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Derrick Favors: 26 Years Young and 7 Seasons Old

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After a injury plagued 2016-2017, the Utah Jazz power forward is poised for a comeback.

Utah Jazz v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Derrick Favors 2016-2017 season is one that he’d soon love to forget. With career lows in field goal percentage, minutes per game, steals per game, rebounds per game, and games played, it’s a season he probably is glad to be in the rear view mirror. Nagging injuries left the Utah Jazz power forward a shell of his former self. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Entering the 2016-2017 season, there was a thought around the league that Derrick Favors was the best player amongst the trio of Rudy Gobert, Gordon Hayward, and himself. There was a case to be made that Derrick Favors would be the key to Utah making the playoffs last year.

That breakout season never had a chance to get going. Having dealt with right knee problems the season before, Derrick’s left knee began giving him trouble as early as preseason. What most thought was just a preseason precaution to prevent Favors from starting the season on the bench turned into a chronic knee issue that sidelined Favors intermittently throughout the season.

Derrick Favors first struggled through IT Band Syndrome which the only treatment is rest. Once he overcame that, he had a bone contusion. This limited Derrick Favors to only 23.7 minutes per game. By the time the playoffs came around he was on a bum leg and was dealing with back trouble.

After the end of last season, many had written off Derrick Favors—myself included—as if he was a 3rd string big. After all, the corpse of Boris Diaw in his 16th season started over Derrick Favors. Joe Johnson saw action ahead of Derrick Favors. The narrative around Derrick Favors went from “Is this the season he takes the next step?” to “Can Derrick Favors thrive in today’s NBA?” to “Can Derrick Favors stay healthy enough to be serviceable in the NBA?” That’s a steep fall from grace.

26 years young and 7 seasons old

You must forgive basketball fans if they feel Derrick Favors has been in the league forever. With the way many pundits—once again, myself included—speak about Derrick Favors you’d think that he’d be getting old and exiting his prime. Derrick Favors, on the contrary, is only 26 years old. The Utah Jazz have a player who has played 7 seasons in the league and is only just about to enter his prime.

When Derrick Favors entered the league teams were looking for a way to stop the big man combo of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. Fast forward 7 seasons later and teams are looking how to adjust to a position-less nightmare fuel team of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and whatever center they sign on a veteran’s minimum. The league seemed tailor made for Derrick Favors upon him being drafted into the NBA; now he’s a stranger in his own league.

Despite the rapid race toward stretch 4 power forwards, Derrick Favors seemed made for the task. He was laterally quick for a player 6’11. He could close out on the perimeter and chase stretch 4s off the 3 point line. He had a large wingspan and he was an athletic freak. Then slowly, year after year, he dealt with chronic injuries such as plantar fasciitis, back problems, and then last year the IT band syndrome turned bone contusion. By the end of last season it felt as though Derrick Favors’s body had succumbed to a death by a thousand nagging injuries.

To avoid another season of overuse, the Utah Jazz have once again found great value for good depth on the roster. Their hope is they won’t have to go to well of depth because of injury, but instead to prevent injuries. With Jonas Jerebko, Ekpe Udoh, and Joe Johnson, Utah can keep Derrick Favors 100% and rested for the entire 2017-2018. The goal will be to keep Favors under 28 minutes a game and prevent these nagging injuries.

Another adjustment we may see next season is Derrick Favors trimming down his weight. Many had noticed when Derrick Favors returned from injury before playoffs he looked leaner. That could be an indicator that Derrick’s weight may have been too much for his knees. Now he’s never been out of shape, but it is possible to excessively pack on muscle beyond the point of function. This might have been one of those times. A leaner, more rested Derrick Favors has a chance at a comeback.

Is Derrick Favors a power forward out of his time?

No, though the answer to this question depends on Derrick Favors’s health moving forward. In 2015-2016, the Utah Jazz got their first crack at the Golden State Warriors with all of their players healthy minus Dante Exum. Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert, and Rodney Hood were all 100%. The result? They took the Golden State Warriors to the brink of their first loss. The Warriors had entered that game 19-0.

Derrick Favors wasn’t forced out of the game due to Draymond Green’s playmaking either. Derrick Favors finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. He had an Offensive Rating of 151 that game. That’s what a healthy Derrick Favors is capable of.

