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The Derrick Favors Conundrum

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The Jazz are in a high stakes waiting game

NBA: Utah Jazz at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

For the last six years, Derrick Favors has been an integral part of the Utah Jazz and one of the major identities of the team. He’s been a force inside and a stalwart defender helping us achieve ridiculous defensive ratings night to night and season to season. Because of his talent and continued improvement, Favors will garner a lot of attention and almost certainly some max type offers when his contract is up.

And it’s going to be a big problem for the future of the Jazz.

For two years now, Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert have been the best defensive frontcourt duo in the league. Their length and size makes it nearly impossible for opposing offenses to score inside which allows perimeter defenders a lot of freedom. Keeping them together is the best bet for keeping a high level defense for years to come. Or so we thought...

NBA: Utah Jazz at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Though the injuries this season have been incredibly frustrating, Dennis Lindsey and the Jazz have had opportunities to have extended looks at what a Favors-less Jazz team would look like. Honestly, it looks very promising. The major reason is Rudy Gobert is an absolute star, but the replacement options also look good.

Here are two of the most used 2-man front court lineups with Rudy Gobert (via Basketball Reference). They tell interesting stories.

The first exciting thing is we’re positive in almost every category with both. Interestingly, we’re a better offense with Boris than Lyles, but you could argue we’re a better defensive team with Lyles with our better rebounding numbers. Long story short, it means that both Boris Diaw and Trey Lyles are good players, but also Rudy Gobert is a STAR. S.T.A.R.

The second thing that’s exciting, is how positive we are with Trey Lyles on the court. With how much Lyles has struggled this year, we’re still great as long as Rudy is on the floor with him. When Lyles hits his stride? WATCH OUT! Oh, and don’t forget that Lyles is younger than Dante Exum.

This doesn’t mean that Favors is completely expendable. These stats are all related to Rudy being on the court. Right now Rudy is averaging about 33 MPG. There’s still 15 minutes a game where Rudy isn’t on the court, and that’s enough to lose a lot of games if your net rating drops too much. We saw that last season with our depth issues. Our starters were good, but the bench? Not so much.

That’s where Favors’ value really shows. His ability to play the backup center and keep continuity with Lyles and Diaw. But that’s the question, are we willing to lose our depth to resign Favors next season and keep that continuity? I don’t think it’s worth it.

I recently wrote about Favors health and his long term outlook. I go into some of the reasons Favors’ injury history is troubling, but, long story short, it makes me nervous to invest in Favors when his injury history and future trends are so troubling.

So should we just trade him before he walks and we get nothing? Probably not! There is so much on the line this season with Gordon Hayward and George Hill coming up on contract extensions. The fact is, we are a better team with Derrick Favors. He’s great. And if we do anything that could lead to fewer wins, does that lead to Hayward and Hill not resigning? It’s too much of a risk.

The other issue is that these guys are actual humans. Hayward and Favors have been together a long time now. Both have families and wives who’ve become friends and acquaintances. (On a side note, I’ve spent a troubling amount of time seeing how player wives interact on social media.) What message does that send to Hayward if we ship off Favors for contractual reasons? Does that rock any boats we don’t notice on the court? Remember when the Jazz shipped Ronnie Brewer, close friend of Deron Williams? It didn’t help things... Also, interesting to look back and see how teams were making trades because they weren’t making money. Oh how things change...

The other reason we can’t trade Favors is his value is not great right now. Because of his injury issues, his numbers have taken a real dip. What are other teams going to offer a player with a troubling injury history who they can probably just wait another season for? Not much, and it’s not going to be more value than just keeping him, that’s for sure.

So that is where we are. An incredibly high stakes season where we have to win at all costs. It adds to the excitement and intrigue, honestly. And if we re-sign Gordon Hayward and George Hill, the Jazz then can start making moves, but for now, it’s win at all costs and that’s with Derrick Favors, maybe one last time. I’m just happy we get to watch Favs for at least a short while longer.