Posted Dec 19 2011 10:59AM
Derrick Favors comes into this season as a somewhat-raw-but-fluid big man who doesn't even know how good or great he can be. Does that sound familiar?
Much of the same was made in Utah about a young Karl Malone and trust us, that's the last we'll link the future two-time MVP with a second-year forward who hasn't worn out his first pair of NBA sneakers yet. Still, the Jazz are hoping for big things from a 6-foot-10 forward who'll ultimately prove one team wrong: The Nets or Jazz.
New Jersey surrendered Favors in the package exchanged for Deron Williams, the All-Star guard who couldn't cope with Jerry Sloan's authority. D-Will played his way right out of town because Utah feared being held hostage when Williams came within a year of free agency (sort of a trend these days). Rather than wait until the 2011-12 season and deal Williams, Utah acted early, figuring it would give them greater leverage on the trade market. And out of that leverage came Favors, the Nets' No. 1 pick two summers ago.
Did the Nets panic and surrender a future double-double guy who's only 20? Or did they know something Utah didn't about Favors?
He was, to put it bluntly, nothing special with the Nets. At times, he looked lost. He averaged 6.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in Jersey and hardly looked like the third overall pick. Nobody drafted higher than Favors was ever traded midway through his rookie season (Donyell Marshall, the fourth pick in 1994, lasted 40 games in Minnesota before he was sent packing to Golden State).
Perhaps his performance was due to being distracted by being weighed as trade bait, first for Carmelo Anthony and then for Williams. It was a burden for Favors, in addition to the other issues rookies must face.
"It was something new all the time," Favors said.
Because the Nets acted so hastily with Favors, it did make you wonder. Sure, getting Williams was a chance the Nets probably couldn't pass up. But two basketball gospels were violated: Never give up on a rookie this early, and never trade a big for a small.
While the Nets didn't, at least publicly, express doubts about Favors, he is breezy and laid-back, which first became noticeable in college. Some scouts took that as a potential red flag; Favors said that's just his nature.
"I don't like to be in the spotlight that much," he explained.
He had a good-but-not-great streak at Georgia Tech until the NCAA tournament, where he blossomed and soared up the draft charts. Because he was one-and-done at Tech, scouts still didn't have much of a grasp on Favors. The USA Today National Player of the Year in 2009, Favors was drafted based partly on his immense potential.
With the trade talk behind him once he arrived in Utah, Favors appeared much more at ease on the Jazz. His rebounding increased to nearly seven a game and Kevin O'Connor, the Jazz GM, gushed about Favors' future.
The Jazz wanted Favors despite a logjam at the size positions, which are rounded out by veterans Paul Millsap, Mehmet Okur and Al Jefferson and, now, rookie Enes Kanter. It does raise the question of whether Favors will get the necessary playing time to develop and get his mistakes out of the way. Of course, more talent means more competition, which will force Favors to fight for playing time and demonstrate a competitive fire.
Utah will be patient because Favors is so young; he can't even legally buy a beer in Salt Lake City. And even if he struggles somewhat this season, the general rule is big men need time.
Even those who became All-Stars, such as Boston's Jermaine O'Neal did in his Indiana days, spent two and three seasons as backups. With the Jazz in transition and solid big men ahead of him, Favors does have the luxury of biding his time.
Unless Favors is nothing more than a serviceable big man, Utah will always remember the day they unwillingly gave up a franchise player and unexpectedly got another in return.
1. Is it possible to be saddled with too many very decent 6-foot-10 types? If so, then welcome to Utah's world. Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors and Mehmet Okur all deserve ample playing time, and they're all capable of playing two positions. Then there's rookie Enes Kanter. But you wonder if the Jazz would be better served by trading one or two of the above to fill other weaknesses. There's a crying need for scoring help at the swing positions and perhaps a point guard to challenge Devin Harris.
2. Alec Burks is a natural scorer who can, at best, fill the same role as Jeff Hornacek and Jeff Malone before him. He'll need time, obviously, and will no doubt be shocked to learn how NBA defenses rotate much quicker to the shooter than any he saw in college. But what do the Jazz have to lose? They can only go so far with Raja Bell getting the lion's share of the minutes. Burks will be nudged along as a rookie like Gordon Hayward was last year.
