Derrick Favors, Superstar?

January 8th, 2014 | by Clint Johnson
The assumption that Derrick Favors is disproportionately a defensive talent may not be as sound as sometimes assumed.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The assumption that Derrick Favors is disproportionately a defensive talent may not be as sound as sometimes assumed. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Last night, the Utah Jazz won their seventh game in the last twelve contests.  For those Jazz fans who believe the one overriding purpose of this season is to get a high draft pick, this winning is devastating.  The team that was once one and 14 has now won ten of 20 with Trey Burke starting without a minute restriction.  It’s pure disaster.  The Jazz will face another decade of mediocrity without a true superstar, is the thought.

I disagree.  Because I think they already have a superstar in development.  His name is Derrick Favors.

Since even before training camp, when Favors and Gordon Hayward both participated by invitation at the 2013 Men’s National Team Mini-Camp, I have studied Favors in the belief he is far and away the most elite talent on this team.  I watched him grab 10.88 rebounds per preseason game in only 26.5 minutes of play.  When the regular season started, I examined the first quarter worth of games with a fine toothed comb, analyzing his rate of production quarter by quarter and according to frequency of shots.

All of this has only deepened my belief that Favors has the ability to become a superstar.  Where once I saw All-Defensive potential and plentiful offensive questions, I now see the rough gem of a possible number one offensive option combined with the impressive defensive package.

I know this claim will be met with great skepticism from Jazz fans, and even more so from national NBA observers.  But it’s true, and it’s plain to see if you look closely.

Favors’ true shooting percentage this season is .556, substantially higher than that of any other young player on the team, including Jeremy Evans and Alec Burks.  His offensive rating of 107 points per 100 possessions hangs above Trey Burke (104), Alec Burks (103), Gordon Hayward (102), and Enes Kanter (96).  His 1.3 offensive win shares is 44% more than next highest on the team, Gordon Hayward.

Not convinced?  With Trey Burke as an unrestricted starter, these numbers jump to .595 TS% and 115 ORtg.

To put in perspective how good that is, if done over the course of the season (a reasonable premise if Burke hadn’t been injured to start the year) that TS% would be top 20 in the league and above players like Kevin Love, James Harden, Damien Lillard, Al Horford, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, and Stephen Curry.  The 115 ORtg would be top 25 in the league and best Harden, Curry, Paul George, Eric Bledsoe, Tony Parker, and Carmelo Anthony.

If you believe these numbers should be taken as a product of Trey Burke’s ability running the offense more than Favors’ ability and potential as an offensive player, then maybe a quick comparison to Karl Malone is appropriate.  In his last 18 games with a true NBA starting level point guard to get him the ball, Favors is shooting 56% from the field.  How many seasons did Karl Malone shoot that well in his 18 years with the greatest passer in the history of the NBA, John Stockton?  One: .562 in 89-90.  How much should we devalue Malone’s offensive potency because of Stockton’s greatness?  Why give Burke more credit for his post player’s game than the man with his statue outside ESA?

And a bonus question: Favors’ free throw percentage in this span is 81.3%.  How many seasons did Malone reach this?  Try none.

If Favors were given more offensive responsibility and opportunity, would his efficiency decrease?  Certainly.  He is not Karl Malone, nor anything like unto him.  But he is a 22-year-old player in his first season as a starter, and these numbers are a literal reflection of his game thus far.  He should not be featured centrally in the offense because he is the primary scorer the team so desperately needs.  He should be given that chance because he’s shown that he could be that scorer, and because he’s earned the opportunity with his play.

Most superstars are not born.  There is, after all, one LeBron James.  They are made in potential, collections of elite raw ability and (sometimes) matching drive that, when given the training, facilities, and opportunity, can mature into elite performers by the standards of even other elite professionals.  But to fulfill that potential, there comes a time when those who depend on their performance must trust them to become more than they now are.

Other young star bigs in the making are receiving such trust from their organizations this season.  Comparing them to Derrick Favors illustrates how worthy he is of the same faith.

