The Triple Team: Three Thoughts on Utah Jazz at Chicago Bulls 1/7/15

January 8th, 2015 | by Clint Johnson
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Anyone else want to try to score in here? Thought so. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

 

The Jazz played their best game of the season.  Not simply best outcome, best played game.  They looked really good, so there’s a lot to say.

1. D-fence-tastic!

The Jazz did more than out-defend the Bulls, perennially as good a defensive team as there is in the league.  They pillaged them, and on their home court no less.  That’s right, pillaged.  The Bulls’ numbers attest to the sheer carnage.

First half points: a season-low 32.

Total points for the game: a season-low 77.

First half FG%: season-low 28.3%.

FG% for the game: season-low 33.3%.

FTA: 20, tied for 6th lowest on the season.

Assists: 17,tied for 3rd lowest on the season.

Starting lineup: 13 of 49 for 26.5%.

Cap it all off with the Jazz’s 8 steals and 8 blocks (5 by way of Saint-Quentin, France) and I doubt Thibodeau has ever been more disgusted at a loss. The Jazz did to the Bulls what Thibodeau’s teams have made their foundation: competing at a high level through hellacious defense.  This game, it was the Jazz torturing the Bulls offense like demons.  Not pretty necessarily, but sooooo much fun to watch.

2. Favors and Gobert = Domination

It seems only yesterday that the frontcourt tandem of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert remained a tantalizing enigma.  With Enes Kanter finally earning substantial playing time in a contract year, the Jazz were finally seeing what they had in their third-overall draft pick diad by starting both.  The precipitous ascension of Rudy Gobert, Defensive Player of the Year candidate1, combined with Kanter’s ankle injury paved the way for a solid stretch of heavy minutes for the Jazz’s two best defenders to play together.

The results have been better than most could have dreamed, with the smothering of the Bulls an exclamation point.  Favors and Gobert destroyed Chicago’s tandem of All-NBA bigs, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah2.  They outscored them 33 to 14, outshot them 56.5% to 31.3%, outrebounded them 25 to 13, outblocked them 5 to 3, and outstole them 4 to 0.

The Gobert/Gasol matchup was must-watch TV.  The Stifle Tower started what has been a season of staggeringly rapid progress with a strong showing in the 2014 FIBA World Cup tournament, including playing a major role in France’s 65 – 52 upset of international powerhouse Spain and its greatest star, Gasol.  The Spanish seven-footer certainly remembered, and he came out of the gate aggressively, scoring 6 points on 5 shots in the quarter.  But as the game went along Gasol’s effectiveness decreased as his frustration built at Gobert’s length, tenacity, and occasional flailing limb or jutting elbow.  In the second half, he scored only 5 points3 while adding 2 rebounds and played barely over 9 minutes.

Favors’ dominance of Joakim Noah was less noticeable but also more complete.  Noah was almost a non-factor in the game, scoring 1 point on 3 shots and turning the ball over 3 times.  The player who normally stands out in games even when he isn’t scoring practically disappeared.

It is going to be nigh impossible for Quin Snyder to restore Enes Kanter to the starter slot he vacated due to injury.  While the Favors/Gobert tandem is still trying to find their way on offense at times, they simply offer too much potency to neglect, particularly defensively.  What this game against these players4 made perfectly clear is Favors and Gobert compliment each other in a unique way defensively.  Gobert contests everything, and he does so with every ounce of energy and length he has.  That type of play requires trust that your teammates have your back, particularly your frontcourt partner, who is left to box out and defend the area you vacate.  In that role, Favors owned the court, making the desperate and often wild shots the Bulls shot trying to avoid Gobert their only shot.  This pairing is extremely dangerous.

3. Don’t Give Up on Trey Burke Yet

This season has been rough for the second-year lead guard at times; other times, it has been brutal.  Arguably, the best thing about Burke’s season has been his demeanor in the face of consistent poor play and often vociferous criticism from fans and media.  But maybe a player who shoots better under pressure situations needed just such heat to get going – and recently, Trey Burke has gotten things going.

In the Jazz’s last six games, Burke is averaging 17.8 points and 5.2 assists.  He isn’t scorching the net, exactly, at 38% from the field, but in four of those games he shot 40% or better, easily his best stretch of the season.  As for any who may suggest the diminutive Michigan product with the poker face isn’t a significant contributor to the Jazz’s ability to win, now and likely into the future, consider that in 4 of the last 6 games he’s scored 17 points or more and the Jazz have won all 4.

