Utah Jazz Need Derrick Favors If They’re Going to Realize Their Potential

Utah Jazz big man Derrick Favors had his best game of the season on Monday vs. the Atlanta Hawks. They’ll need more of the same going forward to win in the postseason.

Monday night was big for the Utah Jazz on multiple fronts. All at once, the team’s blowout win over the Atlanta Hawks was a victory over a winning team, a display of mental toughness in an unfriendly arena and an ideal start to an important road swing.

Nevertheless, Jazz coach Quin Snyder wasn’t exactly jumping up and down or looking ahead to the playoffs after the game. “We haven’t been there yet. We’ve been there in a few spurts, but we’ve got work to do,” he said.

“We can pat ourselves on our back for about five seconds and then it’s time to keep going.”

He’s right. Despite the fact that the Jazz are 33-19, winners of three straight games and sitting pretty in the West’s Top 4, they’ve yet to realize their full potential this season. If they really hope to do so, they’re going to need Derrick Favors to get there.

Among the many positive developments from the Hawks game, none were as big as the performance Snyder got from his beleaguered big man. In 26 minutes of play, he scored 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds.

He also provided the kind of defense that has been his calling card throughout his career, adding three steals and two blocked shots. As a result, the Jazz outscored the Hawks by 17 points when he was on the floor.

It’s the kind of performance Jazz fans expected a lot more of this season after Favors averaged more than 16 points, eight rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game over the previous two years. Unfortunately, injuries have largely prevented that from happening.

In turn, they’ve kept the Jazz from playing as they’re truly capable. Despite the fact that Utah is currently third in the league in net rating, the team’s starting five with Favors joining Rudy Gobert, Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood and George Hill is a net negative.

That’s clearly the team’s five best players, but they’re getting outscored by 4.7 points per 100 possessions. Injuries, a lack of familiarity and the need to build chemistry are all major contributors here and Favors’ problems have had a hand in all of it.

Monday’s game (against a quality front line featuring the likes of Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard) was an example of how things ought to work. When Favors is playing like himself, that is.

Even as he’s been hampered by knee issues, his value on the defensive end has continued to be apparent. If he had enough court time to qualify, his defensive box plus/minus of 2.5 would place him in the Top 20 league-wide.

Bad knees and all, he’s still a force in the paint.

Defensive field goal percentage differential can be a tricky stat to make heads or tails of, especially as you move farther away from the basket. However, down in the trenches, Favors is clearly affecting opposing offenses. Within six feet of the basket, players guarded by Favors are shooting 8.4 percent worse than their averages.

If he could ever get back to something resembling healthy, he could be equally as impactful in the pick-and-roll, switching out on guards and disrupting the opposition.

The same could be said for his offense, which has mostly been a shell of its former self. The difference he can make on that end of the floor was obvious against Atlanta. Favors and Co. need that kind of performance to become the norm once again.

Until that comes to pass, we can’t really say we’re getting the best the Jazz have to offer. The team is winning now and there are a lot of good numbers out there to back it all up, but the playoffs are a different beast entirely.

Favors’ game needs to be up to snuff if the Jazz are going to continue their winning ways there.

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