Utah Jazz: Derrick Favors wants in, but the Jazz must test the market

Derrick Favors was the Utah Jazz’s most consistent performer during the 2019 NBA Playoffs, as well as the 82-game regular season.

Derrick Favors’ future with the Utah Jazz has been an oft discussed topic throughout the 2018-19 season. But now, just days after the team’s season was officially ended at the hands of the Houston Rockets, the decision on whether or not to guarantee Favors’ contract for next season suddenly feels quite imminent.

If it was up to Favors, though, he and the Jazz would simply continue down the same road they’ve been on for almost decade.

“I’d prefer to come back here,” he said during Jazz exit interviews. “I need my team option picked up. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.”

On the one hand, picking up Favors’ option feels like a no-brainer. He’s been a rock for the franchise, a key cog in their suffocating defense, one of the league’s best rim-finishers and a model citizen for the team for years.

During the team’s 4-1 first-round throttling at the hands of the Rockets, he was arguably Utah’s steadiest hand. Only he and Georges Niang registered a positive net rating in the series. And while his basic numbers seem meager at first glance, he actually had a monster season on the whole.

In the history of the league, there have been only 10 full individual seasons where a player has averaged at least 11 points and seven boards per game while posting an effective field goal percentage over 60 and logging a defensive box plus/minus score over three.

Dwight Howard did it twice. Rudy Gobert has done it three times. DeAndre Jordan did it three times, too. Hassan Whiteside did it once when he was making All-Star pushes. Now, Favors has joined the club as well.

Simply put, he’s an elite big man who almost no one realizes is elite.

Still, much has been made of the fact that the Jazz offense has gotten clunky at times as constituted in recent years, and the lack of floor-spacers and playmakers looms large there. In particular, a starting five that features three non-jump shooters in Favors, Gobert and Ricky Rubio has been problematic.

With those three players on the floor together this past season, the Jazz boasted a sweet D-rating of 99.3. Unfortunately, they also scored just 103.7 points per 100 possessions. If that was Utah’s number for the whole team, they would have finished as the worst offensive squad in the NBA.

Which is precisely why the Jazz must at least explore the market before guaranteeing Favors. That clunky offense played a large part in Utah getting waxed by Houston and failing to live up to some of the lofty expectations many had for them ahead of the 2018-19 campaign; if it can be fixed, the Jazz owe it to themselves to do so.

Free agency will open on July 1 at 12:01 AM ET, while Favors’ guarantee date falls on July 6; we’re only talking a few days of wiggle room there but the Jazz must make the most of it.

There are multiple intriguing options that could be available in free agency. Namely, Tobias Harris, the prototypical playmaking four, Nikola Mirotic, a high-level floor-spacer who the Jazz have coveted before and Julius Randle, who blossomed into a 20-point scorer with the New Orleans Pelicans this past season.

The Jazz could also use Favors’ money to pursue another playmaker on the perimeter to pair with Donovan Mitchell and simply hand the power forward reins over to Jae Crowder or another comparable player. After all, Favors is really best utilized as a back-up center, and $17 million is a lot to pay someone in that role.

In any case, Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey needs to explore these and other scenarios before deciding to roll it back with Favors.

Having said that, though, Favors has been an integral part of the team’s success over the last three years. The Jazz can’t simply part with that without reasonable cause to do so. Who knows — maybe swapping Rubio for a more capable shooter and scorer at the point would allow Quin Snyder to better get away with playing his twin towers offensively.

In any case, as much as the Jazzland masses love D-Faves (and rightfully so), options need to be explored if Lindsey and Co. are serious about making this squad a title contender.