As he continues a strong season marked by increased defensive understanding and a versatile, complete offensive game that has taken some by surprise, Derrick Favors knows it’s a long grind. Energy and motivation ebbs and flows throughout the course of an 82-game season, and players often have to find ways to amp themselves up for each individual game.
There were no such issues for Derrick tonight, though opinions vary as to exactly why. Favors used 29.7 percent of Jazz possessions while on the floor in 32 strong minutes, a figure that ranks as his fourth-highest for any single game on the year. He was a monster inside as well, swatting two Kings shot attempts in the first quarter alone and finishing with three on the night overall while holding Sacramento to a stifling 85.1 per-100-possession offensive rating while he was on the court, the best mark among all 10 Jazz players to hit the floor. He looked engaged and aggressive from the start, a theme that maintained throughout.
His coach, for one, thinks the marquee matchup with another All-Star level big man in DeMarcus Cousins may have played a role. “I think he’s got a lot of pride. We tried to give him the ball early, try and get his juices flowing too. I think when you’ve seen him in situations where it’s either a player or a big game, he’s usually been pretty good about responding in those situations,” Quin Snyder said after the game.
Derrick himself played it coy, of course, choosing to stay professional when I asked him about his coach’s comments: “Nah. It’s just part of my development, you know. Coach wants to see me come out at the beginning of the game and be a lot more aggressive than I have in the past,” he responded. “He just wants me to go out there and try to be aggressive and start the game off.”
Whatever it was, it was working. Favors collected nine of his 15 rebound chances to go along with 20 points on 9-17 shooting overall. He was 7-9 within the Restricted Area, continuing his absolute domination when receiving the ball with momentum toward the hoop.
Perhaps most encouragingly, Derrick tied his season high with five assists, including a couple nifty ones within the flow of Utah’s motion offense:
Teammate Trey Burke had high praise for Favors’ improved passing after the game, saying, “It’s great because a lot of times when teams let you get that pocket pass, that next pass is usually the open shot. Every big can’t do that – every big can’t make that pass. So for Fav to be able to make that pass, hit the open man, it’s great for the team.”
Even former Jazz coach Ty Corbin had nothing but positive things to say after the years he spent with Favors here in Salt Lake City. “He’s getting better. His offensive game has come along – he’s always been a pretty good defensive player. Looks like he’s working hard, he’s in great shape, and the young guy is getting better,” he told me postgame. It’d be hard to argue, and equally tough to find someone with much of a better vantage point for Derrick’s improvement.
Once again, the Jazz have to just be thrilled to be getting this sort of production from Favors in his first year under a non-rookie deal. He’ll quickly represent a huge bargain under the league’s rising salary cap if he continues to develop at this pace, and Utah’s brass has to give themselves a big pat on the back. If he keeps bringing it like this every night, perhaps they’ll have some champagne with which to toast themselves a few years down the line.
|Derrick Favors, PF 33 MIN | 9-17 FG | 2-3 FT | 9 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 2 TO | 20 PTS | +26 +/-As noted above, Favors was excellent in all facets of the game tonight. He filled the box score in an efficient manner and played excellent defense. He’s truly coming into his own as the stud-level player the Jazz need him to be.|
|Gordon Hayward, SF 37 MIN | 13-23 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 30 PTS | +23 +/-On fire from the get-go with seemingly everything going down for him in the first quarter (he had Utah’s first five points), Hayward had one of his strongest scoring nights of the year. He seemed like he could get a basket absolutely at will all night long, and many of his misses seemed to come only as he was heat-checking himself.|
|Enes Kanter, C 33 MIN | 7-16 FG | 3-4 FT | 13 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 17 PTS | +8 +/-Kanter’s jumper wasn’t working tonight, but no matter – he bulled his way inside to another strong showing. He had five offensive boards and 13 overall, plus did an admirable job defending DeMarcus Cousins and was a big reason Boogie needed 24 shots to get his 27 points.|
|Elijah Millsap, SG 36 MIN | 1-3 FG | 5-6 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +11 +/-Millsap looked locked in even during warmups, and was up to the task for what was easily his NBA career high in single-game minutes. He remains a secondary option offensively and mucked up the spacing once or twice, but played suffocating defense on a mostly inexperience wing cast for Sacramento. He’s earned these minutes with all Utah’s injuries.|
|Dante Exum, SG 34 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | +21 +/-He had a better game than his last couple from an eye-test standpoint, and a couple of Dante’s four assists were the result of pretty passes on his end. He’s still far too timid and egregiously passed up a couple seemingly wide open driving lanes, but baby steps are the most we can hope for at this point.|
|Trevor Booker, PF 12 MIN | 4-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | -2 +/-Booker had a strange night, not entering the game until the fourth quarter before playing the entire period with the game mostly out of reach. But he was great for those minutes, notching nine points including a strong alley-oop dunk from Trey Burke. He’s ready to go no matter the circumstance, and brought the energy yet again when called upon.|
|Steve Novak, SF 10 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -10 +/-Novak gets a fairly neutral grade because his performance was, well, just that. He wasn’t particularly noticeable in his 10 minutes but for an outlandish 30-foot three-point attempt early on, though he had no large glaring errors either.|
|Rudy Gobert, C 17 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-2 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -4 +/-While his frontcourt counterparts dominated on both sides of the ball, Rudy continued a rough stretch of late, playing just 17 minutes and not making quite his usual recent impact. He’s struggling a tad to adjust as teams have scouted his strengths, but given his rate of development, expect this trend to reverse before long.|
|Trey Burke, PG 26 MIN | 5-12 FG | 0-1 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 10 PTS | -6 +/-Trey’s defense was worlds better than last night in Phoenix, easily the most noticeable part of his game tonight. He was solid if not spectacular offensively, seeming to understand that the Jazz needed no heroics from him in a game they had well in hand early on.|
Snyder gets the rare A+ here for the way his team defended, specifically the strategy they employed versus DeMarcus Cousins. Utah threw wings in his line of vision frequently, hard-doubled at times, and generally frustrated the post behemoth all night – and it was clearly a specific strategy engineered by their coach. Full marks yet again for an excellent hire.