Rudy Gobert will be available to play in tonight’s game against Washington. It remains to be seen whether he will be on a minutes restriction or back in the starting lineup.
In Gobert’s absence, the Jazz have gone 7-4 and are on a six-game winning streak. Since the injury, Coach Quin Snyder decided to move Derrick Favors to the center position and play with a stretch four. This change has helped the Jazz offense go from being one of the worst in the league to a juggernaut. They have the third-ranked offense in the league during the last 11 games.
Their offense has exploded for a few reasons: first, the Jazz haven’t played any team ranked in the top 10 defensively besides the 76ers in the past 11 games. Second, many players have stepped up their game in Gobert’s absence. Favors looks like a completely different player since the position change. When he was playing next to Gobert, he was averaging just under 10 points a game. During the past 11 games he is over 15 points a game and his rebounds and assists are up also. Jonas Jerebko, Thabo Sefolosha, Alec Burks and others have also stepped up in the absence of the Jazz star.
The third and main reason the offense has come alive is the Jazz are playing with a spread floor. Before the injury, Snyder started a lineup with three non-shooters (Gobert, Favors and Ricky Rubio). This trio didn’t spread the floor and allowed defensives to clog the paint and take away Gobert’s basketball gravity.
With Gobert returning, how Coach Snyder adjusts the lineup and rotation is on all fans’ minds. There are plenty of options available: one is they could bring Gobert off the bench, but that isn’t happening. They could move Favors to the bench. This would work but Favors has played brilliantly as of late, is in a contract year and arguably is their second-best player. One can’t see him being happy with that idea.
The most logical choice would be to start both the bigs but play limited minutes together. Favors would start at power forward and then move to the backup center as the game continues. This causes two problems: first is it leaves no playing time for Ekpe Udoh (who has been a solid backup) and other players will lose minutes who have earned them. Plus this still leaves the offensive killing trio of Gobert, Favors and Rubio on the court together to start games.
Another option is to move Rubio to a backup role and put Rodney Hood back in with the starting unit. This would leave rookie Donovan Mitchell as the team’s starting point guard. He has played great lately at either guard position. Rubio has been a starter since entering the league, six years ago, but if handled right by Snyder, the Jazz hopefully wouldn’t disengage Rubio. This won’t solve all the problems since the Jazz don’t run a lot of 4-5 pick and rolls. Teams could still switch off Favors or Gobert to help clog up the paint. Last season the Jazz played a lot with three shooters and two bigs and it worked out fine.
The final option would be up to general manager Dennis Lindsey. He could look to trade a player or two. The most likely player is Favors. In the modern NBA, non-shooting power forwards don’t help offenses much, and since moving to his more natural position at center, he has been sensational. Also, he is in the final year of his contract and could leave the Jazz empty-handed during free agency. Favors has said all the right things and genuinely likes Utah and the Jazz organization. But re-signing to be Gobert’s backup doesn’t seem like something Favors would want to do or something the Jazz management would want to sink a bunch of their payroll into.
What is Favors worth? At the beginning of the year as a power forward getting a late first-round pick seemed unlikely but with his play of late, his value has strengthened. Favors being in the last year of his contract will hurt his value but a team in need of a talented big should gamble on him.
A couple teams that might be worth a call to are the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers. Both teams are rumored to be interested in trading for the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan. The Clippers, who are missing many future assets, will want a huge return in exchange for Jordan. Favors could be a cheaper but still talented option. One trade that would make sense was brought up on Twitter by Salt City Hoops writer Dan Clayton.
The Jazz would send Favors and cap relief to the Bucks for Khris Middleton and a bad contract. So something along the lines of Favors and Joe Johnson (both who are expiring contracts) in exchange for Middleton and Mirza Teletovic, who has another year on his contract and $10 million coming to him. This trade would benefit both teams.
The Cavaliers, who seem to have steadied the ship after a terrible start, may feel like they need to alter their team so it can better compete with the Warriors. Trading Kevin Love for Favors and another asset would make some sense. If Cleveland feels that Lebron James is gone after this season and wants to start their rebuild, getting rid of Love’s contract would appeal to them. The Cavs could get Favors and Johnson to help them play smaller and better defensively. They probably would want a future first-round pick to restock their future asset cupboard. The Jazz would get one of the best stretch fours in the game.
The Jazz have a good problem. They are a deep team with most of their roster deserving minutes. The Jazz most likely will see how the Favors/Gobert pairing works for a few games but if it struggles like before, expect them to change things up.
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