Other Observations

– Gordon Hayward had the game I would like to see from him every night for the next six years.  18 points on 14 shots and 6 of 7 at the FT line, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 blocked shot while holding Jimmy Butler to 16 points on 5 of 13 shooting.  Just as important, he set the tone early for a young team with a history of getting behind early.  His 10 first-quarter points were essential to the Jazz’s ability to build enough confidence to dominate this game.

– Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert connected beautifully in one high/low post set.  With a defender fronting him, Gobert fought his man away from the basket, providing plenty of room for a lob into the post, which Favors delivered perfectly resulting in a slam dunk.  Not only are these two the team’s best defenders, but they are the team’s best-passing rotation bigs as well.

– The Bulls’ starting backcourt was simply awful, no other way to say it.  Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich managed only 3 of 20 shooting for 7 points, all from Rose and all but one coming in a third-quarter stretch of several plays where Rose attacked the rim with a tenacity and speed that reminded of his former self.  But if this season is any indication, that MVP-caliber player is gone for good.  The rest of the game, Rose continued a stretch of ice-cold shooting that has plunged his season FG% below 40%.

– In addition to the statistically verifiable signs of Trey Burke’s waking game, this game showed how determined he is to play in the interior of the defense.  Numerous times Burke penetrated or started to do so and when cut off either hesitated before pressing forward again, looped under the hoop then back into the paint (ala Steve Nash), or simply shoved his backside into his defender while keeping his dribble and refusing to budge.  Snyder’s insistence that his team break the paint then take advantage of a compromised defense is registering with Burke.

– The Jazz did not allow 20 or more points in the first three quarters, and the Bulls only managed that in the fourth because Snyder emptied his extremely depleted bench.

– Trevor Booker was great with 15 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 blocked shot in only 22:47 minutes.  He matched the production of Taj Gibson (15/6/1/1), Chicago’s super-sub.

– Rudy Gobert had a tip-in dunk off his own miss that was one more play that reminds me so much of a bunch of 13-year-olds playing on a 8 foot rim, where jumping high is just overrated.

 

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson

Clint Johnson is a professional author, writing educator, and editor. He teaches writing at Salt Lake Community College. A frequent presenter at both writing and educational conferences, he writes about the Jazz as a break from his other writing work.

25 Comments

  1. cw says:

    good recap. I agree (sort of) about Burke. He has a really good handle and he is learning the Nash/ Paul curve around the pick into the top of the key thing as well as the through the baseline thing, but unlike nash paul he does not always make good decisions. He looks to score too much. If he would look to pass more he would help the Jazz but also set himself up for better shots later in the game.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Personally, I agree, especially with Favors getting less than 12 shots a game. But to be fair, Burke is shooting slightly less frequently than last season at 20.5 FGA/100 possessions while more often shooting from three and the free throw line. The problem is honestly his FG%. If he were shooting 45% from the field and 37% from three, most wouldn’t have an issue with his present game.

  2. TBB says:

    Kanter will come back and start as he should, you need at least 3 bigs so they’ll just rotate. Trey Burke is 28-30 best pg in the NBA so no matter what you tell me about small sample success, i am not drinking that Kool-Aid.

    He’s basically Evan Turner on the Sixers giving them a couple really good games to get everyones hopes up, i’ll go with long term numbers over a few sample sizes although I’ll give him credit and say he has been attacking the paint more.

    Good backup? Definitely, starter? Not for much longer

    • Paul Johnson says:

      Intrinsically, I think Burke is a good shooter, but needs to work on his consistency. The Jazz’s 8 young core guys (Favors, Hayward, Burks, Kanter, Burke, Gobert, Exum and Hood) all look like they have complementary skills that could make for the foundation of a very excellent team as they mature–with Kanter, Burke and Hood being naturally better on offense than defense; with Gobert and Exum being naturally better on defense than offense; and with Favors, Hayward and Burks having natural ability on both offense and defense.

      If the Jazz can afford to keep and continue to develop all or most of these young players, and can add a good wing defender (possibly Stanley Johnson or Justice Winslow from the 2015 draft), as well as to add or develop some more outside shooting, they could be very good for many years to come.

