Derrick Favors’ improved perimeter game should help the Jazz spread the floor

(Francisco Kjolseth | Salt Lake Tribune file photo) Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) gets the ball away from Houston Rockets center Nene Hilario (42) in the first half of Game 4 of the NBA playoffs at the Vivint Smart Home Arena Sunday, May 6, 2018 in Salt Lake City.

A smiling Derrick Favors started his media day press conference with a quick-fire list of answers prepared for the occasion. Among other topics, he boasted that he could play next to Rudy Gobert, thanks to his hard work on his 3-point shot.

Yeah, the assembled media laughed, as did podium mate Alec Burks.

But while it looked like a joke, and sounded like a joke, Favors was not joking. In fact, he recoiled when a reporter insinuated he was.

“I was dead-a-- serious. I was dead serious when I said that,” he said.

That’s not really a surprise: Favors took 63 3-point shots in the 2017-18 season, 55 of them from the corners. He’s even done it on the biggest stage: his two 3-pointers were critical in the Jazz’s series-turning Game 2 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

But his effectiveness has been the question. Favors made only 14 of those 63 threes last season — good for 22.2 percent. One hundred percent of those threes were open (meaning the defender was at least 4 feet away) and 75 percent were wide-open (a defender was at least 6 feet away). At those percentages, defenses have no problem just sinking off into the paint and leaving Favors to try his best from deep.

And that’s exactly the problem that Favors shooting threes was supposed to solve. With Favors in — or near — the paint, it’s much easier for Favors’ man to temporarily switch over and stop Gobert’s roll for just long enough until Gobert’s man gets into position. And without Gobert’s dunks and layups, the Jazz’s offense can get very jump-shot dependent, very fast.

But keeping Favors in the corner minimizes some of his best attributes: his ability to catch the ball and finish in one fluid motion, as well his his talent on the offensive glass. So it’s not that Favors stands in the corner for all 24 seconds while the rest of the Jazz run their plays; instead, he’ll be a final finishing option out there after setting screens or moving without the ball.

“I’ve been working on it within the offense,” Favors said. “We run specific plays where I stretch out to the corner and guys pass me the ball and I’m taking the shot.”

Against Perth, Favors' lone 3-point attempt came more in the flow of transition, rather than a set play for the look. But it illustrated when he’ll get those shots: His initial foray into the paint came unrewarded, so Favors cycled back out to the corner, kept his hands ready for the pass and took the shot.

And yes, Favors missed the shot. Even the best 3-point shooters miss most of them, but if Favors continues to do so at the rate he did last season, the defenses won’t be forced to adjust, the Jazz will probably move away from this option, and Jae Crowder will likely continue to get the lion’s share of the minutes at the four at the end of games.

But Favors is optimistic that won’t be the case.

“It’s looking good,” he says. “We’ll see what happens, but so far it’s looking good.”