Derrick Favors expected to provide leadership, contributions at both ends of floor for Pelicans

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

In early July, Pelicans.com solicited tweets from New Orleans fans related to four new roster additions, addressing several questions and comments among the submissions. Still, there were many, many other responses we didn’t have time to fit into what was already a lengthy 35-minute podcast.

We addressed a pair of Favors comments/questions related to his selflessness and skill set (from @Boobah), as well as comparisons to Al Horford (from @yaboib77), but the following were among the other relevant ones tweeted about the nine-year NBA veteran. Fans were responding to the tweet “What makes you most excited about the acquisition of Derrick Favors?”

From @Adam McCreary: Good dude, good contract, huge analytical offensive production bump in small lineups with no drop in defense

The “good dude” description seemed to be emphatically verified when Favors received a tremendous outpouring from Utah fans and Salt Lake City as he departed to New Orleans via trade. The positive farewell included a full-page ad the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper, taken out by Jazz owner Gail Miller.

On the court, the Pelicans see Favors – who has one year left on the two-year contract he signed last summer – as an elite rim protector who is also very good defending against pick-and-rolls. He ranked No. 10 among all players last season in blocks per minute (averaging 2.2 blocks per 36 minutes, a notch below teammate Rudy Gobert’s 2.6 rate). Offensively, he has always been a very efficient weapon, shooting over 50 percent from the field in five of the past six seasons, including a career-high 58.6 percent last season. He had an elite “finishing” year in ’18-19, shooting a career-high 64.0 percent from two-point range and taking the greatest chunk of his shots from 0-3 feet among his nine NBA seasons.

From @JP25230785: His move back to his natural position

From @DemetrisNBA: Playing him at the 5 with Zion at the 4, Ingram at the 3, JJ & Jrue

Favors noted during his July 16 introductory press conference that he welcomed a move from power forward to center, one factor in his preference to play in New Orleans, where he perfectly fills a spot in the team’s potential starting lineup.

“It means a lot to me,” Favors said of having clarity on his position with the Pelicans. “In past years, I was playing behind probably one of the best defensive players in the league for a long time (six-year pro Gobert). I wasn’t able to do a lot of things I’m able to do on a daily basis. When we spoke, (David Griffin) said we think you have an untapped offensive skill set, and I was excited about that. That was one of the reasons I chose to come here, because I knew the position I’d be in, I knew the guys I’d be playing with. The organization and the team, I thought it was a great fit for me.”

Griffin on Favors: “He’s probably best suited as a center, and he was playing behind one of probably the best five centers in the league. That makes it hard to play the position that you probably should play, so he was asked to play out of position a lot, at the four. A lot of Derrick’s game was probably left untouched, particularly offensively. I know Coach (Alvin) Gentry is excited about what he’ll look like playing center on a full-time basis for us. We represent a new opportunity for him.”

From @jm_smith81: Love it. Great floor-running big man

It might be difficult to find two NBA teams with a greater difference in recent style of play than Utah and New Orleans. Over Alvin Gentry’s four seasons as head coach, the Pelicans have never finished lower than eighth among the 30 NBA teams in pace, including placing second last season, as well as first in ’17-18. Meanwhile, during that same timeframe, Utah has consistently been in the bottom tier of the league in tempo, with the exception of finishing 14th last season (the Jazz were 25th in ’17-18, which actually represented an increase in pace from 30th each of the previous two years).

“I can adapt to it,” Favors said of his expectation of being heavily involved in an up-tempo offense. “It was by design (in Utah), because that’s the way we were playing. Coming down here, knowing that we’re going to play a fast pace, I can adapt to it.”

From @frism: Just look up the farewell he received from Utah & their fans. Pels got a huge all-around player + teammate

Speaking of Favors as a teammate, one perhaps overlooked element of his addition was mentioned during his July 16 press conference, when he was asked about serving as a mentor for Pelicans centers Jahlil Okafor, who is still only 23, and first-round pick Jaxson Hayes, 19.

“You just have to know how to put in the work, know how to be patient, how to take advantage of every opportunity that you get,” Favors, 28, indicated of the advice he might give to less-experienced bigs. “Some games you’re going to play great; some games you’re not. It’s all about moving on to the next game, next possession, and come in every day working. Figure out what you’ve got to work (from) in the last game or last season, keep improving and just have a positive attitude about it.”

On a New Orleans roster that generally got younger this summer, including adding three first-round picks, Favors will have the third-most NBA experience, behind JJ Redick (13 years) and Jrue Holiday (10 years). E’Twaun Moore, 30, and Darius Miller, 29, are both older than Favors but have played fewer years in the league.

“I know a lot of guys are going to look up to me, because I’ve been in the league 10 years now,” Favors said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to lead them, and be able to go out there and obviously take advantage of my new opportunity, and just have fun.”

From @scottmc51420310: You guys are getting an absolute STUD.. Please be good to him.

From @tpmcinern: That the @utahjazz fans love him. That’s a lot of character

Utah has quietly been one of the NBA’s most successful teams over the past three seasons, averaging 49.7 wins and advancing to the second round twice during that timeframe, knocking off the more star-studded LA Clippers and Oklahoma City in the postseason. New Orleans would love to become that type of perennial playoff threat in the future; Favors attributed some of Utah’s consistency and success to a bond Jazz players have with each other.

“Out there, we were just a tight-knit group,” he said. “Everybody respected everybody, and everybody worked hard. Just come in and work hard every day, have respect for each other. Know sometimes you might have to sacrifice minutes, or scoring opportunities, for the better of the team. I think once everyone buys into that, I think that’s how you get tighter as a group, start winning more games, and the games start becoming a lot more fun after that. Hopefully, I can bring the same mindset here.”

From @Jetrey_V: His character, athleticism, rebounding, and I’m hoping he can develop that 3 point shot. But even if he doesn’t, he is a great fit. If he develops the 3, perfect fit

Based on his annual stats, Favors has slightly increased his three-point attempts each of the past three seasons, but it’s still not a nightly weapon for him (career-most 78 attempts last season in 76 games). Much like Anthony Davis’ foray into long-range bombing, Favors hasn’t made threes at a high enough rate (21.0 percent) to justify launching them at a significant volume. It’s possible his trend of shooting more from beyond the arc might reverse course with the Pelicans, because he’s expected to play much more at center than at power forward, where he sometimes shared the court with Gobert, creating a spacing problem if Favors wanted to plant himself in the paint on offense.

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