The Utah Jazz are currently on pace for their best season since a 2010 Western Conference Semi-Final appearance. A team led by 25-year-old superstar Deron Williams, along with All-Stars Carlos Boozer and Anderei Kirilienko and future All-Star Paul Millsap, the future looked bright.
Then it all came crashing down.
In fact it happened so fast that by February of 2011, legendary coach Jerry Sloan resigned and some people pointed to his relationship with his young Williams. Both parties dismissed the idea, but the organization realized their young superstar wanted out and Williams was traded 13 days later.
Willing to trade a superstar of that caliber usually means a team wants a fresh start and to begin dreaded rebuild. The Jazz waited to trade him for a young player in which they believed they could build around, along with an abundance of picks to complete a young core.
That young player was Derrick Favors, originally taken 3rd overall by the New Jersey Nets in the 2010 NBA Draft. Favors was a dynamic athlete built like a brick house ready to come in and be the new centerpiece.
Fast forward to 2017 and the Jazz have built one of the deepest, young rosters in the NBA. A good mix of young talent with Gordon Hayward (who earned a 4-year/$64 million contract), Rodney Hood a smooth lefty on the wing, and center Rudy Gobert who is making a case for Defensive Player of the Year. The Jazz complemented this young core with a worthy mix of veterans such as Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw, and George Hill.
In the midst of all this excitement about a 22-14 start one thing seems to be clear.
Derrick Favors doesn’t fit into the plan anymore.
Could Utah’s Defense Become Even Better?
Ever since Head Coach Quinn Snyder took over the helm, the Jazz have been a defensive juggernaut, including being fourth in defensive rating this season at 1.012. They excel at getting back in transition, running teams off the three-point line, and funneling teams into Gobert who leads the league in blocks per game (2.6) and is third in the league in contested shots per game (14.1).
While Favors is more advanced offensively and not a terrible defender himself, it doesn’t add up to the value of what Gobert does to the team defense. Utah loves to switch on the perimeter, and when Favors is facing small lineups or smaller power forwards he struggles to recover. This was most noticeable when the young star didn’t start the third quarter Monday night in Utah’s 101-89 win.
The Offense Needs Space too
Favors excels offensively on the low block, especially within 3 feet of the basket. As you analyze Favors shooting percentages he isn’t effective past that.
Clogging the paint hurts Utah as Gobert isn’t a threat to step away from the basket either, but remains effective crashing the offensive glass and finishing pick-and-rolls. The rest of their offense is a free-flowing, drive and kick rotation in the half court for layups or three-point attempts. Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood, arguably the Jazz two best playmakers, excel at the high pick-and-roll to set up shots for themselves, shooters on the wings or drawing the help defender for a lob to Gobert.
Boris Diaw, a 13-year veteran, comes into games to keep the ball moving, guard multiple positions and act as a third playmaker. The problem is he can’t shoot, which doesn’t pull his defender far enough out of the paint. Third-year pro, Trey Lyles, whose offensive arsenal is effective has been a complete disaster defensively.
What Could Utah Target in a Trade?
Knee-jerk reaction will tell you the Jazz need a point guard, although that may be the team’s deepest position right now. George Hill is easily having the best season of his career, Dante Exum coming off his torn ACL is proving to be a defensive stopper while having improved his defense. With the return of Alec Burks, it’s a good mix of guards that can play on and off the ball.
Power forward has been the position that is letting down Utah on a nightly basis. While adding a traditional power forward may not be making progress, it’s possible they grab another wing who can play the stretch four consistently.
Rudy Gay has told the Kings he will not re-sign this summer, which makes him an obvious target candidate. He could be a very intriguing player for the Jazz given his background playing stretch four for Team USA. A staring lineup of Hill-Hood-Heyward-Gay-Gobert could be an absolute matchup nightmare. All five can shoot, pass, slash and have length. Favors being slow-footed hasn’t destroyed Utah’s defense so Gays length and athleticism could make him a great fit while helping the pace of the offense tremendously.
Toronto is a team that has been linked to Favors. Having a torrid start to the season (24-11) they believe one more star especially in the front court could give them a shot at de-throning Cleveland.
While they have good young assets, it doesn’t seem that Utah would be interested in continuing the rebuild as they have arrived. To bad the guy that started the rebuild, Derrick Favors might not be around for the final product.