3. This may be somewhat of a rebuilding year for the Jazz but that doesn't mean they can't make a late run for the final postseason spot. The tight schedule might favor them because of their youth, and there's always the odds of one of their young players (Hayward, Favors, even Burks) delivering a better performance than expected. Still, there's no immediate pressure in Utah right now. Karl Malone and John Stockton aren't showing up anytime soon.
1. Without the late Larry Miller, one of the shrewdest owners around, will the Jazz flirt with luxury tax issues in the foreseeable future? Or will the franchise stick to the Miller plan and resist the urge to spend generously? Utah will be a curious case-study among small market teams because Salt Lake City regularly tops the list as the place players would least want to play. So the Jazz will have to overpay for free agents if only to convince their wives that Utah isn't so bad. That's why it's important for Utah to maximize its draft decisions and trade for players already under contract. It's the only way this franchise can build a winner.
2. Devin Harris must sometimes wonder why the basketball gods have it in for him. He played for the Mavericks and thought he'd found a permanent place before they jettisoned him to New Jersey, where he had to follow Jason Kidd. And then he was shipped to Utah where he's following Deron Williams. From a perception standpoint, he simply can't win because he'll never have the same impact as the players who preceded him. Otherwise, nice career.
3. Coach Ty Corbin will not stay on the job as long as Jerry Sloan. Actually, nobody will; Sloan was one of a kind and was blessed to have the late Larry Miller as his owner. Still, whether Corbin has a long shelf life (relatively-speaking) will depend on his ability to carve his own identity and his own system in Utah. Oh, and he has to win, that's a given. He seems to have a decent handle on his locker room but how he navigates the changing landscape in Utah and his relation with young players will ultimately decide his future.
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LAST YEAR: 39-43, 4th in Northwest
FINISH: Missed playoffs
2010-11 TEAM LEADERS
|Complete 2010-11 Stats|
DEVIN HARRIS, POINT GUARD
15.8 PPG | 7.1 APG | 1.0 SPG
Harris struggled at times running the Jazz's flex system, but some subtle-yet-planned changes to the offense could help him breakout in Utah.
RAJA BELL, SHOOTING GUARD
8.0 PPG | 2.6 RPG | 1.7 APG
His first season in Utah since 2004-05, it was hardly a renissance for Bell as his 3-point shooting (.352) was his worst in nine seasons.
GORDON HAYWARD, SMALL FORWARD
5.4 PPG | 1.9 RPG | 1.1 APG
After struggling all season, Hayward was stellar in April (16.4 ppg) and looked like the all-around talent the Jazz hoped he was when they picked him No. 9 overall in 2010.
PAUL MILLSAP, POWER FORWARD
17.3 PPG | 7.6 RPG | 2.5 APG
As the man who took the lineup spot long held by Carlos Boozer, Millsap delivered as a full-time starter. The question now: is he a future All-Star or just a solid player?
AL JEFFERSON, CENTER
18.6 PPG | 9.7 RPG | 1.9 BPG
The big man was solid once again on offense, but his blocks stats are often fools gold. He has to defend better on pick-and-roll plays if Utah is to have a revival.
|Derrick Favors||6-10||246||F||Second-year big man could easily crack Jazz starting lineup.|
|C.J. Miles||6-6||232||F||Stats jumped up last season, but consistency remains an issue.|
|Mehmet Okur||6-10||265||C||Still owns a feathery mid-range touch; coming off Achilles injury.|
ADDED: F Enes Kanter, G Alec Burks, G-F Josh Howard, G Jamaal Tinsley
LOST: G Ronnie Price, C Mehmet Okur
KEVIN O'CONNOR, GENERAL MANAGER
He acted quickly and about as well as possibly in the aftermath of the Deron Williams-Jerry Sloan dustup last season. He moved Williams some 16 months before Williams could become a free agent, which the Jazz to squeeze New Jersey for a promising rookie big man, a starting point guard and two first-rounders (one of which became rookie Enes Kanter). To put the franchise back where it was, O'Connor must make another skillful trade, this time involving one of the team's bigs. He needs to choose the right one, then get the right pieces in return.
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