When the Utah Jazz brought Derrick Favors back in free agency last fall, it was a heartfelt reunion, a perfect intersection of need and sentiment that culminated in the longtime franchise staple saying he’d accepted the offer to return to Utah because “It feels like home.”
The feel-good vibes were dealt a harsh dose of reality on Friday morning, though, when Favors got metaphorically evicted.
For the second time in three seasons, Favors became a casualty of the Jazz’s money machinations, this time with the team trading him to the Oklahoma City Thunder along with a future first-round pick in exchange for a 2027 second-rounder (the least favorable of the four OKC currently holds that season).
The Athletic first reported news of the trade, while ESPN was first with the details of the picks.
The transaction effectively amounts to a mechanism for the Jazz to slightly lessen what was set to be an astronomical luxury tax bill.
With Favors on the roster, Utah had roughly $135 million in committed salaries — before even getting to the possibility of signing All-Star guard Mike Conley, an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. The Jazz are looking at not only exceeding the $136.6M luxury tax threshold, but going so far over as to pay tens of millions more in compounding penalties.
Trading Favors — and his $9.7M salary — away will help lessen the financial hit.
And while it’s painful to once again jettison such a highly-regarded member of the team, the center’s declining production and the organization’s desire to inject some versatility into its big-man rotation made the move a relatively straightforward one.
Favors had a negative trade value, between his midlevel-exception salary rate and his career-worst averages in minutes (15.3) and points (5.4) per game this past season. Hence the need to attach a first-rounder as the sweetener for the Thunder to absorb him into their cap space.
This second exit from the Jazz appears to be a colder, harsher one for Favors.
Two summers ago, with the team looking to re-tool the roster into a more offensively explosive unit, Favors was dealt to the New Orleans Pelicans in order to open up salary space for Conley in a separate trade, and for Bojan Bogdanovic, via free agent signing. Except on that occasion, rather than simply declining the team’s contract option on the big man, the Jazz worked to find a soft landing spot for him, one where he could retain an existing salary far higher than anything he could have earned in free agency.
After a season with the Pelicans that was tumultuous both personally and professionally, both Favors and the Jazz saw value in his return to the organization.
Less than a calendar year later, the Jazz saw the cold, hard value in having another team pay his wages to play basketball.