Anthony Davis (1st) and DeMarcus Cousins (9th) were both ranked above Derrick Favors (10th) in ESPN’s recent listing of the NBA’s top 25 players under 25 years of age, primarily because of, in Kevin Pelton’s words, Favors’ “untapped potential as a scorer.”  I think few, if any, in the league would question that the superstars in the making in Davis and Cousins represent superior offensive talents to Favors.

Their shot charts this season may give cause for reconsideration.

Derrick Favors' shot performance chart as of 1/3/14. (nba.com)

Derrick Favors’ shot performance chart as of 1/3/14. (nba.com)

In his first season as a starter, Favors is shooting at or above the league average from every possible post area, as well as along both the right and left baseline and from the free throw area.  It’s easy to overlook how excellent this is without comparison.  So here is the season shot chart for Anthony Davis, ESPN’s #1 player under 25 (in his second season as a starter).

Anthony Davis' performance shot chart as of 1/3/14. (nba.com)

Anthony Davis’ performance shot chart as of 1/3/14. (nba.com)

Davis has the better jump shot at this point, but the areas of the floor where post players operate (in the lane, the right and left block, the right and left baselines, and the free throw area) show a different story.  Favors is shooting at a comparable rate to Davis beneath the hoop and near the right baseline.  In the four other areas, Favors is superior.  As for that jumpshot, Davis’ stellar 77.6% from the line is not looking out of reach given Favors’ 81.3% his last 18 games.

Now compare Favors shooting to the shot chart of DeMarcus Cousins, the unquestioned top young offensive talent among the league’s bigs.

DeMarcus Cousins' performance shot chart as of 1/3/14. (nba.com)

DeMarcus Cousins’ performance shot chart as of 1/3/14. (nba.com)

Once again, the chart shows the truth.  Where Cousins outstrips Favors from a single area of the floor where post players traverse, Favors betters Cousins in four.

Taken together, the shot charts show Favors is superior to either Davis or Cousins in eight sections of the floor, roughly equal in three, and inferior in only one.  That’s right, the only area in the post where Derrick Favors has not shot as well or better than these two supreme offensive talents is on the left block, where DeMarcus Cousins is tearing it up.  Anywhere else in the post, the numbers suggest Favors is as good or a better bet to score.

Yet the Kings trust Cousins with 16.8 field goal attempts per game, and the Pelicans trust Davis with 14.1.  This season, the Jazz trust Favors with 10.5.  It isn’t enough.  Not enough to win as the team should.  (In the last 12 games, Favors has averaged 12.9 shots in the seven wins and 8.6 in the five losses.)  And not enough to cultivate the offensive game of the team’s only potential superstar in the making.

Take a moment, Jazz fans, to imagine this season’s Derrick Favors producing 17-18 points on 14 shots plus 10 or 11 rebounds and rarely being in foul trouble, allowing him to be aggressive on the defensive end for whole games rather than whole quarters.  The analysis I’ve shared in my recent series of posts suggests such a scenario may well be possible.

What’s better is that profile represents a Derrick Favors very much still in development.  As good as his offensive game has been this season, of all the Jazz’s young players, he is likely the one with the most untapped offensive ability left to cultivate.  Personally, I find that prospect exhilarating.

Do I believe the Jazz will continue to win half their games for the remainder of the season?  No.  But neither do I expect them to have a top one or two pick in the draft.  (My money is on somewhere in the 4-6 range.)  Will the Jazz season of “tanking” for the stars result in the addition of a franchise level talent?  I don’t know.  But if not, I for one am not worried.

They already have one in Derrick Favors.

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. In addition to his writing center work at Salt Lake Community College, he designed, coordinates, and teaches in an experimental author residency program for a West Valley City public charter school. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.

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31 Comments

  1. Clint Johnson says:

    All stats are accurate as of 1/2/14. I apologize for the omission.

