Derrick Favors’ loyalty has not gone unnoticed by Jazz fans, but perhaps it has been taken for granted a bit by most. Once thought of as the next generation of prolific scoring power forwards in the same vein as Karl Malone and Carlos Boozer, his career with the Jazz has gone through ups and downs and evolved more than anyone could have ever imagined. He has had to endure persistent trade rumors at times and at one time a large number of fans seemingly had given up on him and what he can do for this team.
You might say that most players have to go through things like that at some point and Derrick Favors is no different. But what is remarkable about Favors is that he, unlike most players, has never given up on himself or the fans who had been fickle. Most players whose role has changed so much would have surely developed a bad attitude towards either the fans or the organization or both. Not Derrick Favors, the man who has given his whole heart and sole to this organization and this fan base over the years, despite having multiple reasons to have sour grapes.
After signing Favors to a generous contract over this past summer it is clear that the Utah Jazz also value Favors and recognize his sacrifice to the team over the years. So what does that mean for Favors’ role this year?
Last year Favors started the year looking like he had finally been able to recover from persistent injuries dogging him for the last couple of seasons. There was excitement amongst Jazz fans and within the Jazz organization that Favors would be able to return to his explosive self and put up huge numbers in a season where no one knew where the offense would come from.
Yet, there were still questions about how he could co-exist with Rudy Gobert on the court and would he still be effective on offense without being able to stretch the floor as much Jazz coaches would surely have liked?
Favors was thrown into the fire for the first time when Rudy Gobert went down with injury in early November and he looked more and more comfortable as the season went along. One silver lining of the Gobert injury in relation to Derrick Favors was that we got to see what the Jazz would look like without Favors and Gobert playing together vs. with them playing together. I won’t go into a deep dive on the stats, but from January 24th until the end of the season, with Gobert and Favors on the floor together, offensively the Jazz outscored their opponents by about 20 points per 100 possessions (per basketball-reference.com).
We’ll see if that is a large enough sample size but I think the feeling with Jazz brass is that it is sustainable because of the chemistry and lack of ego that both big men play with. We already knew what a terrifying two-some Gobert and Favors made for opponents on the defensive side of the ball. Even though Favors wasn’t putting up as big of numbers as most observers had originally thought he would, the numbers and the results show that he played a crucial role that GM Dennis Lindsey knew he could ill afford to lose over the summer without the team taking a major step back.
So what does all this mean for Favors role this year?
The one thing about Favors attitude that was alluded to earlier is that he has always given his all to get better. It seems like every summer we see a picture of him on social media working to improve and stay in shape. It is very likely that Favors will come back this season sporting improved shooting or maybe even a more respectable three point shot, despite entering his 9th season.
At the very least, he should look comfortable in the offense right from the get go as the Jazz look to pick up where they left off with the fantastic chemistry that we saw at the end of last season.
The biggest challenge for Favors this season is going to come in the form of competition from Jae Crowder taking his minutes. With Crowder likely being more comfortable and thus more effective in his first full season with the Jazz, it will be incumbent upon Favors to be more versatile on offense.
Even though he may never be a three point assassin in the likeness of teammate Joe Ingles, he will need to be able space the floor in order for coach Quin Snyder to keep him on the floor in small ball situations. If Favors can be at least respectable from three point range this season, it will be incredibly valuable to have him in the game to spread the floor for Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio on offense. That combined with Favors-Gobert frontcourt wreaking havoc on the defensive end could make for one of the best starting five lineups in the entire league.
The ripple effect of Favors being able to shoot and stay on the floor is big because it increases the depth and versatility of the team exponentially. Favors knows all of this as you can be sure that our world class coaching staff has pointed it out to him and I have no doubt that he is driven to be the best he can be.
It will be very interesting to see if Favors can continue to continue to have the quiet yet HUGE impact that he has on this team. There is no doubt that he will because he has been willing in the past season to put aside his ego and just go out there and work. Even though he is not getting the accolades or eye-popping numbers that he may be able to achieve elsewhere, he has been the glue that has held this team together at times and earned great admiration from Jazz fans everywhere.
Jazz fans are almost universally rooting for Favors to succeed and to be a part of this team. It is easy to cheer for a player who sacrifices any individual success to that of the team. If the Jazz are to go on a championship run, Derrick Favors will need to play a big role.