Utah Jazz: How important is a healthy Derrick Favors?

SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 5: Derrick Favors #15 of the Utah Jazz looks on during the game against the Sacramento Kings on March 5, 2017 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 5: Derrick Favors #15 of the Utah Jazz looks on during the game against the Sacramento Kings on March 5, 2017 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Utah Jazz have their work cut out for them to grasp a playoff spot this upcoming season. There are a number of variables that will ultimately determine where they land, but a healthy Derrick Favors could make all the difference in the world.

For Derrick Favors, the 2016-17 NBA season was nothing more than an ongoing struggle during which he never fully regained his health. But prior to that, Favors was an animal on both ends of the floor capable of getting 20 points and 10 boards on any given night.

With Gordon Hayward off to Boston, the Jazz could certainly use a healthy D-Faves next season.

There’s been a lot of talk since the cluttered mess of free agency tidied itself up about who would take the biggest leap of the Jazz crew next season. Rodney Hood’s name has come up quite a lot, and while I believe Hood will comfortably see the biggest increase from a scoring standpoint, Favors could help the Jazz in a lot of other ways.

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While the Jazz still managed to be a top three defensive team last year without Favors in the lineup for the most part, they were forced to get used to having an average defender at power forward for really long stretches.

The three players that took Favors minutes when he was out with injury were Boris Diaw, Trey Lyles and Joe Johnson. While Diaw could use his size and basketball IQ to be of some relevance on the defensive end, the Jazz really missed the luxury of having an elite post and interior defender alongside Rudy Gobert.

When the Stifle Tower was on the floor last season, the Jazz defense was perfectly capable of holding up — even without Favors on the court — but when Gobert was off the court, they couldn’t keep up. Utah’s front office thought ahead in case Favors wasn’t able to make a full recovery and brought in Ekpe Udoh as another rim protector/rebounder.

Put simply, with all the great perimeter defenders the Jazz currently have, their defense is unstoppable when Gobert is at center and ever so slightly less daunting when a healthy Derrick Favors is in the middle. When they are on the court together, however, the Jazz are tremendous on both ends.

The outlook of opposing teams changed drastically the second Gobert went off the court last season. To say the interior defense took a hit when neither Gobert or Favors were on the court is an understatement.

So there’s no question that having a healthy Favors is a huge bonus on the defensive end, but his offense could prove to be just as important. With Hayward off to Boston and George Hill going to Sacramento, the Jazz have an extra 28.2 shot attempts per game that need to go somewhere, and Favors should take a big chunk out of that.

With the extra touches Favors receives, his production should majorly increase with a pass-first point guard now on the Jazz roster in Ricky Rubio. Not only should he be able to shoot a high percentage around the rim and have success in the pick and roll, he will have a lot more opportunities with the mid-range jumper as well.

Utah Jazz
Utah Jazz /

Utah Jazz

The go-to play in Quin Snyder’s playbook this upcoming season will be the Rubio and Gobert pick and roll. With it, he’s combining perhaps the best pure, passing point guard in the NBA with one of the league’s most dominant threats rolling to the rim in a single play. It’s a play that can and will attract the attention of the entire defense.

From my vantage point, if guys like Rodney Hood, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles and Joe Johnson are good enough to make open shots (which they are), the help defender is likely going to come off of Derrick Favors.

In the limited time Favors and Gobert were on the court together last season, we saw some much improved interior passing between the two of them. So Favors’ mid-range shot needs to be a major weapon in the Jazz’s arsenal. Even though it immediately puts points on the board if he’s making it, what it also does is open up the inside game for himself and help Gobert by keeping the help defender out of the lane.

You hear a lot about how the injuries last season had a huge effect on his jump shot but the stats show that he’s never been an efficient mid-range scorer. Last season, Favors shot a career high 43 percent from between 10 and 16 feet to go along with 34 percent from between 16 feet and the 3-point line. And at the risk of driving the nail in a little further, not a lot of those shots were contested.

For Favors to be of some threat to keep an opposing defense honest, those percentages have to increase to at least 46 percent and 40 percent, respectively. Considering that he took a higher volume of shots from more than 16 feet out than ever before, lifting that percentage needs to become a top priority.

Next: Utah Jazz: Will Gordon Hayward find himself in a chaotic situation early?

A lot has been said around the web and on social media about how Favors’ offseason is shaping up and how healthy he’ll be come training camp, and after seeing his latest photos on social media, he looks like he’s lost weight and is ready to roll.

If Favors can get himself close to 100 percent healthy and stay that way for most of the season, the Jazz could jump to a whole new level. His impact on both ends of the floor has been missed;  hopefully he should be back in action by the beginning of the season.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and video thanks to 1677091 Productions on YouTube.