When Derrick Favors was brought back this past summer on a two-year deal, many critical fans wondered what exactly the Jazz were doing.
These days, it’s safe to assume most of those same people now wonder what exactly the Jazz would do without him.
His raw numbers don’t jump off the page at you — he’s averaging 11.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks this season — but he’s certainly doing his part to remind anyone who may have forgotten just what kind of impact he can have on a game.
After the Minnesota game on Thursday, Donovan Mitchell called Favors, “a different animal right now;” and following Saturday’s win vs. the Nets, he noted the big man is “playing out of this world.”
Favors has certainly turned it on of late. In the Jazz’s past 10 games, the ninth-year big man out of Georgia Tech has averaged 14.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks, while shooting 58.8 percent from the field. And those numbers are even dragged down a bit by two games (vs. OKC and Memphis) in which he totaled only a combined eight points and 11 rebounds on 3-for-10 shooting. He’s also had five double-doubles in that stretch.
DERRICK FAVORS’ LAST 10 GAMES
March 16, vs. Nets/22/13/4-10/12/3
March 14, vs. Wolves/27/17/8-12/11/2
March 13, at Suns/26/18/8-14/7/1
March 11, vs. Thunder/22/5/2-5/6/1
March 8, at Grizzlies/22/3/1-5/5/2
March 6, at Pelicans/25/25/9-11/5/2
March 4, vs. Pelicans/24/16/6-10/4/2
March 2, vs. Bucks/32/23/10-12/18/3
Feb. 28, at Nuggets/30/15/4-7/11/0
Feb. 27, vs. Clippers/22/13/5-11/11/3
Last 10 games/25.2/14.8/58.8%/9.0/1.9
“It’s just me going out there and being aggressive and finding my spots,” Favors said. “Playing hard, basically — offensive rebounding, getting pick-and-roll actions, just being aggressive offensively. Not stressing too much; really, just going out there and having fun.”
And he definitely is doing that.
Honestly, his teammates and coaches say, it’s not that he’s doing anything drastically different these days, but simply that he’s finally healthy again.
Indeed, it was the injury-plagued 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, in which he played 62 and 50 games, respectively, that led many to assume he was irrevocably broken and beyond redemption. This offseason, though, he was “working out two, three times a day,” getting his knees and legs and back and core strong.
“He was at a point a couple years ago, a few seasons ago, where he was really fighting some physical challenges,” said coach Quin Snyder. “And as he’s gotten healthy, he’s found ways to improve, and he’s engaged and more focused in certain aspects of the game.”
In fact, he’s having success in a lot of areas on the court.
While his lack of 3-point shooting (he’s making just 22.4 percent from deep this season) have led many to conclude that that he’s an untenable anachronism in the frontcourt next to Rudy Gobert in this modern pace-and-space style of play, he’s finding plenty of other places in which to contribute.
“Yeah, I can do a little bit of everything. I don’t want to get categorized in just one aspect because I can’t shoot a 3-pointer at a high level,” Favors said. “I can do a lot of things — I can rebound, I can score, defend. Most of the time, on this team, I do a lot of stuff guys don’t want to do. That’s my role. … Some people call it garbage work; you can call it whatever you want to call it — I take pride in it.”
His lunchpail mentality was highlighted at the end of the third quarter Saturday night, when several Jazz misses became extra possessions simply by virtue of Favors outworking his Brooklyn counterparts and keeping the ball alive.
It’s not as though all he does is unskilled grunt work, however. Forward Kyle Korver noted that “him and Joe [Ingles] in the pick-and-roll, they’ve become one of our best options,” adding that Favors has become so effective at it because, “He’s got such good hands, he just catches everything.”
Ingles, meanwhile, asked why his pick-and-roll sets with Favors have produced such good results of late, jokingly responded, “Fav is finally finishing at the rim!” before turning more serious.
“Me and Fav have played together for a long time; the more you play together, the more comfortable [you get together], the more you know what he wants to do, you know where he’s gonna go,” he added. “Obviously, I’m confident throwing it to him, because I throw it to him a lot. He’s just in a good rhythm.”
Anything more than a cursory look into his numbers bears that out — his per-36s indicate this is actually one of Favors’ best statistical seasons, as they extrapolate out to 17.9 points (third-best of his career), 11.4 rebounds (best), and 2.2 blocks (second-best). Favors’ 57.6 FG percentage is also a career-high. He also has proven to be one of the best rim protectors in the league this season, as shots within five feet are going in just 48.7 percent of the time against him.
It’s not the stats, though, that tell the true story of Favors’ influence on the the Jazz, Snyder said — it’s the effort and the example.
“The other night, his ability to get on the offensive glass changed the game. It seems like whether it’s him in pick-and-rolls making plays, or taking a defensive assignment, or being on the glass, he’s just looking for different ways to impact the game,” he said. “If he can’t do one, he’s not shutting down and saying, ‘Well, this isn’t going’ — he’s finding something else he can do to help the team.”
JAZZ AT WIZARDS
At Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.
Tipoff • 5 p.m. MT
TV • AT&T SportsNet
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 40-29; Wizards 30-40
Last meeting • Jazz, 107-104 (Jan. 10, 2018)
About the Jazz • Utah begins its four-game road trip having won three straight overall. … Eleven of the Jazz’s 13 remaining games this regular season come against teams that are below .500, including all four on this trip. … Utah and Washington have yet to play this season, but will meet twice in a span of 11 days.
About the Wizards • Washington is 6-4 in its last 10 games, and is coming off a 135-128 win over Memphis on Saturday. … All-Star guard Bradley Beal is averaging 26.2 points and 5.6 assists per game, while shooting 47.8 percent from the field. … In 16 games with the Wizards, forward Jabari Parker is averaging 14.5 points and 7.4 rebounds, while shooting 55.6 percent.