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Are the Utah Jazz spending too much money at PF and C?

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What might that mean for Derrick Favors?

For 4 years, the Utah Jazz have zigged while most of the NBA has zagged. Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors are both fantastic NBA players. They’ve been keys to Utah’s regular season and postseason success. Both are impressive athletes that contribute to winning basketball. They are easy to cheer for and the type of player every franchise wants on their team.

But the case can be made that they play the same position.

The modernization of the NBA means that Derrick Favors is a perfect 5, but less than ideal 4. On most teams, this wouldn’t have been a problem. He’d be an amazing center with his pick and roll game and rim protection. Unfortunately, the Jazz already have one of those that’s even better in Rudy Gobert.

Now, I’m not saying these two can’t play on the court together. Like I said, we have 4 years worth of experience that indicates these two can play together. And Derrick Favors’ minutes as backup center are incredibly valuable. However, the Utah Jazz are spending way more money at PF and C than most of the league. David Locke recently mentioned this on his podcast and it got me thinking. I don’t think they are using their salary cap space to maximize the talent around cornerstones Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell.

Again, I love Derrick Favors. But the Jazz aren’t getting 17 million worth of production out of him. That’s not his fault. He’s absolutely worth that. But his limited role doesn’t let him prove that as often as he could. If Dennis Lindsey and Justin Zanik are unable to sign a marque free agent, then bringing back Favors is absolutely the right choice. But if they can reallocate their resources to raise the ceiling of this team, then that’s absolutely the right choice as well.

Here’s how much $$$ each team spent on their PF’s and C’s this season:

  1. Atlanta Hawks $28,042,568 (Plumlee, Dedmon, Len, Collins, Spellman, Humphries, Davis)
  2. Boston Celtics $46,575,833 (Horford, Morris, Yabusele, Williams, Ojeleye, Thies)
  3. Brooklyn Nets $18,483,477 (Dudley, Davis, Allen, Hollis-Jefferson)
  4. Charlotte Hornets $49,788,383 (Biyombo, Williams, Zeller, Kaminsky)
  5. Chicago Bulls $31,806,050 (Lopez, Felicio, Markkanen, Carter Jr.)
  6. Cleveland Cavaliers $61,859,968 (Love, Thompson, Henson, Chriss, Nance Jr, Zizic, Frye)
  7. Dallas Mavericks $22,219,292 (Powell, Porzingis, Nowitzki, Kleber, Mejri)
  8. Denver Nuggets $78,472,666 (Millsap, Jokic, Plumlee, Lyles, Porter Jr., Hernangomez, Lydon, Vanderbilt. Mostly PF’s here)
  9. Detroit Pistons $71,838,197 (Griffin, Drummond, Leuer, Maker, Pachulia)
  10. Golden State Warriors $58,899,390 (Durant, Green, Cousins, Jones, Jerebko, Bell, McKinnie, Bogut)
  11. Houston Rockets $26,936,245 (Capela, Tucker, Nene, Hartenstein, Faried)
  12. Indiana Pacers $27,529,153 (Young, O’Quinn, Turner, Sabonis, Leaf, Johnson)
  13. LA Clippers $36,999,197 (Gallinari, Green, Harrell, Zubac)
  14. Los Angeles Lakers $11,297,661 (Muscala, Wagner, Kuzma, McGee, Chandler)
  15. Memphis Grizzlies $24,977,741 (Valanciunas, Jackson Jr., Rabb, Noah, Zeller)
  16. Miami Heat $77,127,688 (Whiteside, Anderson, Johnson, Olynyk, Adebayo, Haslem, Maten)
  17. Milwaukee Bucks $49,906,868 (Giannis, Mirotic, Ilyasova, Lopez, Wilson, Gasol)
  18. Minnesota Timberwolves $45,287,062 (Dieng, Gibson, Towns, Tolliver, Saric)
  19. New Orleans Pelicans $39,241,670 (Davis, Randle, Okafor, Diallo, Wood)
  20. New York Knicks $34,975,982 (Jordan, Thomas, Kornet, Vonleh, Robinson, Ellenson)
  21. Oklahoma City Thunder $40,447,468 (Adams, Grant, Patterson, Noel, Morris)
  22. Orlando Magic $64,469,493 (Gordon, Mozgov, Vucevic, Isaac, Bamba, Martin, Birch)
  23. Philadelphia 76ers $53,160,171 (Embiid, Harris, Marjanovic, Scott, Johnson, Monroe)
  24. Phoenix Suns $18,164,666 (Ayton, Bender, Bridges, Holmes, Spalding)
  25. Portland Trail Blazers $35,574,702 (Nurkic, Leonard, Aminu, Collins, Labissiere, Kanter)
  26. Sacramento Kings $31,189,015 (Koufos, Bagley III, Bjelica, Cauley-Stein, Giles, Swanigan)
  27. San Antonio Spurs $35,679,619 (Aldridge, Bertans, Poeltl, Cunningham, Metu, Motiejunas)
  28. Toronto Raptors $48,262,571 (Gasol, Ibaka, Siakam, Boucher, Moreland, Miller)
  29. Utah Jazz $54,249,419 (Gobert, Favors, Crowder, Udoh, Bradley, Niang)
  30. Washington Wizards $45,153,742 (Parker, Mahinmi, Howard, Portis, Bryant)

The only teams spending more money at the 4 and 5 spots than the Utah Jazz are the Hornets, Cavs, Nuggets, Pistons, Warriors, Heat, and Magic. That’s either because they are getting very different production from those positions (e.g. GSW), or they have terrible contracts at those positions (e.g. Heat).

By no means do I mean to say that Rudy is overpaid or that Favors contract is a bad one. Neither is true. What I’m trying to highlight is that that Jazz are paying a premium for someone that might have too much talent overlap with their star center. In fact, if you trimmed those spends down to just the center position it might look even worse for Utah. Because if we’re being honest, Favors is essentially Utah’s backup center having played only 23 minutes a game this year. Can you justify over 15% of the cap for your backup center? Probably not.

If Favors is released and takes his talents elsewhere, will the Jazz be able to replicate his production for much cheaper? Probably not. But you might be able to get within the ballpark of his production or provide Quin Snyder with a different type of option at a fraction of the cost.

Once the big names are signed and teams have significantly less money to work with, there could be some incredible bargains in the bigs market this summer. Here are some potentially low-cost PF/C’s hitting the FA market:

Dewayne Dedmon, Aron Baynes, Marcus Morris, Ed Davis, Robin Lopez, Dwight Powell, Kenneth Faried, Kyle O’Quinn, JaMychal Green, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Anthony Tolliver, Noah Vonleh, Patrick Patterson, Markieff Morris, Amir Johnson, Boban Marjanovic, Mike Scott, Richaun Holmes, Al-Farouq Aminu.

I’ll be happy either way. If Favors is brought back, I look forward to another productive season and cheering him on. He’s one of the longest-tenured players in the league and has been on the Jazz a long time. He’s easy to cheer for and I would love to do it again.

If Utah moves on, it should mean they were able to improve the team overall despite sacrificing one of its best players. I’ll also be happy for Favors. I hope he lands himself a starting center spot for a playoff team and can finally prove to the league (again) just how good he is.