Utah Jazz: Derrick Favors is Jazz’s best hope moving into big offseason
At just 20 years old, forward has potential to become a cornerstone of the Jazz for years to come.
Published: May 9, 2012 06:59PM
Updated: May 10, 2012 12:01AM
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Lennie Mahler | The Salt Lake Tribune Derrick Favors speaks to the media during locker clean-out day Tuesday, May 8, 2012, at EnergySolutions Arena. The San Antonio Spurs swept the Jazz out of the playoffs in the first round.

When Derrick Favors first joined the Jazz, his voice was whisper-soft and his future was as uncertain as Utah’s.

The No. 3 overall pick during the 2010 draft was a secondary piece in the blockbuster Deron Williams trade, known more in the NBA for Carmelo Anthony trade rumors than the talent that once made him the top high-school prospect in the country.

Less than 15 months have passed since Favors put on a Utah uniform. But after a strong second season and at times dominant four-game run during the Jazz’s first-round playoff loss to San Antonio, the most certain thing about Utah’s unpredictable future is Favors’ awesome potential.

After averaging 8.8 points and 6.5 rebounds during 65 regular-season games, the 20-year-old pounded in 11.8 points and 9.5 rebounds during Utah’s 4-0 fall to the Spurs. During the Jazz’s final two defeats at EnergySolutions Arena, Favors recorded double-doubles, combining for 31 points and 21 rebounds while sometimes single-handedly leading the fight to keep Utah’s season alive.

Asked about Favors’ inspiring future, Jazz center Al Jefferson threw his head back in awe and responded with three words: Oh my god.

“I just hope I’m his teammate. … He’s only getting better and better,” Jefferson said. “And when he learn how to really get some great post moves and use his athleticism instead of running over people … it’s going to be trouble, man.”

The muscular, athletic, aggressive young forward from Atlanta took a crucial step in his evolution during a lockout-compressed 2011-12 season. Favors was then rewarded with a promotion to the Jazz’s staring lineup during Utah’s playoff elimination game.

While his teammates cleaned out their lockers Tuesday and eyed a long offseason, Favors’ sight was already set on 2012-13.

When he returns for his third year in Salt Lake City, Favors hopes to be in the Jazz’s starting lineup. He knows what he can become. Now, all he has to do is embrace his future and shine.

“I’m starting to feel like I’m in the NBA now,” said Favors, following his exit interview with the Jazz.

Those few, simple words say everything about Favors’ development, as his maturation off the court has paralleled his evolution on it. In New Jersey, Favors spent his rookie year living like he was still in a dormitory at Georgia Tech. Cooking his own food was an issue; a suitcase was always packed. At the end of a tumultuous 2010-11 season for Utah, Favors still seemed childlike during exit interviews, flipping through an automobile magazine and quietly blending into the background. Tuesday, the kid looked like a confident young man.

Favors walked with a swagger and didn’t pause as questions poured in. He knew the media wanted to speak with him and dived into the moment, going so far as to say a Jazz team that finished 36-30 and outlasted doubters to capture the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference is on an enviable path moving forward.

During a day when many Utah players praised the team’s season but reflected on lost momentum during a poor showing against the Spurs, all Favors wanted to discuss was the future.

“I don’t make decisions, but I think we’re perfect,” Favors said. “We’re going to work hard next year, improve, and try to get out of the first round.”

Favors’ post moves should be more polished next season. His outside touch should be smoother. And everything from his conditioning to his free-throw shooting will be addressed during a four-and-a-half month layoff.

If Favors’ arc continues to rocket upward while the Jazz make minor additions to a roster general manager Kevin O’Connor said will remain mostly intact, Utah will have a major decision to make when training camp opens in October.

Favors is the future. He knows it. So do the Jazz. The kid’s becoming a man. Thus, the unproven team he plays for is the only thing holding him back.

Can Favors start for next season? Absolutely, coach Tyrone Corbin said.

Will he?

O’Connor said the call is Corbin’s to make.

“You never know. We’ve got a lot of bodies,” Corbin said. “He’s [worked] this year to be a starter. … I want all the guys to work to be starters. He’s done that and he deserves to start. And if that’s the best thing for us, then he will start.”

bsmith@sltrib.com

The Favors file

Position • PF/C

Year • 2

Age • 20

Vitals • 6-10, 248 lbs.

Draft • No. 3 overall in 2010 by New Jersey

College • Georgia Tech

Born • Atlanta

Big step

Favors’ numbers

2011-12 playoffs

G FG pct. FT pct. Pts. Reb. Blk Min.

4 41.7 58.6 11.8 9.5 1.5 29

Career stats

G FG pct. FT pct. Pts. Reb. Blk Min.

143 50.8 62.4 7.7 5.9 0.9 20.4