When you think about the future roster of the Utah Jazz, not much is a sure thing. The Jazz have many free agents and you never know what the summer may bring.
One player that the Jazz definitely won’t be losing to free agency or any other way is Derrick Favors. The prized big man for Utah is clearly an integral part of the team, but how much do the Jazz rely on his post presence?
Tuesday’s game against the Timberwolves was a rare opportunity to see the home team play without Favors as it was only his third missed game of the season. The first two ended poorly, a loss to Sacramento followed by a loss to Portland.
Well, the T-Wolves, like their western foes, found the Jazz are an easier team to play without Favors patrolling the middle. If the post-duo of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic isn’t hard enough to face, doing so without the Jazz’s best big was way too much to ask. The Minnesota big men shot a hair under 50 percent on the night and combined for 37 points and 22 rebounds.
“Defensively he is huge, what he does for us at the basket,” head coach Tyrone Corbin said of Favors. “He protects the rim for us and typically he doesn’t get fouls.”
While Corbin called on the likes of Enes Kanter and Rudy Gobert to step up, they put in admirable effort but the team noticed Favors was missing.
“He’s one of our really important defensive presences down there,” point guard Trey Burke said. “Without him playing… It’s really tough to stop those guys (Love and Pekovic) down there because they’re really talented and very strong.”
It’s not just the defense the Jazz miss when Favors sits out, it’s the rebounding as well. Amongst rotation players he has the best rebounding percentage on the team. He grabs more than 16 percent of all rebounds while on the court and is among the top 20 players in the NBA when it comes to rebounds per minute.
While the total rebounding numbers were close on Tuesday with Favors out, 42-41 in favor of Minnesota, it was who grabbed those rebounds that made a big difference. The T-Wolves knew that Love and Pekovic would be grabbing the majority of the boards which gave them the opportunity to get down the floor. That led to 14 fast break opportunities for the visiting team while the Jazz only had nine transition tries.
With Favors boarding off the table and his defense missing, the Jazz had too much to overcome even with Gordon Hayward’s 27 points on 10-17 from the field.
“He’s a huge loss. He’s our anchor down there defensively and is extremely important,” Hayward said. “We’re going to have to have guys step up. I thought Rudy (Gobert) did a good job.”
An anchor is right. In the two games Favors missed earlier in the season the opponents went off for 130 and 112 (it took the Kings an extra period to get to 112). WIthout him the Jazz lose a defensive attitude that keeps them in games.
So, really we can interpret his importance to the team to mean two different things. Either the Jazz are too reliant on Favors or Favors is a good enough center to build a team around. I’m choosing to go with the latter option.
His injury has been identified as a hip abductor. During his short career Favors has been a very durable player and this minor setback should be no reason to believe more injuries are on the way. So, if Favors is that important to the Jazz, it’s a plus because Utah has him locked down for several more years. That’s one piece Utah doesn’t need to switch out anytime soon.