  2. theMonk (@jazzeduteman) says:

    Clint, nice write up. I too have been very impressed with Favors improvement on the offensive end and see more potential than I ever did last season. I tweeted as much last night and wondered if Favors continued improvement starts putting Jabari in the rear view mirror. That being said, Favors is under a very ‘favorable’ 4 year contract to find out if he is that superstar or not. And although perhaps the potential you see may or may not come to pass – winning an extra 10 or so games this season – and not getting a shot at the top 5 draft picks this year would be a travesty. And complete lack of fortitude by the organization.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Thanks for the comment. I complete agree that there is no reason to discount the possibility or value of a high draft pick. I also agree it would be a “lack of fortitude,” as you put it, if the plan was always for the front office to tank in order to maximize the chances of a high draft pick but they changed mid-stream because they didn’t like losing.

      That being said, I don’t believe the decision is as simple as win as much as possible or tank for a pick. Players and coaches always try to win, and they should regardless of front office decisions. As long as the young core of this team is healthy, they may simply be too good too early to make a top five pick likely. Nearly all their likely pieces for trade could be shipped off without really hurting the team’s ability to compete. The one exception to my mind is Marvin Williams, and I can see a reasonable argument for trying to keep a 27 year old player who has had the impact he has on his young teammates’ play.

      I believe the organization’s #1 priority is development of young players and their #2 priority is assessment of said young players (and their head coach). If the young talent on the team simply becomes too good to get a top five pick, the team may well accept a less desirable pick in order to keep conditions as conducive to development and credible assessment as possible. That may not be a lack of fortitude. It may simply be execution of a plan based on a different value system than those dreaming Jabari or bust.

      • theMonk (@jazzeduteman) says:

        I agree with you 100% on all counts right now. But am reconsidering, “Players and coaches always try to win, and they should regardless of front office decisions.” At least from a coaching perspective. If Ty were in a long term contract. No, I don’t necessarily see winning as many games this season as his number one priority.

        But yes, right now it is absolutely in the front office and ownership’s hands to see what we have. And I am concerned the Miller’s are going to balk as I believe they did last year (not moving Sap or Al in hope’s of seeing how the season might play out). And as much as I like Marvin Williams, and he might be a long-term fit, he is an unrestricted FA and the downside in keeping him outweighs the upside in letting him go.

        Maybe the rest of the team does hold it together. But Kanter and Favors were a terrible combo as starters. Maybe that will change and maybe not. But are the 5 or 6 wins you might gain with Marvin and RJ (or the chance at ‘maybe’ keeping Marvin) worth the potential of one of the top 5 picks in this draft? No way.

        • Clint Johnson says:

          Personally, I agree with you. If I were responsible for management decisions, I think I would move Marvin. Having him to stretch the floor is too valuable right now for any coach, not just Ty, to play Kanter in a spot where the young Turk simply doesn’t deserve the spot over Marvin. But big picture, they didn’t use two #3 picks to have one play backup. The plan is to pair Favors and Kanter, and they need to find out if that has a chance or working or not, and quickly. That this objective would be more likely to produce a high draft pick reinforces my belief it is the best call.

          That said, I think that reasonable people could disagree with me on this point.

    • Aaron says:

      Lack of fortitude? Explain. We all hated it when Golden State tanked to avoid giving us the pick that became Harrison Barnes. And we double and triple hated it when Doc Rivers sat an able-bodied Paul Pierce the entire 4th quarter of close games the Kevin Durant year. I don’t mind rebuilding, and the consensus is that this is a good year to do it, but it’s amazing how openly fans talk about intentionally losing games. Let’s remember that Boston didn’t get the top pick that year or in 1997 (the Tim Duncan year). Bad karma comes from shameless tanking. I would love a top-two pick (for either Wiggins or Parker), but there’s a right way to do it. The front office needs to make some moves to communicate that the priority is getting minutes for the young players. Trade Jefferson, or even Marvin if you have to. But Kanter should not be getting only 14 minutes a game unless he’s in foul trouble or sucking. That is the problem. DL is a smart dude, but I wonder if Corbin is on the same page with management. If we win some games with the lineups we see as being part of the future, we’ll just have to take what we get, but this leaning on Jefferson is what should be upset about, not beating OKC.

