When the Jazz unveiled their new video display system Saturday, the players representing both the franchise's present and future appeared on the boards in the upper reaches of EnergySolutions Arena.
In one end of the building, Gordon Hayward. In the other, Derrick Favors.
To me, there's a distinction between the cornerstones. As they negotiate contract extensions this month, the Jazz don't need to reach the same outcomes with Hayward and Favors.
My answer to the team's dilemma: Yes and no. The Jazz should give Hayward his contract now and make Favors earn his deal in 2014.
Marketing strategy aside, these players are not equal or interchangeable at this stage of their careers. And whatever risks or side effects would be associated with seemingly favoring Hayward over Favors are both minimal and explainable. Favors has so much to prove that while giving him an extension now would not necessarily be a mistake, it works to the Jazz's advantage to make him wait.
If Favors becomes a restricted free agent next summer and signs an offer sheet with another team, the Jazz simply can match it. If not reaching an agreement this month offends him, that's OK. I'd love to see what a highly motivated Favors would do in his fourth season.
Hayward and Favors. Favors and Hayward. The reality is they're not the same people or the same players. Favors, the No. 3 pick in the 2010 draft and a big part of the Jazz's trade of Deron Williams to the Nets, may become an NBA All-Star sooner than Hayward, based on his phenomenal athletic ability. But I'm just not sold on his offensive skills yet. Hayward's all-around game is considerably more advanced, partly because of greater opportunity to play.
Hayward, the No. 9 pick, is a year older (23) than Favors and has shown steady improvement through three seasons with the Jazz, especially with his 3-point shooting. He's the team's emerging leader, doing everything the coaching staff and management are asking of him in that role, and his style of play affects his teammates positively.
Favors' strengths also have a healthy impact, particularly in terms of covering up defensive deficiencies with his shot-blocking ability and presence around the rim. He's also an excellent rebounder. I just want more from him offensively, which I'm not sure he's ready to deliver.
Regardless of what happens contractually, he'll be fascinating to watch this season. Favors recently made ESPN.com's NBA All-Intriguing Team as the power forward, joining Phoenix's Eric Bledsoe, Philadelphia's Evan Turner, Boston's Jeff Green and New Orleans' Anthony Davis. That's mostly, but not completely, a compliment.
"Intriguing" is one of my favorite words, meaning there's no way of knowing exactly what will happen, and not always in a good sense. Utah State's football season without quarterback Chuckie Keeton is intriguing. The government shutdown is intriguing.
So is Favors' development, absolutely. This is where some psychology comes into play with these two. Having studied Hayward, I know that he responds to whatever is expected of him. That's why he was a great tennis player in Indiana, in a sport where everything was up to him. In basketball, coaches always told him to become more assertive and he did so, once he understood what his teams needed from him.
Hayward would live up to everything that came with a contract extension this month, fulfilling expectations and matching his job description. That's what he's always done.
My sense of Favors, more subjectively, is that some prodding wouldn't hurt him. I'm not saying he would respond poorly to a contract extension, but the Jazz certainly would benefit if another season of playing for his second contract drove him to become consistent and expand his game.
Just as those video boards suggested, Hayward and Favors are the Jazz's cornerstones, and they should thrive here for a long time. Their career trajectories will be fun to follow, and you could make a case for either player ultimately having the bigger impact in the NBA.
But they're not at the same point right now, and the Jazz don't have to deal with them equally.
Tale of two Jazzmen
Career statistics for the Jazz's Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors:
Season G GS Min. FG FT Pts. Reb.
2010-11 72 17 16.9 .485 .711 5.4 1.9
2011-12 66 58 30.4 .456 .832 11.8 3.5
2012-13 72 27 29.2 .435 .827 14.1 3.1
2010-11* 78 27 19.7 .517 .595 6.8 5.3
2011-12 65 9 21.2 .499 .649 8.8 6.5
2012-13 77 8 23.2 .482 .688 9.4 7.1
* Includes 56 games with Nets.