To be honest, he’s a great player of course. He attacked the glass a lot, and he’s strong with the ball. He scored a lot, but I think he’s a great player. —Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, on Derrick Favors
SALT LAKE CITY — There’s no denying who’s the current centerpiece of the Utah Jazz franchise.
That title belongs to “The Stifle Tower,” Mr. Rudy Gobert.
But in the Frenchman’s absence, as he recovers from a knee injury, the longest-tenured Jazzman is proving his worth.
For the past nine games, Derrick Favors has been in rare form, seizing the opportunity to fill in for arguably the league’s top defender.
On Tuesday night, Favors contributed yet another dominant performance.
He ended with 24 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two blocks while going head-to-head against skilled Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, who was held to seven points, six assists and six rebounds.
“To be honest, he’s a great player of course,” Jokic said of Favors. “He attacked the glass a lot, and he’s strong with the ball. He scored a lot, but I think he’s a great player.”
And with that productiveness, the wins are piling up as the Jazz have won three straight after Tuesday’s 106-77 victory against the Nuggets on ESPN.
“I think he was better than the box score,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “He’s different than Rudy, but he was so effective today protecting the rim because he was just playing vertically, and that’s something we’ve got some carryover on and hopefully some of the other guys will see the success that he’s had with that.”
Utah is better with Gobert in the lineup for obvious reasons, most notably his length and defensive prowess, but the squad was 5-7 with him on the floor and is 5-4 since his injury.
Favors is averaging 16.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks during the stretch without Gobert. He has also logged four games with 23 or more points.
“I just want to basically come out and show everybody that I’m back,” Favors said. “I’m 100 percent healthy now. I just come out there, play my game, be aggressive offensively and defensively and just get my teammates playing with a lot of energy to start the game.”
Last season, Favors was limited to 50 games while battling knee and back issues. He’s often been the forgotten man and even though he's in the final year of his contract, an extension isn’t reportedly close to being signed, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe. He'll make $12 million this year and has been the subject of trade rumors with unrestricted free agency approaching.
But that issue seems to be on the backburner as his production continues to increase and the team is finally clicking.
Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell is really impressed with Favors' recent performances, saying those strong games aren’t going unnoticed inside the locker room.
“He’s vocal,” Mitchell said. “He’s blocking shots, active and I think that’s been a big spark for us in the way he’s been playing.”