      Even Booker, as a hard-working, athletic, blue-collar energy guy, and the two recent D-League call-ups (Millsap and Williams–Millsap primarily as a good wing defender, and Williams primarily as a scorer and playmaker with great athleticsm) look like they may have a place with the Jazz, as well.

      • Paul Johnson says:

        Oh, and I think Ingles could have a role on the Jazz going forward, as well, with his length and ball-handling/play making skills.

        • Clint Johnson says:

          I see many of the possibilities you do, but I suspect there will need to be much more turnover than this to get the Jazz where they want to go. At this point, I am only sold on two players being certain pieces to a contending-caliber team: Favors and Hayward. They’ve shown the combination of proven ability over enough time for me to say that. Given more time and opportunity, I suspect Rudy Gobert will join this group.

          Alec Burks and Enes Kanter are difficult cases for me. I believe they will be good players in the league, starting caliber, but I don’t know that they will be the best options for the Jazz. Maybe, maybe not. (Honestly, with Kanter, I’m leaning not.)

          If I had to say right now, I would slot Trey Burke and Trevor Booker in as career contributors off the bench who are valuable if they supply what your roster needs. I don’t think the Jazz roster is close enough to set to know if what they bring will fit, nor do I know if Burke will become better than I anticipate (hence my belief in patience).

          Every other player is either unproven to the point of my being unable to make a reasonable judgment (Exum and Hood) or the type of player who, most likely, is not going to make a significant difference one way or the other once this team is fully constructed and mature.

          In short (too late), I think this team will see plentiful change in the next three years.

          • Brandon says:

            I think taking a young starter to the bench will take there confidence. I think the Jazz should consider trading Kanter. I really like Kanter, but to lose his starting position would really affect his confidence. Use Kanter & maybe a draft pick for a scoring wing & a back up center

          • Clint Johnson says:

            This is a reply to Brandon.

            What you say is a concern. But Gobert is a young player too, and I would also be concerned about demonstrating to him that the Utah Jazz make basketball decisions based on other than simply who is working hardest to become the better player and contribute on the floor.

            Also, I think Snyder could sit down with Kanter and explain the decision, including making clear Kanter will get approximately the same minutes as before only more often as a first option. If he remains dedicated to defense like the last little while, his numbers will likely improve, he’ll earn himself more money following this season, and he’ll help the team win more and more.

      • Mewko says:

        I think the Jazz need to add another good scorer, at shooting guard. He can be relied on when we need buckets.
        I think we should draft Mario Hezonja, and have him play in the 2nd unit with Dante in 2015-16.
        Around 2018-19, Hezonja should be ready to start. It doesn’t matter who the first/second/third scoring options are, or the order of them.
        I think if Dante Exum was carrying the burden of first offensive option, he would only score 18 a night efficiently. I don’t think that would be a great offense.

        With Hezonja, the Jazz would have 4 legitimate scoring threats in the starting 5. So with unselfish play, the ball can move around a lot, and find a good scorer 80% of the time, or Rudy Gobert for a two hand flush.

        • Clint Johnson says:

          I don’t like Hezonja much myself. He’s established quite a reputation as a difficult personality, hard on teammates, difficult to coach, and defiant of team concept. Plus, I’m not sold on his shooting. So while another scorer (preferably a shooter) at SG could well be helpful, I think there are better realistic options.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Even agreeing that a team needs three bigs (at least), I fail to see why it is a given Kanter should start. Overall, Gobert is a better player (meaning greater contributor in games) right now. They are the same age, and Gobert has far less NBA experience. Both competitively and developmentally, it makes sense for Gobert to start and get at least as many minutes as Kanter.

      As for Trey Burke being the 28-30 best pg in the NBA, that may be true, but it may not. Whatever the case, it is not a given that two years from now he will be what he is now. Two years into his career, Derrick Favors likely wasn’t a top 30 player at his position. At Burke’s current age, Hayward was probably only breaking into that discussion at the wing, if that. To preemptively declare Burke as X and only capable of being X is, I believe, an error on two fronts. May he never be better than a high volume/low efficiency scorer? Possibly. But I think he has demonstrated more than enough to believe that he has greater potential than that.

