The big question: Can Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter anchor the Utah Jazz's frontcourt together?
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — During the 2013-14 season, the Utah Jazz played 3,956 minutes of basketball while compiling a 25-57 record.
It wouldn’t exactly be a fun offseason experience to relive details of the oft-painful rebuild year, which ultimately cost former Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin his job. But, as a friendly reminder, most of those moments included less-than-stellar hoops.
Four weeks after the third-worst season in franchise history mercifully ended, it’s worth pointing out that big men Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter only played together for 771 minutes. Or 19.5 percent of the time.
Considering the third overall picks of the 2010 and ’11 drafts are positioned to be cornerstone players for this team’s future, their rare pairing was certainly one of the surprises of the season.
It’s also a big question the team must answer going forward.
Can Favors and Kanter be the imposing frontcourt Jazz management envisioned when it decided to allow established veteran talents Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap to wander elsewhere last summer?
That will be especially important for the Jazz to consider this offseason for several reasons.
Will Utah pick big should it be in a position to select Kansas center Joel Embiid on draft night?
Does the organization trust Kanter enough to give him a contract extension offer when that option becomes available in July? Or does the team need to land another stretch-four with proven outside range in the offseason?
The overriding question about whether they can co-exist — and produce on a winning team — might be difficult to answer due to the fact the Jazz aren’t sure exactly what type of a system the yet-to-be-hired new coach will implement and how Kanter and Favors will fit into his plans.
Then again, Jazz players and personnel believe they already know the answer.
“I think it’s crazy that people think that we cannot play together,” Kanter said.
“Obviously, we’ve still got a lot of work to do together,” Favors added. “We’ve still got to work the chemistry thing down and we’ve still got a lot of work to do together, but I think we can.”
So does Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey, who also certainly knows the team had 19 other two-man combinations that logged more time together than Favors and Kanter, including Marvin Williams-Richard Jefferson (1,163 minutes) and even Jeremy Evans-Alec Burks (934 minutes).
The duo of Favors and fellow fourth-year pro Gordon Hayward topped the team with 1,833 minutes.
Lindsey isn’t fazed by the limited experience Favors and Kanter had as an ensemble, something that Corbin experimented with early on before sending the Big Turk to the bench to be a reserve while keeping the Georgia Tech product in the starting lineup because of production, spacing and chemistry issues.
After the initial and brief tryout didn’t pan out, Lindsey believes “some premature opinion” was made that a Kanter-Favors teaming can’t work. He also refused to blame Corbin for hitting the eject button too early on that combo. Even if they didn't play together that often, Favors still averaged a career-high 30.2 minutes, while Kanter logged a career-high 26.7 minutes.
“Frankly, that’s nonsense,” Lindsey said in regard to criticism about Favors and Kanter not being able to play together. “Enes can really shoot the ball. And Derrick can really anchor a defense from a rebounding, shot-blocking standpoint.
“In combination going forward, they’ll be fine,” the GM continued. “Will it be them as starters or closing games is really immaterial to me.”
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