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The next big thing: Utah Jazz's Derrick Favors looking to have a breakout season

Published: Monday, Aug. 20 2012 11:41 p.m. MDT

Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) tries to lay the ball up over San Antonio Spurs forward DeJuan Blair (45) as the Utah Jazz and the San Antonio Spurs play Monday, Feb. 20, 2012 at Energy Solutions arena in Salt Lake City. Spurs won 106-102

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A middle-aged man from a remote town in the middle of Utah recently considered asking Derrick Favors to sign his prized cowboy hat.

The Utah Jazz player was in the man's neck of the woods (almost literally) during a statewide Junior Jazz tour, and the autograph opportunity was right there in the local church gym.

The Tabiona resident was tempted.

He even told his son-in-law, "He could be the next big thing."

Instead of having Favors sign his beloved hat — which he said would have forced him to stop wearing it — the Jazz fan had a picture snapped with the 6-foot-10 NBA player.

According to a growing pro-Favors group, it might have been an error in judgment to not get the cowboy hat signed by the Georgia native.

As the 21-year-old showed at times last season and especially in the Jazz's playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs, Mr. Could Be The Next Big Thing's time is quickly coming.

In fact, Favors' progression and potential figure to present a challenge for Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin during the 2012-13 season.

Start Favors, and let the future begin? Or stick with Mr. Reliable, Paul Millsap, and continue to gradually bring along one of the youngest NBA players with a bright-looking future.

The starting debate will be fun for fans and media to banter about over the next few months.

But Favors isn't getting all wrapped up about that part.

Propelled into the offseason by a playoff series in which he averaged 29.0 minutes, 11.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks, Favors just wants to see more time on the court than he did in the first two seasons of his career.

That personal first-round series success against Tim Duncan and crew only whetted an increasingly voracious playing appetite.

He literally wants his time to get here sooner rather than later.

"I want to play more than what I played last year," Favors admitted. "If it's starting, cool. If it's coming off the bench, cool. I don't mind. I just want to play more. I don't want to sit on the bench no more."

That's where Corbin's tough choice comes into play.

In order for Favors to flourish as well as learn from floundering at times, he needs more than the 20.4 minutes he averaged his first two seasons.

However, Millsap averaged 32.8 minutes in the starting power forward position and played well, so some of the minutes would have to come from the steady and productive seven-year veteran.

The Jazz coach could also use the lengthy and athletic Favors at center for an interior advantage on defense, but that would take time away from Al Jefferson, who averaged 34.0 mpg last season and was Utah's most consistent player.

Or Corbin could throw the Big Three of Favors, Millsap and Jefferson at opponents as he did successfully on occasion during Utah's surge to the playoffs last spring.

Favors' preference remains simple.

"I just want to play more," he said. "I'm starting to get used to the NBA now. As a player, you have that certain pride about yourself. As a player, you want to finish games. You want to stay in the game."

This offseason has been a good one for Favors' confidence.

Shortly after the Jazz were swept out of the first round, the then-20-year-old and teammate Gordon Hayward were honored by being hand-picked to help prepare the country's eventual gold-medal-winning men's Olympic basketball team as part of the 2012 USA Select Team.

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