It’s easy to forget that Derrick Favors was taken third overall in the 2010 NBA Draft.
His career trajectory thus far hasn’t exactly aligned itself with that of your average top three pick. But then again, Favors did forgo his final three years of college to take the leap, after being named ACC Rookie of the Year at the end of his lone season with Georgia Tech .
After an average rookie year in 56 appearances with the then New Jersey Nets, Favors was included in the deal that saw a disgruntled Deron Williams walk away from the Utah Jazz.
A sole, albeit brief, postseason appearance and a four-year contract extension followed in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Since then, things have been looking up, for both Favors and the Jazz.
In 2013-14, Favors averaged 13.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, while last year he put up 16 points and 8.2 rebounds. These numbers are pretty good for a defensive specialist, especially since he shot a career-high 52 percent from the field last year, attempting 12.4 shots per game on average.
Favors’ frontcourt partnership with Rudy Gobert proved extremely fruitful last season for a young Jazz team that also features the burgeoning talents of Gordon Hayward, Dante Exum, Trey Burke, Alec Burks, and Trevor Booker. All of these players contributed to a solid 38-44 regular season record last season.
The Jazz were a whisker away from the playoffs in an increasingly competitive Western Conference last season, and the goal this season will undoubtedly be to take that extra step. It won’t be easy though, especially without second-year point guard Exum, who’s expected to miss the entire campaign with a torn ACL.
Amazingly enough, Favors is one of the veterans in Utah, with only a handful of his current crop of teammates exceeding his age, twenty four, and his time in the league, five years. When you throw in the $12 million dollars he’s going to earn this year (only Hayward, $15,409,570, is set to make more), it’s about time he stepped up, and boy is he doing so.
Three games in, the former Yellow Jacket is already averaging 21.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. He’s shooting 52 percent from the field and has helped the Jazz to an easy win over the lackluster Philadelphia 76ers and, way more impressively, a nice blowout in Indiana. The Pacers looked decidedly average against a hungry Jazz team that outplayed Frank Vogel’s outfit all over the floor, particularly in and around the basket, as Utah outrebounded Indiana 47-34.
Even in the Jazz loss to the impressive-looking Detroit Pistons, Favors shone, scoring 26 points on 67% shooting from the field. The man’s on fire and that can only mean good things for the Jazz.
Under head coach Quin Snyder, this team has shown all the signs of evolving into a true contender, but its ability to do so will be almost entirely reliant on its core playing consistently well night in, night out.
And consistency isn’t exactly something Favors has found easy to come by during his short career.
It’s often the case with players who enter the league at such a young age: they’re forced to learn and develop physically in front of 20,000 people, not to mention all those watching at home.
In a way, getting traded to (relatively) small-market Utah probably helped a lot. Had Favors stayed in New Jersey, things would have been very different, especially if he’d been exposed to the Jay-Z/Barclays Center/We Are Brooklyn thing.
Instead, Favors evaded the bright lights, and got to learn and grow in front of an understanding Salt Lake City faithful that knows that even Stockton and Malone weren’t made overnight.
Favors will do well to keep those two in mind over the next couple of years. Malone was an instant hit whose skill set isn’t a million miles from Favors’, while Stockton was a slow-burner who took a few years to adjust to life at the top. Both were and still are NBA legends.
Favors has a long way to go if he’s to achieve such status for himself, but he’s slowly evolving into one of the best young bigs in the league and could even be on the brink of a breakout.
Main Photo via Russ Isabella/USA TODAY Sports