LAS VEGAS — Much ado has been made in recent weeks about the Utah Jazz losing their top offensive threats this offseason.
Center Al Jefferson, the focal point of Utah’s offense for the past three seasons, took his left-block moves and 18 points a night to Charlotte.
Power forward Paul Millsap, the Jazz’s second scoring option in recent years, skedaddled to Atlanta with his steady production.
Don’t count Derrick Favors among the people fretting about who, what, when, where, why and how the Jazz are going to put points on their fancy new scoreboard with their revamped new team in 2013-14.
The recently turned 22-year-old flashed a grin when asked about how the Jazz offense will cope in the Post Big Al/Not-So-Big Paul Era.
“It’s time,” Favors said, “for two other people to be the new leading scorers.”
The two candidates best positioned to take over an offensive responsibility that’s been shouldered by Jefferson and Millsap are participating together this week at Team USA’s minicamp.
Who knows if Favors and Gordon Hayward will be able to match the 7,600 points Jefferson and Millsap combined to score over the past three seasons?
One thing is certain.
The soon-to-be fourth-year veterans can’t wait to have increased offensive opportunities — and the accompanying responsibilities.
“I’m really excited,” Hayward said after Tuesday’s practice session at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center. “It’s going to be a challenge, for sure. But it’s time. I’m ready to step up and take that challenge.”
The new-look Jazz will need somebody to do that.
Even with their reliable post players last season, Utah only ranked 13th in the NBA in scoring with 98.0 points per game.
In a remarkable indication of the organization's overhaul, Hayward is the only player on the Jazz's current roster who averaged double digits in the NBA last season.
Utah had five players in the 10 points-plus range in 2012-13, but Jefferson (17.8 ppg), Millsap (14.6 ppg), Mo Williams (12.9 ppg) and Randy Foye (10.8 ppg) will all have new homes next year.
Hayward was third on the team with a 14.1 scoring average on 43.5 percent shooting, while Favors produced 9.4 points an outing on 48.2 percent shooting.
The Team USA hopefuls, who’ll undergo contract-extension negotiations this summer, will have plenty of chances to improve all of those numbers in the future.
“We’ve just got to come in and work harder,” said Favors, who knows something about hard work after training with Jazz big man coach Karl Malone this summer. “Obviously, we’re going to have to adjust, but it should be fun. It’ll be exciting.”
The Jazz, Hayward noted, will likely veer a bit away from the rigid inside-out philosophy that’s been in place since 2010-11 to capitalize on the strengths of their dearly departed post players.
With rookie Trey Burke running the show from the point guard position, the Jazz are likely to focus more on one of his strengths — scoring off of screens. Favors and Hayward are also adept at that style of offense.
“You’ve got to adapt to the players that you have — maybe a little more pick-and-roll, perimeter-oriented stuff,” Hayward said, anticipating possible offensive changes.
“We still have Fav and Enes (Kanter) down low. They’re still big bodies that can move people and make good moves and create stuff for other people,” he added. “I’m not going to say the offense is going to change a lot, but there will probably be some differences.”
Ah, yes. Enes Kanter.
The Jazz center spent the past 10 days working out and rehabbing at the P3 training center in Santa Barbara, Calif. He’s expected both to be fully healed from his spring shoulder surgery and to be a big contributor in Utah’s offense, something he showed he’s capable of doing while racking up 23 points and 22 rebounds while filling in for Jefferson against the Bobcats last March.
Hayward said the Jazz are going to need Kanter (7.2 ppg in 2012-13), projected starting shooting guard Alec Burks (7.0 ppg) and champing-at-the-bit Jeremy Evans (5.8 ppg) to fill the offensive void created by management’s new direction.
It remains to be seen what Utah will get from Marvin Williams, who isn’t expected back from his Achilles tendon surgery until December, or from their new acquisitions. Burke, the 2013 national player of the year, was a prolific scorer in college (18.6 ppg), but the 6-1 playmaker struggled mightily while shooting just 24 percent overall and 1 for 19 from 3-point range in the Orlando Pro Summer League.
And the incoming veterans?
Combined, Jazz additions Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, Brandon Rush and John Lucas III averaged 3.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg and 0.9 apg last season.
Even if they have outstanding offensive years, Hayward and Favors can’t do it all.
“We’re going to have to find other ways to get other people involved,” Hayward said. “But, yeah, Derrick and I are going to have to step up big-time — not just in a leadership role but in a production role.”
Hayward, a versatile 6-8 wing, has been working hard to improve his ballhandling skills and his ability to find better ways to finish close to the basket, whether it be with floaters, pull-up jumpers or other creative shots.
“I see everything — drives to the basket, pull-up jumpers, everything from him, man. He’s doing a lot here,” Favors said of Hayward. “I think he can take on that role of being the leading scorer on the team.”
Favors, being tutored by the Mailman, continues to search for his “go-to move,” and he showed a couple of promising glimpses in a scrimmage Tuesday. He drew a few “oohs” from the small crowd while powering past defenders for a dunk, and he used his imposing athletic ability for a 6-foot-10, 248-pound man with an equally impressive spin move in the post to get to the foul line.
“There’s a lot of stuff I can do. I’m multi-talented, man,” Favors said. “I’m going to be a lot more aggressive this upcoming season because we don’t have Al or Paul here.”
Hayward won’t argue with his teammate on that multi-talented part.
“Derrick is still developing his game down low. What he’s best at in my opinion is setting screens, rolling, finding the open area, and just making power finishes. He can do that with anybody in the NBA,” Hayward said. “He’s gotten tremendously better since he came into the league with his post game, and he’s only going to get better doing that.”
Hayward doesn’t believe that the Jazz’s renewed emphasis on building a “defensive foundation” — something Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said will be more important than 2013-14 win-loss totals — is out of necessity due to a lack of firepower. He sees it more as giving the team more transition opportunities from making stops.
“Defense is what wins ballgames," Hayward said. "We’ll be able to score.”
Favors emphatically agrees.
"Points will come from anywhere," he said. "Last year, because we had Al and Paul, mostly we were a post-up team because those guys were out there killing everybody. But there's different ways you can score points."
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