Who is Derrick Favors Really?

Derrick FavorsPhoto by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

As fans we often have a tendency to value our own players over those of similar ilk on other teams. Case in point, a question in this roundtable spawned a lengthy Twitter discussion when I asked both Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings fans if they would do a trade where the centerpieces were Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins. Every single Jazz fan said they would rather have Favors, while every single Kings fan responded that they would rather have Cousins.

The Jazz have assembled a squad with still-green youngsters, with more than one-third of the roster aged 25 or under. Recently, the brilliant David Thorpe and Kevin Pelton ranked the top 25 players in the NBA under age 25. Go ahead, take a guess how many Jazz players made the grade. Exactly none.

We all have high hopes for Derrick Favors, and many have extreme expectations for him as well. One local blogger even went so far as to proclaim that Favors is “already the best two-way big man in Utah Jazz history.” I’ve seen Favors’ potential compared by Jazz fans to not only the likes of Karl Malone, but also Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett. These claims have little basis in reality, with the overwhelming sentiment being one that cannot be disputed, that being that “we won’t know unless we play him 36 minutes a night.” It’s an argument that not only is unrealistic, but borders on delusional, and can’t be won as it’s based entirely on deliberate speculation and conjecture sprinkled with the fairy dust of faith and hope that come with being a true fanatic. It’s essentially an unwinnable argument.

Just because a guy is taken high in the NBA lottery doesn’t automatically make him a franchise’s future and mean he should be on the floor more than a fan would wish them to be. The end game here is the assumption that these types of players are the ones that lead teams to titles, but only if they start early and often in their careers. Indeed, far more lottery picks never win titles than do, regardless of playing time garnered.

In Thorpe and Pelton’s piece there were four other big men taken in the same draft as Derrick Favors, and Favors was taken before all of them at 3rd in the 2010 NBA draft. The Detroit Pistons’ Greg Monroe was taken 7th, and comes in as the 14th-best player under 25. Next on the list is the Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins, drafted 5th and chiming in at 19th on Thorpe and Pelton’s list. After him we find Milwaukee Bucks’ defensive phenom Larry Sanders, drafted 15th in 2010, and ringing in at 22nd. Finally, we find the Toronto Raptors’ Ed Davis, drafted with the 13th pick, and landing as the 24th-best NBA player under 25.

Cousins probably has the most complete all-around natural skill set of this bunch, but is also by far the most volatile which will likely always hold him back. He’s also started since virtually day one for Sacramento and has accrued the second-most minutes of this group. Monroe has played the most minutes, along with Cousins, both over 5,500 for their young NBA careers, and has a nice natural two-way skill set as well as could end up a staple among the league’s leading rebounders one day. Davis has played over 4,100 career NBA minutes to Favors’ over 3,700 thus far, while Larry Sanders has played by far the least, at only 2,526 at the time of this writing.

And Sanders might just be the best of this crop of 2010 NBA draft big men, ultimately, the most impactful to his team. In the least amount of minutes, Sanders has made the biggest difference of any of this group. Until he was inserted into the Bucks’ starting lineup he was playing the same amount of minutes per game as Favors.

Advanced statistics prodigy Andy B. Larsen recently compared Favors to reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler, but it’s far more likely that Sanders lands a DPoY than it is that Favors does. Sanders has only recently been inserted into the starting lineup for the Bucks, and only plays a shade over 25 minutes per game, and yet, in those 25 minutes, he’s managed to become the NBA’s leader in blocked shots per game, a feat he pulls off more than three times a game on average. And Sanders’ offensive game is already more refined than Favors or Davis to boot.

Who is Derrick Favors?

As rookies, both on bad Eastern Conference teams, Davis and Favors were essentially the same statistical player, according to BasketballReference, despite Favors starting ten more games and posting a higher usage rate.

Favors v Davis

Three years later, Favors is still Ed Davis, albeit it on a far better team, a place that could be considered far more conducive to a better long-term development than that of a perennial dog in the East, especially with the support base he has among his teammates, coaches, and front office, not to mention fans.

Favors v Davis 3rd year

Thus far, if we’re honest with ourselves, Derrick Favors has given us no reason to believe that he will be a Karl Malone, a Dwight Howard, or a Kevin Garnett. He’s not even the best big man from his own draft, playing time notwithstanding. There’s a reason that simply handing over floor minutes doesn’t automatically equal positive development, a fact the Jazz front office is well aware of.