      • theMonk (@jazzeduteman) says:

        Aaron, I agree (other than karma is crap). This was a good win. I am not in any way suggesting that the Jazz should be trying to lose games. I also agree Kanter should be getting more minutes – and starting. And probably Burks as well. I also don’t think we’d be winning as much if they were.

        Ty is a better coach than most have been giving him credit.

        • Aaron says:

          I don’t necessarily believe literally in karma, beyond this: I think in some way, in a variety of language different people put it in, most would concede that doing shady stuff can come around and bite you in the ass. I’m not saying the gods interfered with Boston in 1997 and 2007, but it’s interesting to note that the worst team rarely gets the first pick. They were talking about it on the radio, and on average it’s the third-worst. It could still be a tanking situation, but I haven’t seen that much of that in recent years. Part of that might be because the last two or three drafts have been poor to middling, but I think creating a culture where you don’t compete can haunt you.

          As for Corbin, I’m not a fan. His rotations have always been a mystery. There is no excuse not to be giving Kanter big minutes right now.

      • No one is “leaning on Jefferson.” Imagine Favors or Kanter trying to score in the paint with no perimeter threat. Richard Jefferson is a part of the offense that helps keep defenses honest, in turn opening up the low post for the young fellas to improve without getting frustrated and losing confidence in their abilities.

        • Clint Johnson says:

          This is true. That said, the Jazz have four players who are threatening to hit 100 three pointers this season: Jefferson, Williams, Burke, and Hayward. If they lost Jefferson and moved Alec Burks into the starting lineup, they would still have quite a bit of three point shooting. If Brandon Rush got more minutes and got into a grove, they likely wouldn’t lose anything. My thoughts.

        • Aaron says:

          What Clint Johnson said. I don’t mean they’re leaning on him to be a superstar, but he’s getting way too many minutes. We have young guys who need to be tested to see if they’re worth the money. I like Burks as a hot hand off the bench, but Jefferson clearly has no future with this team beyond April. That’s all I meant when I said they were leaning on him.

      • Clint Johnson says:

        I read theMonk’s comment thusly: The Jazz went into this season with the objective of playing their young players as much as possible, no matter what, in the belief such on-court time is essential to development. That the draft is so strong gives added incentive to allow all the struggles of youth compounded in one season rather than prolonged over multiple seasons by providing key veterans to bolster the young roster.

        If that was indeed the plan, then Kanter’s demotion to the bench — especially if it continues throughout the season — and the refusal to deal Marvin Williams, who no one saw as a key piece to the future at the beginning of the year — would indeed be significant deviations from the plan. If the reasoning for such deviation was they couldn’t stomach the losing they had anticipated as part of the plan, then I would say that would be a lack of fortitude.

  3. A “superstar”? As in perennial All-Star selection? This still seems highly unlikely to me. It’s one of the hardest leaps to go from bench to starter, an even bigger one to go from starter to star on a team and an even larger one to go from being a star on a team to a league-elite superstar.

    Taken in a vacuum, one could certainly present a case that Favors could be a superstar, but when you begin to compare his stats to those of other bigs around the NBA that ends pretty quickly.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I respectfully disagree. Favors is the same age Tim Duncan was when he entered the league, and common knowledge has always been that bigs take more time to develop. This is his first season starting. He is the fourth option on his team, in spite of being easily the most efficient. (Since Burke has started, he has a TS% of .593 and is shooting 78% from the line.) Plus, for most of the season, Corbin has had him chasing guards off screens 23 feet from the hoop, compromising his ability to both rebound and protect the paint. All factors suggest lots of room for continued growth and development to all parts of his game.

      I think it is not only possible but probable that Favors improves in every major statistical category going forward. Combine that with more offensive opportunity and better defensive coaching, and I would be genuinely surprised if he isn’t one of the best all around bigs in the league. Right now, the only young big prospect I’d take above him is Anthony Davis.

