The 2016-2017 NBA season was a disappointing one for Utah Jazz’s Derrick Favors. His basic stat line says it all: 50 games, 23.7 min/gm, 9.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 0.8 blocks, .487 FG%, .615 FT%. Consistent knee issues really kept him from being his usual self, as he never looked fully healthy all season.
He actually admitted to his injury issues and expressed some frustration during the season.
can't wait to see what happens when I'm not playing on one leg— Derrick Favors (@dfavors14) March 7, 2017
He toughed it out and had 2 huge playoff games to help the Jazz advance past the Los Angeles Clippers. I don’t think the Jazz win that series without the effort he put in over 7 games. In games 4 and 7 Favs really stepped up and gave everything he had to help the team win.
Now he’s been giving this offseason everything he has. I think we are going to see a much different Favors in 2017-2018 than we did last season. He’s as motivated as ever and has been putting in the time to not only get healthy, but improve.
I think it’s really easy to forget a few things about Favors. First of all, he only turned 26 this July. He’s barely entering his prime and still has a lot of basketball left in him. Second, remember who this guy was a couple years ago? I’ll remind you: from 2014-2016 he averaged 15.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks. He averaged an offensive rating of 111, defensive rating of 103, true shooting % of .56, and 6.8 win shares. Honestly, you could have convinced me that he was the best player on the Jazz after the 2015-2016 season.
Only 2 other players hit similar benchmarks all 3 of those seasons: Anthony Davis and Pau Gasol. The only players to do it twice were Tim Duncan and Andre Drummond. Al Horford, Dwight Howard, Serge Ibaka, Marcin Gortat, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul Millsap, and Karl-Anthony Towns were each able to do it once. Derrick Favors was really good! Fortunately it doesn’t end there. I don’t think we’ll have to say was, anymore, rather we can soon say is really good.
From the looks of it, this has been his best offseason so far. The Jazz are investing in him this summer and I’m pretty confident this will pay off.
He seems to be slimming down to make it easier for his body to handle the NBA grind. But I also think it’s to get back to playing power forward full-time as well.
But Favors and Rudy Gobert can’t play next to each other! There’s not enough spacing or shooting! This is where Derrick may surprise you, and one reason why I am so optimistic heading into this season. He has actually expanded his game farther than you might think, and has done so almost every year in the league.
Don’t believe me? Let me show you.
First is his shot distribution by distance for each of his 7 seasons. Notice how he entered the league shooting nearly 60% of his shots within 3 feet of the basket, and now that’s down below 40%? That extra 20% has been spread out all over the floor. He’s actually a pretty balanced scorer now, something I wasn’t expecting to see. He even dabbled at a 3 point shot a little bit last season.
Ok, so he’s stretched his game out some. That doesn’t mean he’s done so effectively, right? I mean, look at his .487 FG% from last season!
I could look at this graph all day. Each year he has shot the ball farther and farther away from the hoop. And basically every year, he’s gotten better at those deeper shots. Really the only thing that held him back last year was not finishing around the rim. It turns out that playing on one leg and having minimal elevation makes it really hard to make those tough finishes. Had he been able to do that, last year may have been a career year for Favors offensively.
I see Favors returning back to that beast down low next year. I also see him continuing to extend his game, like he has every year of his career. He was knocking on the door of the All-Star game a couple seasons ago, and he’ll get there again.
Wouldn't be crazy at all— Derrick Favors (@dfavors14) August 30, 2017
I haven’t even talked about his defense yet. Not too long ago, before the emergence of one Rudy Gobert, Derrick was the anchor of the Utah defense. Remember me saying there were things that are easy to forget? Well, he was in the top 15 in blocks for 3 years straight from 2013-2015. In fact, Rudy and Derrick combined for 312 blocks in 2015. That’s more than the entire Boston Celtics team that season!
So naturally Dennis Lindsey went out and got the best defender and rim protector that wasn’t playing in the NBA in Ekpe Udoh. To me, That’s another sign that Favs will be playing more at the 4 than he has in years past. And I cannot wait to see it.
Whether you call them the Wasatch Front or Rim Reapers, the tandem of Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors is going to be a scary sight for the opposition each and every night. The NBA wants to go small? Fine. Try and go small when these two punish you on the other end of the court every possession.
Outsiders are pegging Utah to take a big step back this year and miss the playoffs. I don’t buy it. I think they’ll play with a chip on their shoulder and surprise a lot of people. I still project a trip back to the playoffs when it’s all said and done.
And Derrick Favors will be a big reason why.