    • Robert Morant says:

      Most pgs in their second year wasnt playing this good ie Lowrey,Teague and Conley. What most are doing is not letting the “process” develope. When I hear Exum is the future I try and see what’s special outside of a good defender. He can not create his own shot or creat period off the dribble and he only shoots if hes standing alone. At 19 if you cant create, probe and attack those are things that you have or you dont. Give me the fighter the one that dont care about bad games but will do anything to win. Its no comparison. Hype sells and thats the real. #5pick

      • Clint Johnson says:

        I watched all the film available on Exum before the draft (that I know of) multiple times, and I think he has a number of skills he hasn’t yet shown in the pros. That said, I think expectations are extremely high for him, so much so I think they may well prove unreasonable. Is it a given he’ll be a better player than Burke? No, but I would say he is underperforming his talent if that ends up being true.

  3. Don says:

    I think that you are off a bit about the Gobert/Gasol matchup. You said “including playing a major role in France’s 65 – 52 upset of international powerhouse Spain and its greatest star, Gasol. ”

    Gasol is still a very good player, but clearly has been eclipsed this year by Gasol. Nevertheless, in the world games, Gasol was completely shut down by Gobert, as was Gasol.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      Very good point. A Gasol by any other name, and all that. I would say that Gasol A averaged 20 PPG in FIBA 2014 while Gasol B averaged 10. And in all fairness, Gasol A had 17/8/3 blocks in that loss to France where Gasol B had 3/4/1. But in the end, A+B = loss.

  4. UtahsMrSports says:

    Im slowly feeling my excitement for Jazz basketball returning. I really think we need to keep Rudy and Favors in the starting lineup. I think that gives us a much better chance of winning.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I agree, though not without some reluctance. I don’t think Kanter “lost” his job. In fact, I’m very pleased with how he’s progressed this season thus far. That said, to my mind there are more and better reasons to start Gobert:

      Start the better player to help win games: Gobert.

      Start the player with the more needed skill set to win games: Gobert.

      Start the player who combines most effectively with Favors: Gobert.

      Start the player with the highest upside: Gobert.

      Start the player who earns the spot through effort, drive, consistency, and willingness to practice hard: Gobert.

      Start the player who will most benefit developmentally given minutes: Gobert.

      Start the player who is most likely to fill seats: Gobert.

      I do see some arguments in favor of Kanter, specifically trying to maximize return on investment on a third pick, a fairness argument that you don’t lose your spot due to injury, an argument that the team has less available time to assess Kanter as a player before making a contractual decision, and the argument that if Kanter is less likely to be a future building block playing him less will decrease any value he might have in a trade.

      To me, the arguments for Gobert are substantially more persuasive than the arguments for Kanter. If I were Snyder, I would make Kanter my first big off the bench while trying to get him 28-30 minutes a night and maintaining his high usage rate. One bonus to such a strategy is that Kanter could play almost exclusively as the only big or with Gobert, which would maximize floor spacing in the first situation while covering for Kanter’s defensive struggles in the second.

    • Mewko says:

      Here’s a trade idea for Kanter:
      L.A Lakers receive: Enes Kanter, Jeremy Evans
      Utah Jazz receive::: Wayne Ellington, Ryan Kelly, 2015 first round pick (Rockets)

      • Clint Johnson says:

        My guess is that the Jazz would look for a more established player rather than another draft pick – that or a blockbuster trade for a true superstar in the slim chance such became available. That said, if Dennis Lindsey thinks something will help the team long-term, he’ll do that, even if it means gathering more assets in the form of draft picks.

  5. Steven says:

    I love the impact that Gobert is having in games this season. After Hayward he is the player that really has a meaningful impact in fgames. He comes in and causes havoc, it might only be for a quarter, or a quarter and a half, but he has phase after phase after phase of impact plays that canturn a game on its head. When I first saw Favors I thought there might be a chance that he could be a great defensive player, up there with the best in the game of his generation, but althoughs he;s realy good on defence I’m not sure he going to be as good as I first thought he might have been. I have been pleasantly surprised at the offensive growth of Favors since the summer. He seems to have developed some moves now that have made his offensive game easier, the first couple of years he was here I did wonder if that part of the game would develop as much as was required, and now that he’s made that offensive growth it has helped to minimise to an extent that he’s jot quite as the defensive man that I thought he might be. I have been excited by Favors growth offensively. He is doing moves I wasn’t sure he was going to be capable of for another few years. It looks easy for him to get 4-5 point quarters. It looks easy for him to go on an make 6-7 point quarters that would be a nice leap to start expecting around 25 points a game. I just don’t see that hunger and desire yet from Favors to put those phases together to have that sort of impact. Not yet anyway.

