Utah Jazz: Derrick Favors' offense starting to catch up to his defense
Derrick Favors' defense earned him the payday.
The Utah Jazz made no bones about that in October, when they signed the fourth-year big man to a four-year, $49 million extension. As general manager Dennis Lindsey tries to build a winner in Salt Lake City, Favors, a 6-foot-10, athletic rim protector, was to be the anchor of his defense.
So when questions about the other half of Favors' game came up, Lindsey wasn't worried. The offense would "define itself" in due time, he said.
Twenty games into the season, and due time might pass sooner than most expected. Favors' offensive game looks more polished than it ever has, as he averages a career-best 13.7 points a night, the second-highest scorer on the Jazz.
"He's worked his butt off to continue to get better," Jazz coach Ty Corbin said, "and he's made some moves this year that he couldn't make last year."
The 22-year-old spent most of his offseason in Salt Lake City, working with his coaches, developing "my face-up game, jump shots, driving to the basket, hook shoots, spin moves, whatever."
He attended a USA basketball camp in Vegas, competing with the best.
"I was out there with a lot of good players," he said. "It helped out a lot. I learned I could compete with them."
He's shown it on the floor.
"I'm just getting comfortable," he said. "Getting comfortable with the system. Just taking my time with the offense, not rushing it and letting the game come to me."
On Monday, against Houston's Dwight Howard, Favors hit on all six of his shots, finishing with 14 points to go along with 13 rebounds.
On Wednesday, with the talk focused on the battle between Gordon Hayward and Paul George, it was Favors who, for one night at least, looked like the best player on the floor from that 2010 draft class.
He pump-faked and drove past Luis Scola, floating a shot over the arms of Roy Hibbert, the league's best shot-blocker. Another time, he bumped into Hibbert's midsection, stepped under the rim and hit a reverse layup off the glass.
Favors also had his jump shot going, helping him finish with a game-high 22 points.
On several occasions, the forward took a pass in the paint and hit a soft jumper.
"I worked on it all summer," he said. "So I'm confident with that shot. Sometimes it will go in. Sometimes it doesn't. But I don't let it get to me. I worked hard on that shot."
Favors is playing more minutes than ever, thanks to the departures of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap Â up to 32.7 minutes a night from 23.2 Â and he hasn't squandered the opportunity.
"He is one guy that's really making strides and making the most of the time that he's getting on the floor now," Corbin said earlier this year.
He's shooting 42 percent from 5-9 feet this season, up from 25.6 percent a year ago. From 10 to 14 feet, he's hitting on 56 percent of his shots. Last year, he made 40.7 percent of his attempts from that range.
Said rookie point guard Trey Burke, "You can tell he put in a lot of work this summer. He's a guy we can go to to get a bucket or get to the free-throw line. It's great playing with a big guy like that. Coming off the pick-and-roll, knowing you're going to have a guy that's going to attract two or three defenders. If he's not open, somebody else is going to be open."
After taking on Howard and Hibbert, Favors will find himself matched up Friday night in Portland against the Trail Blazers' LaMarcus Aldridge, whose play has helped his team get out to the best start in the West.
"It's tough, but that's why it's the NBA, he said.
Favors isn't making it easy on his opponents either.
But the big man who still fancies himself as a defender first says he's not in the same class as the players on the other side.
"Not yet," he said. "Those guys have accomplished a lot. I'm just starting to accomplish stuff, so not yet."
Perhaps, in due time.
Utah at Portland
O Friday, 8 p.m.
TV • ROOT Sports
Jazz at Trail Blazers
O At Moda Center (Portland, Ore.)
Tipoff • Friday, 8 p.m.
TV • ROOT Sports
Radio • 97.5 FM, 960 AM, 1280 AM
Records • Jazz 4-16; Blazers 16-3
About the Jazz • Coming off a home loss to the first-place Indiana Pacers. â¦ Rookie point guard Trey Burke dished 9 assists in the game, a new best. â¦ Forward Marvin Williams will not play as he rests his sore right heel.
About the Blazers • The West's No. 1 team. â¦ Forward LaMarcus Aldridge scored 38 points in a win over Oklahoma City on Wednesday. â¦ Former Weber State point guard Damian Lillard is averaging better than 20 points and five assists a night.