Draymond Green had himself a game as well. 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists, but Derrick Favors held his own. Favors was able to exploit the matchup on the offensive side of the ball and punish Golden State for going small.

In that same season, Derrick Favors faced off against a stretch 4 that had to have been built in a lab—Anthony Davis—and put on a show. Derrick Favors had 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. The Utah Jazz lost that game because they were without any plus point guard and Rudy Gobert. Derrick Favors still had himself a game and won the matchup against Anthony Davis who put up 17 points, and 13 rebounds.

Where Derrick Favors becomes a forward out of his time is at his 2016-2017 state. If his knees aren’t treating him well, or if his back is giving him trouble, he can’t keep up with the NBA’s current stretch 4s. He’s instead relegated to a backup center role where he’s undersized and is not athletic enough due to injuries to protect the rim.

Derrick Favors is Utah’s X-Factor next season

While players like Ricky Rubio, Rudy Gobert, Joe Johnson, and Joe Ingles will set Utah’s floor next season, Derrick Favors is amongst a handful of players including Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, and Donovan Mitchell that can lift Utah’s ceiling. Utah replaced a near All-Star in George Hill with another near All-Star with the addition of Ricky Rubio. That still leaves the gaping hole left in Utah’s roster by a real All-Star in Gordon Hayward.

Before last season Derrick Favors had a Carmelo rating that would have projected him to be an All-Star last year. Utah can never replace Gordon Hayward’s production next season, but if Derrick Favors returns to a 2015-2016 level in 2017-2018, Utah can replace an All-Star with a near All-Star. That makes it far easier for the Jazz to replace the rest of Gordon Hayward—his playmaking, scoring, etc.—through the aggregate.

If Derrick Favors doesn’t return to his 2015-2016 self then Utah will have to rely upon Ricky Rubio taking a leap into Jason Kidd status and Rudy Gobert having a 4th consecutive year of improvement, not impossible, but statistically improbable. If there’s anyone who can make that kind of improvement, it’s Rudy Gobert, but to expect that type of improvement year over year over year over year is how you general manage in NBA2K, not reality.

Derrick Favors has never played with a real point guard.

Apologies to George Hill, but he’s never averaged more than 5 assists a game in a season. During Derrick Favors’s tenure with Utah they have been point guard challenged. Gordon Hayward was lucky that as a wing he could initiate his own offense and not solely rely upon a point guard for creation, but big men don’t have that luxury. They are at the mercy of their playmakers on the perimeter.

Let’s just say, Derrick Favors had an underwhelming group of teammates manning the point guard position.

Here’s the full list of point guards that have played with Derrick Favors:

  • Devin Harris - 4.2 APG (Career)
  • Earl Watson - 4.4 APG (Career)
  • Jamaal Tinsley - 6.1 APG (Career)
  • Mo Williams - 4.9 APG (Career)
  • Trey Burke - 3.6 APG (Career)
  • John Lucas III - 1.5 APG (Career)
  • Dante Exum - 2.1 APG (Career)
  • Bryce Cotton - 0.8 APG (Career)
  • Raul Neto - 1.7 APG (Career)
  • George Hill - 3.3 APG (Career)

Now let’s introduce Ricky Rubio. Ricky Rubio for his career has averaged 8.5 assists per game. His entire career. Ricky Rubio is also entering the season possessing something he’s never had: experienced and talented pick and roll big men. It’s like watching two people made for each other fall in love. Ricky Rubio is tailor made for Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert and vice versa. The Utah Jazz found a point guard who will make Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert thrive.

Ricky Rubio turned Nikola Pekovic into a solid big man option during Kevin Love’s injury shortened season in 2012-2013. The only reason I even spelled Nikola Pekovic right the first time is due to Rubio’s playmaking putting him on the map. Rubio has mentioned that he and Quin Snyder have been discussing how the Jazz’s offense will revolve around the newly acquired Jazz point guard. It’s poised to be a high dosage of pick and roll action originating from the point guard position. Not in Derrick Favors’s 7 season career has he been an integral part in the Jazz’s offense to this degree.

Looking forward to 2017-2018, the Utah Jazz have set Derrick Favors up for a comeback season. Armed with a leaner body, a pass first pick and roll minded point guard, and increased depth at power forward to avoid overuse throughout the season, Derrick Favors should be poised for the breakout season he never had.