The Utah Jazz are almost 30 games into the season and we know some things for certain: Joe Ingles can still get under an opponent’s skin, Donovan Mitchell is just as amazing as last year, and the Derrick Favors-Rudy Gobert front court pairing won’t ever be as great as the Jae Crowder-Rudy Gobert pairing. Enough is enough, already. We have enough data.
At the beginning of every season for the past four seasons, the Utah Jazz—regardless of the amount of information they have that says the contrary—trot out the argument about whether Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors can indeed play together in today’s NBA. To be clear, no one has wondered this question. Like a climate change denier, Utah has been pointing at their snow capped front court of Favors and Gobert as if its proof that the small ball era hasn’t truly arrived.
While there had been exceptions in seasons past as NBA teams were transitioning from the Big Man frontcourt to the Small Ball Era, this season has left little doubt that if the Jazz keep Gobert and Favors out on the court at the same time, they are seen as dinosaurs, the NBA-equivalent to an Encyclopedia Britannica in a smartphone era.
The numbers are just better. Here’s a great example from a great twitter follow @Mmueller88 on those lineups:
So to piggy back on @Tjonesonthenba question about Crowder starting over Favors now,— Mark M (@Mmueller88) December 13, 2018
I'm going with a resounding yes. This is JUST the 1st quarter this year.
Favors starts and we play teams even, Crowder starts and we BURY TEAMS pic.twitter.com/CXqXqP7dyn
This is not a Crowder is better than Derrick Favors argument. This is about fit. I know that a lazy boy recliner is far superior to my IKEA lounge chair, but there’s no way on God’s green earth I can get one to fit into my living room. That applies with Derrick Favors and Jae Crowder. Derrick Favors is the more talented player but doesn’t fit the skillset needed to allow his fellow starters to thrive. To be fair, Rudy Gobert doesn’t either. One of them has to go to the bench. On any other team, Derrick Favors wins out, but on this Utah squad, he plays with the defending Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert.
In addition, Derrick Favors is really good when he’s the only center playing with the bench with fresh legs.
This is also why I like this change. Favors is AWESOME at Center. pic.twitter.com/IYdHmARUlX— Mark M (@Mmueller88) December 13, 2018
He’s absolutely fantastic with that bench unit. This is where Derrick Favors’ unique contract comes into play. The Utah Jazz overpaid for Derrick Favors and almost admitted doing so themselves with the idea that he would have to take a step back in minutes or role. Not a lot of players would think of doing that, let alone actually commit to doing that. Favors did. That is why it’s time to move forward with the Jae Crowder pairing. Even adamant “not my job to speculate” speculator Tony Jones is thinking it might be time.
Jae Crowder isn’t an All-Star player, to be clear. But he allows the offense to work differently. The team is able to get more spacing, he can take players of the dribble, and he can pull up from the dribble—not at a great rate, but still a threat. That threat is something opposing teams don’t have to worry about with Favors.
If Jae Crowder and Derrick Favors run the same play and that play has the 4 position doing a top of the key handoff to Donovan, teams will play it much differently depending if it’s Crowder or Favors. If it is Favors, they will play back in case Favors dives to the rim. If it’s Crowder they have to respect his ability to take it off the dribble. That allows for spacing and why the threat of Crowder’s limited perimeter abilities make life easier for his teammates.
It’s not rocket science at this point. It’s time to move forward with the better lineup to start games as Utah approaches its most grueling stretch of the schedule.