For the Utah Jazz to have a legitimate shot at getting back to the playoffs, they are going to need Derrick Favors to take the leap we all felt he was capable of after the 2015-16 season.
If somebody made the comment at the end of the 2015-16 season, “I think Derrick Favors is the best player on the Jazz,” you wouldn’t think they were crazy. Whether the statement was wrong or not, the argument could be made.
From 2014 through the end of the 2016 season, Derrick Favors averaged 16.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1 steal per game.
Compare those numbers to Gordon Hayward’s during the same time; 19.5 points, 5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.3 steals.
The hope was that Favors would take a jump similar to Hayward’s last season. Heading into the 2016 off-season, that is reportedly what the coaching staff challenged him to do, asking if he wanted to simply be a solid big man averaging 16 and 8, or if he wanted to become an all-star.
At the end of the 2016 season, Kelly Scaleta of Bleacher Report said:
"Derrick Favors is a power forward on the rise who could claim a spot among the elite next season, but a better jump shot would go a long way. It was good only 37.4 percent of the time last year. In the stretch 4 age, that has to come up."
Whether you want to blame injuries or Derrick Favors’ laid back personality, that jump simply didn’t happen.
Favors dealt with back and leg injuries throughout the season, and he was never able to fully recover. In the end, he was limited to playing in 50 games this last season, and only started in 39. His minutes were also drastically reduced to try and help with his recovery, going from 32 minutes per game, to just 23.7 minutes this last season.
Just watching him run up and down the court, or going up for a dunk, it was obvious to everyone that he was not even close to 100 percent.
Instead of raising his level of play along with Hayward, his numbers dipped to 9.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. He had started to show progress with his jump shot, but without consistent playing time, his shooting also dipped.
Per NBA.com, when shooting within 9 ft., he shot roughly 55 percent, but when that extended out to 10-19 ft., his shooting dropped to 39 percent.
With all that being said, if a healthy Derrick Favors is on the team next season, he will be one of the keys to our success.
With the loss of Gordon Hayward, the Jazz will need to do two important things if they are to continue with their success next season.
- Improve on their already top ranked defense, and
- Make up for the loss of 22 points a night that Hayward provided
A healthy Derrick Favors may be our biggest factor in accomplishing those two goals. He has the ability to be a terrific two way player.
Defensively, at 6’10” with a 7’3″ wingspan, he has the size and strength to guard both power forwards and centers. Prior to last season, he had four straight seasons averaging at least 1.5 blocks per game.
He is also one of the rare big men who has the mobility to switch on to smaller guards and have a chance at staying in front of them, which is extremely beneficial to an elite defense.
His Defensive Win Share percentage was roughly a 3.4 the two seasons prior to last season, which puts him in the top 20 of the league (Gobert was number 1). If Favors can return to his defensive form, it should allow our defense to stay in the top five of the NBA.
Offensively, Favors will have to extend his range to help the Jazz. He is terrific around the basket. He is strong enough to force his way into the paint, while also nimble enough to dive to the basket off of pick n’ rolls. With Gobert also in the game though, Utah’s spacing will suffer if he cannot step out and hit a 15 ft. jump shot.
If Favors can simply stay healthy and go from nine points a game back to 16, it will help the Jazz offense stay afloat. The hope though, is that he can make the jump we all wanted him to take last season, and have a career year.
Offensively and defensively, the Utah Jazz are going to need Derrick Favors to reach his full potential. If he can, the Jazz will have a chance to continue to compete in a loaded Western Conference.