I was watching Horrible Bosses when it suddenly dawned on me: is Derrick Favors the next Karl Malone? Or is he more like Dwight Howard – destined for countless defensive player of the year awards? Or is he more like he-who-shall-not-be-named Koufos, former dead weight on the Utah Jazz?
I started looking up various statistics, trying to match them side by side to see who, or what, Favors resembles. I was going through countless formulas, mathematical equations and complicated problems when I discovered Basketballreference.com already had the numbers matched up to a T. So much for hard-nosed journalism. Well, I gotta get this in before midnight anyway, so …
I think the biggest problem right out of the gate is that the Mailman averaged something like 30-minutes per game his rookie season. By comparison, Carlos Boozer (remember him?) averaged 25-minutes per game his rookie season. Derrick Favors sat on the bench for most of the game when he started off with the Nets, and his minutes only increased by a minute when he landed next to Enes Kanter in Utah. So … B-ball Reference has broken up the totals for all three Big Men into a Per 36-minutes chart in an attempt to more accurately match the players. In other words, most of Favors’ stats are made up, or based on some random math equation. For me that doesn’t hold water because there are certain things you have to take into consideration when it comes to playing basketball. Things like clutch performance, fatigue, leadership, etc. Malone was given the chance to perform the moment he put on a Jazz uniform. Same with Boozer (except with Cleveland). Favors has had to wait for his turn, mainly because the teams he happens to belong to never hand the team reins over to the big fella. I think it’s easier for a player to enter the league knowing exactly what his purpose is: look at LeBron, Dwight Howard and even Hakeem the Great (he averaged 35-minutes his rookie season).
Favors is stuck on an organization that may or may not trust him with their franchise. As such, I see him becoming more like a taller Paul Millsap than a Dwight Howard. For Favors to truly excel in this league, the Jazz organization would have to let him start every game (they wont) and more or less run the offense through his colossal hands (not gonna happen). But what do I know?
Let’s say the numbers aren’t bogus, but actual numerical facts. Where does Favors stack up?
Well, Malone averaged a ridiculous 22.4 points per game during his second year in the NBA (per 36-minutes, that is). Boozer was a lot lower at 16.1 ppg, Dwight Howard was averaging 15.4 ppg, Big Al was going for 15.7 ppg, while Paul Millsap was throwing down around 14 ppg. Favors, on the other hand, averaged 14.9 ppg per 36-minutes in his second year, which places him just slightly behind Howard and a notch ahead of Millsap.
OK. So what?
The thing that constantly bugged me last year about the Jazz was their lack of commitment towards any of their bigs not named Al Jefferson. Kevin O’Connor made an aggressive move in ditching D-Will in order to pick up Favors, so why weren’t the Jazz giving the big guy every available minute on the court?
These numbers suggest that Favors’ skill may not be enough to carry a ball club sozinho, ala Malone, but they at least show that he can successfully contribute given the right supporting cast (ala Howard). Perhaps that’s why the Jazz brass refuse to jettison Millsap and Jefferson, despite their erratic play. The problem I see here, and tell me if I’m wrong, is that while the Jazz have a lot of Big Men, indeed enough to create a log jam, none may be capable enough to put Utah over the top. Look at it this way: the Jazz have four bigs and most expect them to finish in the lower West come playoff time. Dwight Howard jumps over to a very thin (and aging) Lakers squad and immediately people are talking championship. Granted, this is Howard’s ninth year, but still … our BIGS don’t instill fear into the hearts of opponents. Despite us having four, repeat four, of them.
I’m wondering if the Jazz brass knows this. Perhaps they expected a little more than what they saw last season (more of the Favors who showed up against LA and less of the man who kind of peetered out towards seasons end). Either way, there’s a reason Al Jefferson has yet to be moved; and a reason why Millsap was offered another huge contract … Utah still doesn’t believe Favors is ready.
Contrast that statement with this: when Karl Malone came to the Jazz, he averaged 30 minutes in his first season and 34 in his second.
Boozer likewise soaked up a lot of minutes early in his career. In his second season with Cleveland he picked up 34 mpg and averaged slightly more with the Jazz despite those pesky injuries.
Howard averaged over 30-minutes the second his foot hit Orlando’s turf.
Last season, Favors only picked up 21-minutes per game. Jefferson and Millsap picked up over 30 apiece. Come on!
I guess the bottom line here is this: Utah needs to commit to one of these guys and fast, otherwise Favors’ growth will contort into something akin to Millsap’s – he’ll never play a permanent role on any team and end up a good, but not great, supporting cast member. In reality, Favors trails Dwight Howard (at least in per 36-minute talk) by a few points. I think Utah needs to groom this man to be the BIG GUY we all want him to be, but that won’t happen if Coach Ty Corbin continues to utilize him like a high valued third stringer.
Of course, for this to happen Utah needs to ditch one of its bigs (unless Millsap willingly comes off the bench – spoiler alert: he wont). The questions is which one?
Big Al supplies the points, but lacks defense. Millsap carries the heart, but lacks size. Kanter has a long way to go before he becomes a legit threat (unless Corbin gives him enough minutes to progress – again, these guys’ games will only improve so much if they’re given little time to develop on the court). So what does Utah do?
I’ve said it before: this season is Utah’s last ditch effort to hang onto Al Jefferson. I think the organization will fight for Millsap purely out of loyalty, but Big Al needs to deliver or else he’s gone. Last season he played a pivotal part in carrying the Jazz to the playoffs, but also worked hard to get the Jazz swept in the first round by the Spurs. The valid excuse seemed to suggest that he needed more outside shooting to compliment his inside game. Well, the Jazz brass went out and got a bunch of outside shooters … it’s up to Big Al to do the rest. I think Favors will continue to come off the bench (again, unless Milsap willingly accepts a supporting role – and even that all but guarantees his departure after this season) so that Big Al can flex his muscles. If he can keep the Jazz afloat, Utah will resign him and continue to hold Favors on the back burner.
If Big Al fails, though, expect to see him shipped off on the first train to the east coast.
Unfortunately, such decisions make it difficult for a Jazz fan to know who to root for … Do I cheer for Big Al and the team, which is kind of like cheering on the short term option; or do I hope for a Big Al nose dive in which case Favors’ maturation process can jump into fourth gear, thus solving a long term solution?
Time will tell.