About five years ago, Quin Snyder brought in four-time NBA All-Star Doug Collins to talk to his Utah Jazz team. One seed of advice Collins offered to the players back then is bearing fruit during the team’s current push for the franchise’s first NBA title.
“He said, ‘Be a star in your role,’” recalled 6-foot-9 backup center Derrick Favors. “And I kind of took that to heart because it made perfect sense for me.”
Favors has played fewer minutes per game this season than at any time in his career. Yet, it could be argued that second-for-second, each of those minutes packs more punch.
During the opening game of the Jazz’s second-round series against the Clippers on Tuesday, Favors spent less than 15 minutes on the floor. Yet his defensive hustle, punctuated by two blocks, three defensive rebounds and a steal, made it so Snyder didn’t have to rush to reinsert presumptive Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. The Jazz would eventually win the game, 112-109.
That performance was just an extension of the dynamic minutes Favors charted against the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. His play in Game 1, Utah’s only loss in the series, in which he saw his third-most minutes of the season after Gobert ran into foul trouble, was a bright spot for the Jazz. In 23 minutes, he culled 12 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
Across six games, he’s averaging 5.7 rebounds, 5.2 points and 1.3 blocks in 15 minutes. But, while on the court, he’s accounted for 72% of the team’s offensive rebounds, 40% of its total rebounds and 73% of its blocks. For comparison, Tony Bradley in the same role last year accounted for 62.5% of its offensive rebounds, 45% of its total rebound and 50% of the team’s blocks during his time on the floor through six games.
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Favors isn’t going to replace Gobert in the starting lineup anytime soon, and won’t necessarily even see more minutes, but Snyder said he is making himself essential to the team.
“Rudy’s unique and Fav is unique in his own way. And maybe the most unique thing about [Favors] is he’s a guy that stars in his role,” Snyder said. “And I think that example that he sets for our entire group, I think that’s one of the reasons that he came back here, that he knew that regardless of what his minutes or his role looked like during the regular season, that he’s a guy that’s going to be crucial to us, you know, if we’re going to be able to have success in the playoffs.”
Last season, Favors found himself on a team other than the Jazz for the first time in 10 seasons. But he applied Collins’ advice while filling the role of O.G and facilitator on a young but talented New Orleans Pelicans team, and his willingness to embrace that role earned him deep respect from his teammates.
“He does all the dirty work, incredibly unselfish,” veteran guard JJ Redick told The Tribune in March. “And every team he’s been on, he makes them better when he’s on the floor.”
When the Jazz asked Favors, 29, to rejoin the team this season as a coagulant for the bleeding Utah had been doing whenever Gobert left the court, Favors said he knew he could be a starter elsewhere. But in Utah, he could have meaningful minutes, keep down wear-and-tear on his body (he missed a couple games this season with knee soreness) and perhaps also win a ring.
“It definitely was something that I was thinking about, because I knew Utah was going to be a playoff team and I knew they had a shot at a championship,” Favors said. “And it was something that I wanted to be a part of. And when the opportunity came, I took it.”
He’s approaching his playing time this postseason the same way. When the opportunity comes, he’s taking it.