Vegas odds makers have the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat as co-favorites to win the NBA title this year. Before the idea of that being the matchup for the NBA Finals makes you nauseous, though the NBA and ESPN would be positively giddy, let’s instead focus on one of the cornerstones of the Utah Jazz now and for the future. I got myself all excited just writing about this kid, he’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.
PLAYER: Derrick Favors
COLLEGE: Georgia Tech
YEARS w/JAZZ: 2011-Present
How’d we get here?
Calling Derrick Favors’ first year in the league tumultuous would be an understatement. From the day he was selected #3 overall in the 2010 NBA Draft, speculation swirled over his head that he was going to be traded to the Denver Nuggets in a deal for Carmelo Anthony. The trade rumors were persistent and had to affect him. The deal, of course, never happened as the Anthony saga finally came to an end when he was traded to the Knicks. Shortly thereafter, Kevin O’Connor, in a move that looks more brilliant the further we get away from it, swooped in and took almost the identical package being offered for Anthony for Deron Williams. The centerpiece of the trade for the Jazz was Derrick Favors. He showed some flashes during his 22 games with the Jazz but you can basically throw his rookie season away with all the drama he had to deal with.
With that kind of rookie season, it didn’t get much better for his sophomore season as the owners locked out the players and forced the NBA to play a shortened 66-game season with no real training camp. Coach Corbin briefly put Favors in the starting lineup but he wasn’t ready. Foul trouble plagued his few starts and Paul Millsap’s superb play demanded that he go back in the lineup with Favors the first big man off the bench. The rotation stayed that way all year until the end when Favors got back in the starting lineup for the last couple of weeks and really played well, particularly defensively.
This season and beyond
Jeff’s love of Gordon Hayward (see the player profile for more) is shared by the majority of Jazz Nation, he is one of the most popular players and likely will be for years. While certainly popular, there is a strong possibility that the true face of the franchise going forward will become Derrick Favors. Hayward is a very good player and I’m excited to see him improve but the player on the Jazz’s roster with the best chance at reaching elite status is Favors. The problem is that we still don’t know what we have with him. It is becoming clear that Favors is likely on the path to becoming one of the premier defensive players in this league. He is a phenomenal talent and has admitted that he wants to be known for his defense. If his offensive game develops to include a 15-foot jump shot and a go-to post move, he could be really special.
The most exciting thing with speculating about Favors’ potential is that it is not an exaggeration to say that he could be a perennial All-Star. Will it happen in the loaded Western Conference? Who knows? I think it’s a travesty Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson didn’t make it last year but that’s a combination of the West being loaded with talented big men and the continuing problem of the small-market Jazz struggling to get noticed by voters. The third year is often the year that NBA players take a giant leap. With that in mind, both Hayward and Favors are the two players to watch closest. If the Jazz are going to contend in the West, both of them will need to take that next step in their development. Favors doesn’t need to be an All-Star this year but he does need to make us start thinking that it’s going to happen.
Let me put on my coach’s hat
You won’t find much of a bigger fan of Paul Millsap than me. With that said, Derrick Favors needs to start all 82 games this season, assuming he’s healthy. Favors is the future of the franchise and he showed enough last year that if he’s going to become one of the cornerstones of the Jazz, he has to start and play 30+ minutes a game. I’ll get into how this affects Millsap next week but the biggest key for Favors’ success this year will be getting him quality starter’s minutes. I look forward to him being a disruptive force defensively and have my fingers crossed that he can be productive offensively. He might not be a 20-10 guy right away but 15-10-5 (blocks) would be fantastic. In fact, that brings me to my-
Derrick Favors will have a triple-double THIS year. It won’t be pretty but he’ll get one. I’m thinking 12 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 blocks. I project he’ll average 2-3 blocks a game but for that one game, it’ll be the Derrick Favors Coming Out Party.
This is the point of the profile where I should caution that Favors is still largely unproven and that expectations should be kept in check. To hell with that. The sky is the limit with Favors; why not let our optimism run rampant? He works incredibly hard and he wants to be great. I believe he will be. In years to come, the Deron Williams trade will look more and more like the Jazz got the better end of the deal and the biggest reason will be the emergence of Derrick Favors as a star.
(I’m happy for Brooklyn that they resigned Deron, by the way, and not just because he’s in the East. From a fan’s POV, I would have felt the Nets’ pain at getting so thoroughly fleeced had he left. Another thing about me is that I’m an unapologetic D-Will fan for life. Take that for what you want.)