      • According to your colleague Ben Dowsett, Corbin does not have Favors hedging too far from the basket regularly as you claim:

        http://saltcityhoops.com/utahs-evolving-pick-and-roll-defense/

        And you’re still discounting the other current crop of bigs in your defense of Derrick as a “superstar,” instead comparing his current stats to Tim Duncan’s. Again, Favors does not play in a vacuum and only a select few players reach “superstar” status.

        A favorite comparison previously for Favors was Dwight Howard, arguably the only big man “superstar” in the NBA today. Now it’s Tim Duncan, an all-time HOF’er? Seems like there’s a lot of bending of stats to one’s will happening concerning Favors’ potential.

        • Clint Johnson says:

          Note Ben said “evolving.” The strategy of having Favors and Kanter drop near the free throw line is relatively recent this season. Just watch this weeks podcast and you’ll hear that from Ben himself.

          And I didn’t parallel Favors to Duncan in any way, shape, or form other than age. The point of that comparison was only to illustrate how young Favors is, nothing more or less.

      • Here’s a sample comparison of only a few of the players that Favors will have to compete with to reach star status, let alone superstar status, compared to Tim Duncan at age 22. It’s far too easy to compare the stats of a player in a vacuum without context and say that player could reach or exceed said comparison based on a single season:

        http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=0&p1=duncati01&y1=1999&p2=favorde01&y2=2014&p3=monrogr01&y3=2013&p4=drumman01&y4=2014&p5=couside01&y5=2013&p6=johnsam01&y6=2010

        • Clint Johnson says:

          DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis are context. If you are talking about the most likely young bigs in the NBA to achieve superstar status, those are the names. (Maybe Andre Drummond, but I’m reluctant to go that direction because his skills are so rudimentary at this point. He’s shooting 38% from the line!) You have the shot charts above. I didn’t address defensive potential because that is far less in question with Favors. League consensus is Favors has All-Defensive team potential. A statistical comparison to other bigs is certainly worth exploration, but was not the point of this post either. All I wanted to do here is challenge the narrative that Favors has limited potential to his total game because of his offensive ability.

          To do so, I chose to use my room to establish two things: first, his offensive efficiency recently has been elite; and second, that this efficiency is not a matter of simply dunking or getting uncontested layups at a particularly high rate. The TS% is as good a quick measure of offensive efficiency as there is, and I’d like to see an interpretation that says a .595 TS% is not stellar. The shot charts (in combination with free throw percentages) show the diversity of his developing offensive game in the context of his greatest young competitors.

          As for your complaint about projecting from a single season, we use what we have. We have less than one season of Favors starting, and less than that of him starting with a respectable point guard, which is always a huge factor in assessing a post player’s offense. As time goes on, we’ll have more to project. But as of now, I find it hard to understand anyone who argues that Favors has not shown offensive ability worthy of greater utilization offensively. The only way we’ll really know if my suspicions about his ceiling are realistic is if he’s given the chance to test that ceiling. I think the things I’ve mentioned in his article give ample justification for such.

  4. cw says:

    Hi Clint,

    Nice post, but I’m sorry I have to disagree with you again. I did some research on it (http://www.slcdunk.com/2013/12/30/5257214/can-the-jazz-contend-in-the-future-without-tanking) and found that in the past 20 years only one team (detroit) won the finals without a first-team all NBA player of recent vintage. Think Duncan, Shaq, Olajawan, Kobe, Labron, Wade, Nowitzky…. THe median year for one of these first teamers to make all NBA is the third. The one characteristic they all share is unstoppability on offense. I do not see Favors becoming unstoppable on offense. I don’t even see him making all NBA in the next two or three years–which means he is one of the top fifteen players in the NBA–much less first team (top 5 players).

    I can see him being a very important part, a second option, on a championship team, but it seems improbably that he will be that first option.

