In a crowded Utah Jazz frontcourt where minutes have been hard to come by, Derrick Favors is carving out a place for himself deserving of a third overall draft pick. Since being traded to the Jazz in the deal that sent Deron Williams to the Nets at the 2011 trade deadline, Favors has been stuck behind Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. This year, however, he’s getting noticed despite the internal competition.
“It’s difficult, but they understand the competition of the position,” Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin explained. “Al, Paul, Enes [Kanter], Derrick and Jeremy Evans, who is a guy on the outside looking in, deserve minutes on the floor.
“I think [Favors] has a better understanding [now] of what it’s going to take for him to be successful in this league.”
While Favors still can’t get much more than 20 minutes a game playing behind the veterans Millsap and Jefferson, he has been far more effective in those minutes. The biggest change has been at the defensive end of the court, where everything finally appears to be slowing down for the young big man.
“Every year he is gaining more confidence,” Jefferson said. “He is understanding the game. When you are a rookie, a young player, the game moves fast, but as you get older and been around, it slows down until you start to understand where it’s coming from. That’s the difference. Everybody knew he had talent, that’s why he was drafted so high. Now he is starting to understand the game and it is starting to slow down for him and he is adjusting well to it.”
“[Favors] is definitely going to be a superstar in this league and you can count on it in my opinion,” Jefferson added.
Where Favors has made incremental improvements in his scoring and rebounding, he has figured out how to defend other big men and it has showed with a big jump in steals and blocks. So far this season, Favors is averaging 0.9 steals and 2.5 blocks in just over 24 minutes a game. In Utah’s recent triple overtime road win over Toronto, Favors had four blocks off the bench and was key in holding Andrea Bargnani to 2-13 shooting after the first quarter.
“We have a lot of good offensive players,” Favors said. “So I just try to come in and make an impact on the defensive end.
“Derrick’s defense on Bargnani, he did a great job,” Corbin said after the game in Toronto. “It was one of the keys to the game for us.”
One of the toughest lessons for young players to learn is how to play on the road and Favors admits that the crowds in opposing building used to have an impact on his game. However, this is something Favors appears to have put this behind him.
“Playing at home, you have the crowd behind you, so you come out with a lot of energy and you’re in your comfort zone,” Favors said. “But when you’re on the road, you got the crowd against you and the opposing team has the home crowd to satisfy so they come out with a lot of energy. It’s pretty tough, but after awhile you start to get used to it.”
This season, Favors has been an impact player on the road with three multi-block and two multi-steal performances in opponent’s buildings. Favors is fulfilling the defensive promise that was evident when he was drafted.
“I’m playing a lot better and have a lot more confidence than what I had when I was a rookie,” Favors said. “I’m a lot stronger, a lot more aggressive, and know pretty much what’s going on compared to my rookie season.”
Like many high draft picks, superior athleticism had allowed Favors to be successful in college despite a lack of discipline in his game, but that is rarely a recipe for success at the next level. Now into his third NBA season, the game has slowed down for the young big man and the only thing holding back a breakout season is an opportunity to play more minutes. The Jazz have a superstar in the making, if only Corbin and the Jazz management can figure out how to get him on the court.