Who could Derrick Favors become? 

Could Derrick become a Tyson Chandler? It’s certainly possible. And he has a work ethic to match; Chandler worked hard — and I mean really hard — in becoming the NBA’s field goals percentage leader and defensive stalwart he is today. And it didn’t happen overnight. Chandler didn’t really bloom until his sixth NBA season after more than 10,000 NBA minutes, and was left for dead three years later on the side of I-77 after his stint with the Charlotte Bobcats before reviving his career with the Dallas Mavericks, going on to win his defensive award with the New York Knicks.

Favors v Chandler 3rd year

Marshal Mangus offers up both a worst and best-case scenario for Favors. First, best-case offering being Alonzo Mourning. Since Zo played all four years of college ball at Georgetown, and Favors came out after only one year at Georgia Tech, a more fair comparison here is Mourning’s rookie season versus Favors’ third year, aside from the fact that it makes Favors look a little better next to the legendary Zo.

Favors v Zo 3rd year v rookie year

While Favors compares favorably, no pun intended, in some of the Per 36 and Advanced statistical categories, we see that Derrick has a long, long way to go if he is to ever match up to Mourning’s natural offensive abilities. Next.

Stromile Swift was a 2nd overall pick in the 2000 NBA draft, and had a fair amount of expectation immediately attached to him. His numbers are near-dead ringers to Favors through three seasons.

Favors v Swift 3rd year

“Swift played for 4 different teams during his 11 year career in the NBA, finishing with career averages of 8.4 ppg and 4.6 rpg. Stromile Swift is just yet another case of a guy who couldn’t figure out how to harness his pure, raw, athleticism into becoming a productive and consistent NBA player.”

-NBA Draft Busts: Stromile Swift, The Sports Factory

While Swift ended up playing one year in China before never being heard from again.

Broadcast assistant for the Utah Jazz and it’s flagship station 1280 The Zone, Austin Christensen, may have found our man, most realistically speaking, provided Favors picks up his game a little more. But — fair warning — you’re not gonna like it.

Never an All-Star, and with a career Hall of Fame probability of exactly 0.000, Tree Rollins did manage to lead the NBA in blocks one season, and was an important defensive piece of the 15 playoff teams he played for in his 18 seasons in the league. Rollins started sporadically throughout his career, but always made the biggest impact coming off of the bench.

Favors v Rollins 3rd year

Before you take up the pitchforks and torches and march on my modest Xeriscape, understand that we all have the highest of hopes for Favors. However, the expectations may have gotten a little out of hand with some of the previous comparisons carelessly thrown about. Those generational impact Hall of Fame players don’t just pop up out of the ranks every day, despite how a given team may have felt on given draft day. Just because a player is picked high up in the lottery doesn’t mean it’s in said player’s best interest to throw him to the proverbial wolves.

Derrick Favors is one of these players, with a game and personality best nurtured carefully by caring hands, so that he might one day reach the pinnacle of his potential, and may hap beyond if we’re lucky. Maybe we should all take a momentary step back and trust that the competent professionals may actually understand what they’re doing here a wee bit more than we couch GMs and coaches would like to think.

Favors’ shot will come, once his high foul rate, especially on offense, and turnover rates come back to ones that are more conducive to leaving him on the floor for extended minutes at a time. But for now, he’s still ripening on the vine in the Jazz’s garden, waiting to be plucked when the time is right.

Posted in Featured Writers
  • LarryMillersGhost

    Question, was my last comment deleted?

    • weareutahjazz

      Yes, no swearing allowed, even if you abbreviate it like you did.

      • LarryMillersGhost

        Cool. Just wanted to know. Good piece either way.

        • Clint Peterson

          Thank you, sir.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nathan.burr.501 Nathan Burr

    Alright first don’t try and tell me that Favors is Ed Davis, Cause as far as I know It says Favors on the back of his jersey, this is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. Potential for any NBA player especially one with Favors ability is nearly unlimited. When a young rising big man is in the monsterous egotistical shadow of one AL Jefferson it tends to be a little tougher to developed, as a scorer especially. You cant rank people by comparing them to other players, Manu ginobli was taken dead last in the NBA draft and we all know the player he has become today. there is only one Derrick Favors and who knows how great he can become.

