will benefit him on the court more than Yao and lead to less foot/ankle injuries? Regardless, this type of potential on both ends of the floor is very rare. We won't find a guy his size for a while so drafting and developing Rudy Gobert may be worth it. Definitely worth more than drafting Jan Vesely.