Utah Jazz: What does the future hold for Derrick Favors?

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 25: Derrick Favors #15 of the Utah Jazz shoots a free throw during the game against the Golden State Warriors on March 25, 2018 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 25: Derrick Favors #15 of the Utah Jazz shoots a free throw during the game against the Golden State Warriors on March 25, 2018 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Derrick Favors has been playing solid basketball for the Utah Jazz of late, but his current role with the team and status as an unrestricted free agent have his future looking somewhat clouded.

In the months leading up to this season’s trade deadline, one of the most prevalent assumptions among Utah Jazz fans was that the team would look to deal its longest tenured player Derrick Favors. Although Favors had certainly been a welcome member of the team and a fan favorite to many, the overwhelming sentiment was that he and Rudy Gobert simply couldn’t co-exist, he had no intentions of staying as an unrestricted free agent, and thus it was better that Utah deal him to net something in return rather than to lose him for nothing.

However, just prior to the trade deadline, things changed dramatically. First off, Favors seemed to silence the sentiment that he wanted out of Utah with a simple tweet in which he replied to a fan asking about rumors that he was unwilling to re-sign with the Jazz. He simply stated that the rumor was “Not true at all.”

You can see the exchange for yourself below:

Suddenly this seemed to change everything. If Favors was willing to stay with the Jazz, then he shouldn’t be dealt so hastily, right? But, wait, what about his poor fit with Rudy Gobert and the Jazz’s struggles in December and most of January?

Well, it just so happens that the Jazz were rolling leading up to the trade deadline as they’d notched seven straight victories of what would eventually turn out to be an 11-game winning streak. Not only that, but since that time, Gobert and Favors have suddenly become much more formidable sharing the court together.

Since Utah flipped a switch following the January 22 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Gobert and Favors hold a net rating of 14.4 when on the floor together thanks to a sensational defensive rating of 96.8 and an offensive rating of 111.2. The two have formed a potent frontcourt duo on both ends of the floor while logging the most total minutes together of any pair of Jazz bigs during that stretch.

With that being the case then one might wonder, well perhaps the Jazz and Favors will remain together beyond his unrestricted free agency after all. It really is still very much a possibility, however, there are signs that make me believe somewhat to the contrary.

First of all, it was recently reported by KSL’s Andy Larsen (as you can see in the tweet below) that Favors is rumored to be aiming to sign with whichever team is willing to pay him the most money. After all, this is his livelihood and it shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise that he’d want to put himself in the best possible situation financially.

Then again, as Andy mentions above, there have been several reports and rumors about Favors that have been incorrect, such as his near certainty to be dealt at this year’s trade deadline and his lack of interest in re-signing with the Jazz if his aforementioned tweet is indeed sincere. I suppose the tweet could very well be genuine, but with the stipulation that the Jazz are that team that’s willing to pay him the most.

That could end up being the case, but Favors is also likely to have additional suitors. The few teams with cap space such as Dallas, Atlanta or Phoenix may look to steal him away, but there’s still several questions regarding how that would look. How big would the offer be? Would Utah attempt to match? Would Derrick take slightly less if the difference was playing for a potentially contending Jazz team versus a likely lottery squad?

Then, of course, there’s the other consideration. Could it be possible that Derrick is open to staying in Utah (especially if the dollars are right), but that the Jazz aren’t willing to spend on him?

Considering everything we know and have seen about Favors – his professionalism, his dedication to the organization, his hard work, his standout play especially since he’s been healthy and, most recently, his solid fit alongside Rudy Gobert and the rest of his Jazz teammates – I have to believe that if Utah could get him on what they feel is a reasonable deal, they’d make it happen. But if an opposing team extends him a lucrative offer, the Jazz may very well be hesitant to break the bank on him.