    The fact that you need a first team all NBA player(and at least on other second or thrid teamer) to win a championship also has implications for tanking. It’s fine to say our young guys are going to develop into really good players, which is true, but unless you think one of them is going to become a first team all NBA player then you are settling for non-contention, or you are fooling yourself. I totally think that the Jazz should tank. This is there best chance in years, and probably for years, to actually get a potential first teamer and–maybe–become a true contender. You can say, we’re playing great and really developing, but it would be crazy to trade six month of this ambiguous thing called “development” for a super rare chance to be an actual contender.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I don’t think development is ambiguous at all. It’s very concrete, actually. And I think defining a contender as a title-winning team is both inaccurate and dangerous. The simple fact is, the only decision that can reasonably be expected to enable a title-winning team is signing a generational player as a free agent. It’s what built the recent dynasties of the Lakers and Heat.

      I think you overvalue top picks in this regard, particularly for the team that drafts them. From 1990 to 2009, two teams leveraged a top five pick into a player who led them to a ring: Tim Duncan and Dwyane Wade. That’s a 2% chance. Making any decision that hinges the future on a 2% probability is foolish.

      A team that cannot count on such a free agent prize should, in my opinion, define contention as the ability to make multiple conference championships. A team at such a level should be an opportunistic (or lucky) move away from a ring. The most likely pathway to such an end would thus be my preferred method of becoming a contender. In crunching the numbers, I found that the last two decades of history suggest the Jazz have a better than 20% of developing Favors, Kanter, and either Hayward or Burke ALL into All-Stars. That’s what the numbers say about #3 and #9 picks, at least.

      I take a 20% chance of making three current players All-Stars over a 2% chance of selecting, and keeping, an All-League talent. (And that probability isn’t taking into account the chance that they might drop out of the top five if they had the third or worst record in the league.) That’s why, if I had the Jazz as my private plaything, my priorities would be the following:

      1) Develop current young talent to its maximum
      2) Establish conditions where player assessment is as detailed, accurate, and dependable as possible to ensure priority #1
      3) Pursue a game-changing piece through the draft with a high draft pick

      To be clear, I do believe it is possible this season to do all three. (Basketball-reference forecasts the Jazz as ending with the 3rd worst record in the league, even now, so it’s not like the team is off pace.) But if the young core showed itself too good to make a top five pick likely, even with the trading of a piece or two (Marvin Williams, specifically), I would not compromise their ability to compete on the floor by either sitting down healthy players or encouraging the coaching staff to hinder the team by knowingly making poor coaching decisions. Because development of substantial known talent is a reasonable bet. Drafting one’s way to contention is luck.

    • Aaron says:

      I sure hope the coaches and executives believe more in development than you do. NBA fans demand a quick turnaround, but patience can be your friend. You don’t have to look any further than Portland to see a prime example of it, at the same position as Favors. LaMarcus Aldridge. He was part of the class of 2006. The first few years, you didn’t want to see him shoot from outside five feet. Now this year, suddenly he can explode for 40 and hit those long jumpers. If Favors becomes as good as Aldridge, that’s an All-Star, and I think it’s within the realm of possibility. I don’t know whether you want him to be your alpha dog, but with him and Trey and whoever we pick up this year, plus whoever we keep among Hayward, Burks and Kanter, and that’s a formidable team. And think of Kobe’s first few years. He was jacking up airballs in the playoffs, and it wasn’t until his fourth year (the first championship the Lakers won with Shaq) where we really started getting a glimpse of Black Mamba (may his name be cursed). He was all-NBA third team before that, but you could make a case that playing in L.A., hype, and Shaq had a lot to do with that. Anyway, don’t throw in the towel on development.

      • cw says:

        Whose to say that losing a few more games for the next 3 1/2 months is going to ruin all “development?” And even if all “development” was put on hold and no one “developed” over the next 3 1/2 months, does that mean that the players are ruined. That they can not start “developing” again next year? Maybe the young guys would welcome the posibility of contending a top 5 pick would bring. Don’t you think they would want to play on the best team possible for the majority of their careers? Even if it meant finishing this year with 25 wins instead of 35?