    Gobert though has that hunger. Maybe he doesn’t have the offensive game, maybe he never will. But He does have the hunger to put phases together that make an impact. He could well be the Defensive anchor that I thought Favors was going to be. Its not just that he he has one or two good phases, but its the fact that the can follow it up with phase after phase after phase after phase that has me excited. He’s raw, he’s developing, and he still has that level of impact play now. He has so much growth ahead of him, so much development to come in his game and yet he is killing it for minutes at a time.

    I’m excited to have both Favors and Gobert here for the future. However in no way does that mean that Kanter doesn’t have a future here. Kanter is no where near the defensive player of these two guys, but offensively amongst the bigs he is the one player that has the potential to be special. He has the range and the moves to start putting up big numbers once he puts it together. He was drafted with range written down in his notes, and then under the wisdom of his coach much of his development time was spent under the post. He is a good post player but had Corbin given him more latitude to develop his moves away from the post early on he could have had far more moves in his arsenal today, as it is he way ahead of Favors and Gobert. We only have to look at Dallas, Nowitski is not a good defender, but offensively he is invaluable to the Mavs, he can shoot from all areas of the floor, and the threat is taken so seriously by opposing defences that his teammates have more space. Kanter may not put up the numbers that Dirk does, but he has that ability to shoot from different areas of the floor, now he has the latitude by his coach to extend outwards he’s developing his game along with it. He might not put up 40 points like Dirk can do, but if in a couple of seasons the Jazz can expect him to score 24 points in one game, 32 in another, 19 in another, he adds value that Gobert and Favors don’t have. The minutes are there for al three of them to exist. They aren’t the same players. They each offer different skillsets, they can coexist. It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation not for a a couple of seasons anyway. Lets find out who these players are before we give up on one, and jump on another. This team needs defence, but it also needs scorers. Hayward, Burks, Kanter are the three most natural scorers this team, Favors is catching up, but I don’t think he will ever be what those three players have for a while yet. If we believe in him, take our time and nurture his natural talents Kanter just might be special offensvely in the same way that Favors and Gobert are defensively. The Jazz would look really silly if they gave up on him and he developed that game somewhere else. I’d love to see Kanter be a Nowitzki lite – there is only one Dirk, but if Enes could score 85-90% of what Dirk puts up, that would be a nice addition to have here, especially if Gobert and Favors are able to man up behind on the ither end of the floor.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I agree with everything you’ve said about Gobert, including his hunger to be great. I think it is one of the many things that make him likely to maximize his talent. That said, I don’t agree that Favors lacks that hunger; I DO agree he lacks that demeanor. But those are different things. I think people should be hesitant to assume Favors’ demeanor is an accurate representation of his competitiveness.

      I’m as big a Favors fan as there is. I’ve believed for two years now he’s been the Jazz’s best all-around player, and I still believe it. He’s already an elite threat in the pick and roll, an incredibly valuable offensive weapon in the modern NBA. Plus, as much as is said about Kanter’s superior shooting touch, Favors is actually outshooting Kanter from 15-19 feet, 44% to 36%. Favors is also a better and more willing passer with an AST% double that of Kanter.

      Most telling, at least to me, is the team’s record when he’s driving the offense. When Favors gets 14 or more shots, the team is 6 – 4, with all four losses coming by 5 or fewer points. When Hayward gets 14+ shots, the team is 5 – 15 with 6 of those losses coming by 10 or more points. When Kanter shoots 14+ shots, the team is 1 – 6. Those numbers can’t be denied. When Favors shoots the ball a lot, the team is competitive.

      One last point: If Favors finishes the year with his current PER of 22.8 or better, he will join only these bigs since 1990 to reach that mark by age 23 — Anthony Davis, Shaq, Amar’e Stoudemire, DeMarcus Cousins, Dwight Howard, Kevin Love, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Bosh, Elton Brand, Kevin Garnett, Chris Webber, and Blake Griffin. That’s 11 All-NBA players (not All-Stars, All-NBA) and the two most dominant young bigs in the modern NBA.

      Statistically, Favors profile this season is very much what one would expect of a developing superstar.

