SALT LAKE CITY — For nine seasons, Derrick Favors has called Utah home while navigating trade rumors, injuries, positional challenges, coaching changes, and roster movement. Despite that, Favors has donned a hard hat on a nightly basis to embody what he and the Jazz represent: blue-collar, grit-and-grind, under the radar, tough, hard workers. His most recent stretch is one of the finest of his career.
MVP of the week: Derrick Favors
Last week, the Utah Jazz went 1-2, with the lone win against New Orleans. Despite the poor weekly record, Favors continued his strong March of basketball.
"When you are feeling better, you are able to do things," Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said Wednesday. "Two years ago when he wasn't feeling great his finishing suffered as a result. Now when he's got the ball around the rim, he's dunking everything."
That night against Anthony Davis and Julius Randle of the Pelicans, Favors "beasted" to 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting along with two blocks and a steal.
For the month of March, he averages 16.8 points per game on 68 percent shooting while grabbing eight rebounds a night, too. Perhaps the most eye-opening stat line occurred in the 115-111 win over Milwaukee a few weeks back when Favors went 10 of 12 from the field en route to 23 points and 18 rebounds. His teammates gave him the nickname "The Hulk" as if that night was his origin story.
However, a look at the entire season and some other stats widen eyes even further. Alongside Favors in the frontcourt is Rudy Gobert, who leads the team in multiple categories. Who comes second, however, might surprise you, as Favors is No. 2 in player efficiency rating (21.38), win shares (6.4), box +/- (4.0) and value over replacement player (2.3). Gobert and Favors are the anchors to everything — offensively and defensively — the Jazz do.
Zach Lowe, a senior writer for ESPN and NBA guru, wrote last week on Favors' impact this season. Lowe wrote, "Favors is enjoying perhaps his best two-way season. He has canned 64 percent of his 2-pointers. He is healthy and cramming on fools again. Opponents have hit just 48.6 percent of their shots at the rim with Favors nearby, the lowest such figure among 151 players who challenge at least two such shots per game."
Favors credits the offseason for his resurgence as he entered the summer of 2018 healthy and able to work out more often with more intensity.
"That allowed me to work out a little harder, work out longer," he said. "I just got my body in shape, got my knee stronger, and it's been paying off for me."
Because of his health and his lowest minutes per game average in six years, it's paying for the team, too, as Favors can ball out as a quality starter on a playoff team. His work ethic and level of play have become "habitual," Snyder said. He also notes that his impact is "manifest in a lot of ways," such as making multiple effort-plays or running better in transition.
Play of emphasis: Pick-and-roll
One example of how Favors has elevated his game, and that of the Jazz's offense, has been his involvement in the pick-and-roll, specifically with Joe Ingles. After the loss to Memphis last Friday night, Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff said, "Mitchell and Ingles, those guys that can play the pick-and-roll as well as they can and make passes out of the pick-and-roll, they're tough to guard."
When Rubio has been injured or when they're in need of more playmaking, the Jazz have turned to Ingles to run the offense. Consequently, he has found Favors on more than one occasion on a lob or simply wide open down low for an easy bucket as he cuts off the screen. The two have a rhythm, nearly potent on this classic NBA play.Comment on this story
In fact, per basketball reference, Ingles and Favors have played 1,166 minutes together this season and hold the third-highest point differential amongst Jazz two-man lineups, at plus-6.7. This newfound source of offense has been a blessing to the team's offensive scheme and scoring output.
With Favors healthy and putting up big numbers, the Jazz are surging toward the playoffs as a deja vu of last spring. If you recall, it was also Favors who hit the key bucket in the series finale over Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs of 2018. With a new wrinkle in the pick-and-roll, plus the confidence of feeling and playing great, look for Favors to add another mark in the playoffs of 2019.