        • Clint Johnson says:

          This is a fair point, but in the team’s defense, a large section of the fan base has been loudly critical of the team’s “failure” to fully commit to development in the past. Such individuals (and I don’t mean you, cw, but there are many) would be talking out both sides of their mouths, condemning the organization for doing something for their own purposes then condemning them for NOT doing the same thing for other purposes.

          But to me, it’s a non-issue. I think they can develop their players while making moves to increase the chances of getting a high draft pick. In fact, I would argue that the one glaring weakness of both development and assessment at this point is the Favors/Kanter combo. They traded for and drafted these guys to build around them. Playing Marvin Williams IS the best course to win games now, but it is inevitable that the team has to start Favors and Kanter for a prolonged period of time to assess whether or not the two can play together going forward. In the long term, that decision is far more important than winning now. The longer the team delays the experiment to see if the two-big plan is viable, I would argue, the more they are hampering both development and assessment in favor of winning now.

  5. cw says:

    Hi Cint,

    Thanks for your reply. I hear what you are saying about the bird in the hand vrs the bird in the bush and in any other draft I would agree, but having 5 legitimate potential first team all-NBA players in the draft changes the odds considerably. It’s still far from a sure thing but, chances are way better than anything that has come the Jazz’s way in years. And if you don’t define contending as having a chance to win, I don’t know what it is. And if you don’t have a first team all-NBA player–not just an all star, Mo Williams was an all star–you literally don’t have a chance. It doesn’t have to be a first teamer that year, just someone who was first team within a three-four year window of the title year. And it doesn’t have to be a generational talent. You can do it with a Wade or Nowitski and one or two second or third teamers.

    And about only San Antonio and Miami winning a title with the player they originally drafted, that’s true, and if the Jazz draft a guy that develops into a first teamer, it is possible that he will want to go to greener pastures. But they have no chance if they don’t draft a first teamer at all.

    It just comes down to, how bad do the Jazz want to contend? What would they do to optimize their chances? I would trade Marvin in an instant. I would trade six month development for a chance to contend in an instant. THey can resume developing next year. I don’t know if trading Marvin would be enough. I don’t think Lindsey would tell Corbin to fake an injury. I guess if I was Lindsey I would start to think about it in a few months, if no real injuries happen.

    Whatever the Jazz do this year, however nicely the team is coming around, I really really don’t think any of the young guys are going to develop into that super rare dude you need to contend. We would have seen it already. That piece is still missing. It may be their in this years draft. Think how you are going to feel in a few years when Milwaukee or Orlando or even the Lakers (or both) end up with him and the Jazz end up with Gary Harris. You will be pissed and sad, and wished the Jazz could have done something to lose more games.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      First, I LOVE this conversation. Thank you, and others who are posting, for being so articulate and well reasoned. This is the type of dialogue we want to generate here at Salt City Hoops.

      As to your points here, just a few things. First, whatever contending means, it clearly does not mean winning titles. “Winning” means winning. Contending means something other than (but not necessarily mutually exclusive to) winning. Otherwise, neither the Stockton and Malone Jazz nor the Buffalo Bills that went to four straight Super Bowls were contending teams. I think such a claim is clearly inaccurate.

      Myself, I define a contending team as a team that makes multiple conference finals in close succession, as I believe such a team has a realistic possible chance to win a championship. If the goal is to win a title or bust, I think that is a poorly actionable goal. If the goal is to build a team that can make multiple conference championships, I think that may be actionable.

      As for some chance (a franchise changing draft pick) being greater than no chance (building any other way), I think that is revisionist history. While San Antonio and Miami both won titles led by players they drafted in the top five, Miami does not win that title, or come close, without the free agent signing of Shaquille O’Neal. Miami won by getting a Hall of Fame free agent who put up 23 and 10.4 his first season with that team. How good a free agents is that? Other than O’Neal, only Dwight Howard and Yao Ming have put up numbers that good at that position since 2000. If we accept that the Jazz do not get that grade of free agent (which they do not), we must also accept that the method Miami used to win it’s first championship is not repeatable in Utah. It hinged on an elite free agent signing.