  6. Steven says:

    Don’t get me wrong i’m not knocking Favors hunger to be good, his development this year is testement to that he has the desire to improve, and keep on improving. What he lacks though is a a demenour to leave it out all on the line, for phase after consecutive phase. I’m a big fan of Favors but he’s no Anthony Davis. Davis goes at it hard on both ends of the floor for phase after phase, game after game. Favors in contrast has developed differently, he’s improved greatly this season to the extent that you could say he’s playing within what he is capable of. There are times where he like gets angry and a bluetouch paper is lit and he goes off on some poor team, and he carries his own team along with it, wowing the crowd in the process. He has that ability in him but once the team starts to react to his performance by lifting their own level of play he settles down to a level of play that he is happy with. He’s not Davis, he realises that. However I’m not sure he knows how good he is just yet. At this stage in many aspects of the game he his way ahead of Gobert in what he can do. Difference with Gobert is he has the demenour to leave everything on the line, he’s a much more limited player but he does what he can at a high level, and ifanother opportunity is available he tries to react, it doesn’t always come off, but occasionally something really good can come out of a simple reach in steal, a eurostep and a dunk later it looks like a genius move.

    Favors has the ability to take over the game, he has the ability to wow us, the reason Gobert is exciting us all right now he pushes that element as much as he can. Hes a limited raw player at this moment but his energy and keeness to push and prod what is possible is taking us all for a ride. It does help though that he has the Favors and the Haywards that can be there to cover when he sometimes overplays because the team isn’t as exposed as he would be without that sort of help. If only Favors and Hayward had had something similar at a similar time in their jazz career who knows where we’d be.

    • Clint Johnson says:

      I agree with your assessment that Favors plays under control, sometimes too controlled. He’s very deliberate other than in the speed of pick and roll sets, which is one reason he’s so good at that. The reason this doesn’t bother me is I don’t believe it is so much his nature as it is learned behavior. Here’s why I say this:

      1) He had years of Corbin’s coaching, which good or bad, however you evaluate it, must be acknowledged to have emphasized not making mistakes. Favors makes very few big mistakes defensively, largely because he tries to stay in position to do either of two or three things. He shades toward help defense a little too readily while taking a little too long to commit fully to helping in the paint. It’s why he contests so many shots rather than blocking more. This is a product of playing on a horrendous defensive team and knowing you’re expected to basically cover everyone. As a result, he’s trying to balance too much where Gobert stops what he sees right here, right now.

      2) The Jefferson Effect. When Favors was only 19 – 21, he practiced day in and day out with a methodical big mentor who was acknowledged as the team’s star. This reinforced the message from point one: it’s better not to make mistakes than to make plays that come at risk.

      3) Frankly, Favors hasn’t been able to trust any defenders behind him. When he contests shots strongly, especially anywhere other than right in front of the hoop, how many times has Kanter’s concentration lapsed or Jeremy Evans been pushed under the hoop where Favors’ man gets a dunk or easy layup either off a pass or the offensive rebound. He’s had a lot of games to learn I can’t commit fully because no one has my back. This is one reason he matches Gobert so well. Gobert can contest everything because Favors plays rock solid behind him, as he did against the Bulls and Joakim Noah.

      4) Favors is still learning to play full out on the defensive end without getting fouls. In 12-13, he fouled 5 times per 36 minutes of play. It was a huge problem and saw him frequently out of games more than he should have been–but it also saw him block 2.6 shots in those same 36 minutes. Last year, that dropped to 3.9 fouls/36 and 1.8 blocks/36. This year, he’s at 3.1 and 1.8/36. respectively. He’s not protecting the hoop as well because he’s trying not to foul, and he’s succeeding at that. Once that manageable foul rate becomes habit (one of Snyder’s favorite words), the blocks will increase. I don’t know if 2.5 is realistic, honestly, but I think 2 per game absolutely is (as is 1 steal), with a corresponding increase in overall impact in the paint.

      Add these things together and, to me, they equal a player who will get much better defensively when fully matured as a player and on a good team he trusts defensively. Gobert will make Favors better defensively, as will improvement of other players. Also, as he gains more respect with refs and doesn’t fear fouling as much, his defensive decisiveness and aggressiveness will increase. We’ve seen growth, certainly, but I don’t believe he’s near his peak.

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