Derrick Favors waited for his Utah Jazz career to align again, a combination of fluctuating minutes, an evolving role and injuries presenting numerous challenges. His impact had come as a scorer and rebounder able to play alongside star center Rudy Gobert, yet Favors relished being a primary option, someone through whom the Jazz could run their offense. So when Favors assumed the starting center role for the injured Gobert earlier this month, he seized the moment — and has thrived.
Through nine games in place of Gobert, Favors has averaged 16.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.8 blocks. He had 24 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the Jazz’s third straight victory Tuesday night against Denver, and has had performances of 25 points and 11 rebounds against Orlando, 23 points and seven rebounds against Chicago, and 24 points and 12 rebounds against Brooklyn during the stretch. He continued refining his body and mind over the summer, shedding weight in an effort to regain the production of the best seasons of his eight-year NBA career.
“It was frustrating at first the past year or so dealing with the up-and-down role and minutes, but I’ve stayed confident,” Favors told The Vertical. “I’ve put the time in and that has helped me stay motivated with myself. At the end of the day, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity and hold it down while Rudy was out. I’m taking advantage of the opportunity and showing everyone that I’m healthy. I want to prove to everyone that I’m the same guy. I’m 100 percent. I’ve been feeling healthy all summer and into the season, and I’m the same player.
“I’m going to continue to play at this level. Rebounding, defending the paint and being able to provide offense. I have a chip on my shoulder, I could sense people were writing me off …
“Don’t write me off just yet.”
Despite injuries to Gobert, Joe Johnson and emerging guard Rodney Hood, Utah has remained in the postseason picture. The Jazz lost Gordon Hayward to Boston in free agency, and added Thabo Sefolosha, Jonas Jerebko and Ekpe Udoh to solidify the bench. Favors has pointed to the Jazz’s depth this season as a major plus, as well as players becoming increasingly understanding of their roles, a process he’s grasped with his own experiences. Favors is averaging 13.1 points and 6.2 rebounds, and career highs in field-goal percentage (55.8) and free-throw percentage (74.5).
“I’ve grown a lot over my career, understanding how I can impact the game and play to my strengths,” Favors told The Vertical. “Since I’m able to play both frontcourt positions, that allows me to man the five and play with Rudy, too. I know I can bring our team a lot of value being able to space the floor, defend bigger fives and fours, pick-and-pop. I want to fill my role and show that I’m the same player I have been when I’m given the chances.”
Gobert is making significant strides in his return from his knee injury, but until then, Favors is utilizing his experience of playing as the Jazz’s primary frontcourt force.
“It’s not foreign territory for [Favors],” coach Quin Snyder told reporters earlier this month. “He’s played in those situations before.”
Favors, 26, was the third overall selection in the 2010 NBA draft by the Nets and understood the development of his offensive repertoire and rebounding consistency would shape his career. It’s been nearly seven years since Favors’ involvement in the blockbuster Deron Williams trade between Utah and the Nets in 2011, and he joins Enes Kanter as the two most productive players left standing from the deal.
The Jazz received several inquiries for Favors at the trade deadline last season, but never received an offer that enticed the franchise to move the 6-foot-10 big man. If a team decides to pursue a veteran and versatile frontcourt player still entering his prime, Favors is one of the market’s top options. He’s now in the last year of the four-year contract extension he signed in 2013 and has concrete value around the NBA as teams work to monitor his circumstances as the season progresses.
But for now, Favors is determined to keep helping the Jazz. “I let my agent, Wallace Prather, talk to Utah and talk around the league, I just focus on myself,” he said. “I’m aware of the talks, and the value I have, but I just focus on the opportunity I have now, and I know I can help whichever team I’m playing on in this league.
“I’m not taking the opportunity in front of me for granted.”