A big reason why I say that has to do with the role Derrick Favors has played on the team of late. Quite frankly, he’s been effective and a key part of Utah’s success. The difference he made in Utah’s latest win over the Dallas Mavericks compared to the previous loss to the Atlanta Hawks was clear evidence of that. Since January 24, he’s averaging 11.8 points on 58.7 percent shooting from the field while pulling down 7.5 rebounds. His per-36 numbers during that stretch look even better as he’s at 15.6 points and 9.9 rebounds.

And a big reason why there’s such a gap between those two figures is exactly why Favors may be more inclined to seek a different team or why Utah may be willing to part ways with him. Favors simply isn’t getting as much playing time or having as much of an opportunity to make the impact he’s capable of.

Since Jae Crowder joined the team, he’s averaged over two minutes per game more than Favors despite coming off the bench. Favors’ 27.2 minutes per game during that span is significantly under his averages from 2013-14 to 2015-16 in which he had his best years as a Jazzman.

In many ways, the Jazz are completely justified in playing Crowder more minutes than Favors. Crowder brings versatility since he can play both the three and the four, and lineups featuring the newcomer from Cleveland have been highly successful for Utah. However, it must be frustrating for Favors to not only be overshadowed by starting center Rudy Gobert on most occasions, but also be logging less minutes than Crowder.

Wednesday’s disappointing loss to the Boston Celtics was a perfect example. The Jazz collapsed down the stretch of that game while Derrick Favors simply watched from the bench. That occurred while Crowder logged 29 minutes and was a minus-8 on the night while Favors only played 23 minutes and was a team-high plus-15 on the evening while shooting 4-of-6 from the field and impacting the game on many levels while he was on the court.

Again, I don’t say this to belittle Crowder at all (in fact there’s been many nights when he’s been by far Utah’s best option at the four-spot), but rather to illustrate how Derrick might look at his current situation and be a little less than content. Not only could he potentially make more money elsewhere, but he might be able to enjoy a larger role as the starting center (the spot he’s looked most comfortable at this year) rather than play second fiddle to Rudy Gobert and log fewer minutes than Jae Crowder.

Also, Utah may want to fill the four-spot with a different player as well, be it by moving Crowder into the starting lineup, drafting a player for that position or pursuing a new player via trade or free agency that could serve as a versatile stretch-four option. If such an opportunity presents itself, it’s entirely possible that Utah could look to utilize their money on that player instead of on Derrick Favors.

As you can tell, there’s a lot of hypotheticals right now. But I suppose my summary of all these circumstances would be that, while I think there’s a chance that Utah and Favors can come to an agreement for next season, especially if his offers from lackluster teams with cap space are mediocre, I have a feeling that there’s a higher chance that he will indeed be with another team next fall.

Whether Favors is allured by the chance to make more money or take on a bigger role, ultimately he’s an unrestricted free agent and can go wherever he chooses. And I think there’s a good chance that he does just that.

Or if his top choice is to stay in Utah, there’s also the off chance that the Jazz lack the willingness or desire to pay him what he would require to stay put and decide it best to part ways with their starting power forward. Based on what we’ve seen so far this season and what we know about both the Jazz and Favors, I’d say one of these two scenarios are the most probable to happen.

However, if I end up dead wrong, I wouldn’t be one bit disappointed. Favors has long been one of my favorite Jazzmen and I think he adds a lot to this team in terms of his talent on the floor, his leadership in the locker room and the chemistry he has among his teammates. He has a positive impact on the team and if a mutual agreement could be reached that both kept Favors happy financially while allowing the Jazz to be in a comfortable spot, I would be ecstatic.

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That might be tough, especially as Utah aims to likely pay Dante Exum and looks to make further improvements to not just be a playoff team, but an eventual title contender. But if Favors and Jazz brass want it to happen, I could certainly see Dennis Lindsey working his wizardry to make it so.

Favors will without a doubt be the most intriguing Jazzman to watch this offseason as his future is perhaps the most clouded of anyone on the roster. With there being a high likelihood of him joining another team this summer, Jazz fans need to be sure to enjoy every guaranteed minute he has left as Utah aims to push into the postseason and make some noise in the 2018 NBA Playoffs.