    • LarryMillersGhost

      Please elaborate on you saying ” monsterous egotistical” when talking about Big Al.

    • Clint Peterson

      Thanks for reading. I hope you hit on more players’ potential in the future. Only time will tell. If you do, you should certainly apply to several NBA teams, like maybe the Suns’ warlocks.

  • Jordan Porter

    “…turnover rates come back to ones that are more conducive to leaving him on the floor for extended minutes at a time.”

    0.1 more turnovers than hayward /36 mins, tied with earl watson, and less than mo williams, and jamaal tinsley. If thats a major reason to keep him off the court then i’m confused…

    And about fouling… All the players can’t play scared/timid defense like al and to some extent paul. It takes physical defense to make stops and that translates to a higher foul rate. When paul used to actually hustle and play d, he had a much higher foul rate. Even so, per 36 favors is still more than a foul away from fouling out so i’m not sure i see why his aggressiveness should keep him from 30ish mins a night…

    • Clint Peterson

      Turnover % is a more accurate measure. Hayward’s is 13.1%, Favors’ 15.2%, which isn’t terrible fr his position, but can be improved upon a lot, especially as offensive fouls are turnovers. On the point about fouls, it’s not so much how many one gets in a game total, but that two or three in a row will get you benched for obvious statistical reasoning. Another factor of having three or more fouls relatively early in a game is it compromises one’s ability to play effective, aggressive defense.

  • Clint Peterson

    Author note: Ed Davis was traded later the very day this post popped to a team with similar circumstances and makeup in many ways to the Jazz, and an “Al Jefferson” of their own: The Memphis Grizzlies. Griz analysts are extremely excited about Davis’ future with the team.

  • Jonathan Hill

    I think this is a well-written article and well thought out. Thanks for your insights. I agree that it’s far from a sure thing that Favors will be a bona fide superstar – at the same time, his combination of work ethic and physical gifts/tools suggest he will continue growing into something special, at least in my opinion. No two players develop alike, though your comparisons to Ed Davis are definitely interesting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nathan.burr.501 Nathan Burr

    Im not saying Favors is a guaranteed all star, what I am trying to say is He has had a tough career so far, drafted by the nets traded mid way through the season to the jazz, then the lock out. what I was saying about Big Al is when him and Favors are on the court together Al gets the ball 9 times out of 10, so its probably a little tough for Favors to grow offensively. This article could be right and could be wrong, I have high hopes for Favors.

    • Clint Peterson

      Valid point about PT on a roster full of quality bigs, the hardest thing to find in the NBA. Personally, I feel like the Jazz are maximizing Favors’ future with the way they’re handling his development, making him work on weaknesses while trying to capitalize on his strengths by putting him in situation where he can succeed. Al and Millsap have some valuable offensive tools to pass on to Favors.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joshua.d.beutler Joshua David Beutler

    There’s a fine line that needs to be walked here, which I think has been done very well by Corbin and the front office, and has been discussed repeatedly on 1280. The line is: Do you throttle your new talents’ playing time and try for a playoff run, knowing the odds aren’t good? Or, do you play them as much as possible (30+ min), and call the season a wash? The answer, obviously, is to do both, with an emphasis on winning. Our (amazing) team owners have never made it a secret that their goal is to win games and championships, with the former coming in spades, and the latter nearly happening several times. It is just the simple truth that we are a small market team, and it will always be difficult to bring superstar-level talent to SLC. John Stockton didn’t start until his third(!) season. It’s not a sprint, as so many teams eager to put butts in the seats have forgotten, starting their rookies and sophomores over more seasoned players (often having traded said players for the chance to pick their rookies). Favors will get his. If he doesn’t buy into the way we do things here, there are plenty of places for him to go, and I’d wish him well. It’s just not the way we do things here, and for good reason. For the most part, it just doesn’t work. Excellent article. On a side note: IMO, Favors and Hayward can be all-stars, Kanter can be a starter, Burks needs to calm down, and Jefferson gets those 9 out of 10 touches because statistically he’s very good on the offensive end. He’s not calling the plays.

  • Author Sucks

    This article is so boring. I am only wasting more time commenting to hopefully discourage the author from writing again. Jazz should play young guys to see what they have One of two things will happen. Either they develop and make the Jazz contenders or they don’t develop and the Jazz can hit the lottery and try with new players. Being swept out the first round of the playoffs every year is not entertaining.