      That leaves two remaining patterns to follow: San Antonio (draft Tim Duncan) or Detroit (build through second tier free agent signings, opportunistic trades, and wise drafting). History shows one team, and only one team, doing it each way. How then can one chance be greater than the other? The impartial truth is, neither are at all likely, which is why bringing an NBA title to Utah is both difficult and unlikely. But if it is done, history suggests it can be done by either method. If I were the Jazz front office and I trusted my ability to do my job, I would rather the Detroit model because it counts on a series of predominantly good decisions, rather than a single shot trying to hit the jackpot.

      • Clint Johnson says:

        My apologies, Miami traded for Shaq. They didn’t him as a free agent. It looks like I was engaging in revisionist history!

      • cw says:

        Clint,

        I also like reasonableness here. I’ve tried commenting on this other site for a while and everyone there seemed possessed by a group psychosis.

        I’m not sure history shows only two teams winning a championship through the draft or 2nd tier FAs. If I remember correctly, lots of first team all-NBA were aquired via draft day trades that we don’t remember. Kobe is a case of this. He was drafted 13th by Charlotte and LA traded Divac and someone else for him. I think there are a bunch more. That’s not the same as drafting someone but I’m not sure the difference is meaningful. The teams still get a player in the draft and he stays with the team through championships. But there may be something to the idea that it takes five or six years for a player to come into his prime, and having a first teamer in his prime is a requirement for winning championships. And over the course of six years or whatever, there is obviously plenty of chances for trades and FA movement.

        And about the definition of contending. I don’t think you can say you are in contention if you don’t have any chance of winning a championship. And to have virtually any chance, history suggest you have to have a first team all-nba player of recent vintage and another all-nba player. And lots of teams that lost in the conference final or the finals had that, but they just didn’t win. So in any year there are three or four teams at least that are in contention.

        Like I said before, the best chance to become contenders Jazz have had in years, or will have in years, is to have a top five pick in *this* years draft. It’s not their only chance–Indiana picked George at 13–but it is by far their best chance. I think it was something like 75% of first team all-NBA payers over the past 20 years were drafted in the first 5 rounds.

  6. Brandon says:

    I don’t think you can really compare the true shooting percentages of Favors with perimeter players such as Carmelo, Curry, Lillard, etc. and even more so when you consider those players are the number one option for their respective teams, which causes other teams to focus on them so a lot of their shots are contested whereas Favors is the 3rd option for the Jazz, giving him a lot of open jumpers. It would be interesting to see the stats on Favors when his shot is being contested or in traffic. It is one thing to hit an open shot it is another thing to have defenses focus on you and still produce.

    I do think he has the potential to develop into a go to offensive weapon as he is a great athlete and working with Malone should help him develop his offensive game. Even if he does develop into a franchise player I still wouldn’t argue against adding a Parker, Wiggins, Randle, or another top player from this draft as you can’t have too much talent (not that I’m saying you were against it)

    • Clint Johnson says:

      It’s true, using TS% to evaluate his offensive potential is limited because of variables. But I don’t think that means it isn’t still useful. As for trying to compare apples to apples, okay. Here are all the bigs shooting 9 or more shots a game (a comparable offensive role to Favors, who is taking 10.5) and who have shot better than Favors has with Burke in the lineup:

      1. Brook Lopez
      2. Chris Bosh (third option, mind you)
      There is no three

      It isn’t like he’s Tyson Chandler, leading the league in TS% by shooting six or fewer times a game (which Chandler did three times). Favors is shooting roughly double the shots Chandler takes when he’s at his best. There is no escaping that Favors’ offensive efficiency has been off the charts good with a usage at right around 20. What would happen if that usage went up? Who knows.

      I hope we see.

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