NBA shifts to small ball, but this big man duo creates elite defense

Derrick Favors (#15) and Rudy Gobert (#27) on March 23, 2015 at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images

If the NBA season ended today, the injury-plagued Jazz would narrowly earn the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs thanks to an impressive defensive presence focusing on big men — not small ball like Golden State. 

Utah (25-25) has an even .500 record through 50 games this season; how has the team fared, however, when their two stars have been fully healthy? While Utah’s Gordon Hayward has been the one consistent force for the Jazz this season, the team has been much more effective when big men Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert are on the court together wreaking havoc on defense.

Utah’s last seven games were the first with both Favors and Gobert active since November 30. The Jazz are 6-1, including six consecutive victories. In those seven games, Utah has the best defensive rating (points per 100 possessions) in the NBA. During that range, only the Spurs have allowed fewer points per game.

"I think our defense is getting back together," said Gobert, via Salt Lake Tribune. "I think everybody feels more confident knowing that me or Fav are in the back and I feel confident that he’s back too. I think consistency is better."

According to the official Jazz account on Twitter, Utah is 12-6 when Favors and Gobert are both in the starting lineup. While the Jazz are above .500 (17-16) with Favors in the rotation, Gobert has proven even more indispensable. During Gobert’s 30 active games, the Jazz are 18-12.

"Me and Rudy, we’re both good defensive players," said Favors, in the report. "We’re unselfish on the defensive end and we want to play defense. It was easy for us to come back and click together." 

Bryan Kalbrosky produces digital content for For more, follow him on Twitter @BryanKalbrosky