The departure of Enes Kanter helped the Jazz in several areas where the Turk was weak, but also unquestionably left a large hole in others. Utah lost its most polished big-man scorer, particularly in the post, and this is a skill not easily replaced.
Luckily for them, though, Derrick Favors remains on the roster. And while he may still lack some of the finer points of the league’s true elite post players, Favors has been working steadily on his low-block game since last summer – and the results are beginning to show, particularly since the personnel change. He was Utah’s rock once again tonight in a gritty win over Detroit, posting 26 points on 8-14 shooting and taking 13 free-throw attempts.
Derrick’s growth on the low block is captured, in part, by figures from Synergy Sports. His overall per-possession efficiency has only seen a relatively small increase1, but it’s some of the more peripheral areas here that have allowed the Jazz to use him as such anchor down low. His back-to-the-hoop play, for instance, has seen a huge efficiency jump over last season – plays where he turns over either shoulder and from either side of the block have gone from well below league average to among the game’s elite. He’s also developed quickly as a passer out of the post; the Jazz shot just 30.4 percent on spot-up attempts derived directly from Favors passes from the block last season, but are all the way up to 41.4 percent thus far this season on a higher number of per-minute attempts.2 In short, he’s made strides here both for himself and for his teammates.
Coach Quin Snyder noted the development, adding that Derrick is benefiting greatly from his move to the power forward position and the mismatches he’s afforded down low, particularly when teams go small.
“As much as anything, he’s learning how to take advantage of that,” Quin told me postgame. “It’s not just stepping out and holding up your hand – he’s sealing, he’s getting the ball deeper. And we’re passing it to him better.”
As for Favors himself, his assessment is a twofold improvement, both in his mental acumen while down low and his ability to use his greatest skills to their maximum effect.
“Just taking my time, reading what the defense gives me,” Favors said when I asked him what he’s been doing differently on the block from recent years. “Basically just using my strengths, either overpower a guy or use my speed and athleticism. Or (when) they back off me, I’ve been working on my jump shot all summer, and just use that.”
Snyder mentioned experience and the game slowing down for Derrick as major factors as well, and it’s clear the Georgia Tech product is benefiting from so much confidence from his coach and teammates. Favors noted how “the team’s starting to trust me a lot more in the post, they’re starting to get me going early.” It’s just what the doctor ordered for a team that bogs down at times offensively, and continued improvement here may see Derrick even further outperform a contract that’s still in its first year and will only become more and more of a bargain in the next few years.
|Derrick Favors, PF 35 MIN | 8-14 FG | 10-13 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 4 BLK | 1 TO | 26 PTS | -2 +/-A small detraction for just the single board (“I’m kinda mad tonight because I only had one rebound,” he said jokingly postgame), but Favors was a force down low on both ends, with 26 points and four blocks. Thirteen free-throw attempts are a major plus, also.|
|Gordon Hayward, SF 36 MIN | 4-8 FG | 4-6 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 6 TO | 12 PTS | +15 +/-Hayward wasn’t as involved as the Jazz may have liked, but was his usual vital self for the team as a whole – Utah outscored Detroit by 15 while he was on the floor, the best mark on the team. Look for him to bounce back Monday on the offensive end.|
|Rudy Gobert, C 39 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-2 FT | 19 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | +11 +/-Rudy made up for Favors strangely absent night on the glass, and now has 41 rebounds in his last two games. He was imposing inside, though post savant Greg Monroe did get a few buckets past him, and had five offensive rebounds.|
|Rodney Hood, SG 33 MIN | 5-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 12 PTS | +7 +/-The smoothness and confidence with which Hood is playing recently are incredibly encouraging. He’s comfortable in the starting lineup, and brings above-average rebounding at his position. Rodney is looking more and more like a long-term keeper and a potential gem at the 23rd pick.|
|Dante Exum, SG 32 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | +11 +/-His unreal speed was on display for one play in particular tonight, but Exum is very slowly starting to put things together in a more general sense. He still needs tons of work as a scorer, but as he’s realizing his physical advantages over his peers, Dante is beginning to show flashes of the spectacular.|
|Trevor Booker, PF 18 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -9 +/-Booker did well on the boards, grabbing seven of his eight rebound chances, but the Jazz were curiously outscored by nine (team-worst) with him on the floor. Detroit is perhaps not a great matchup for Trevor, but he maintained his usual energy.|
|Joe Ingles, SF 17 MIN | 0-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -4 +/-Ingles has begun to cede time to Hood as of late (just five minutes in the second half), and it was easily justifiable tonight. He didn’t make any glaring errors, but was also ice cold from the floor and didn’t take a single trip to the line. Four assists helps, though, as does his continued hilarious/beneficial presence in the locker room (teased Exum about popping his collar tonight).|
|Trey Burke, PG 17 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-3 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 9 PTS | -6 +/-Trey was strangely passive on this night, perhaps a result of consecutive ugly games earlier this week. But he hit a huge shot down the stretch despite being cold after sitting most of the fourth, something his coach was rightly quick to praise him for.|
|Elijah Millsap, SG 14 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -8 +/-Millsap was a tad less than his usual self defensively tonight, allowing Detroit wings a bit more leeway than he might normally and picking up three somewhat ill-advised fouls. His minutes continue to fluctuate, and may stay on the lower end if Hood keeps playing this well.|
Despite his excellent showings there recently, I do feel Quin has leaned on Favors in the post just a hair too much in the last few games. He can’t be faulted when the team wins, but expect to see things vary up a tad in the name of efficiency as the team continues to acclimatize themselves to the new-ish personnel situation.