Derrick Favors goes up for a layup in New Orleans

Derrick Favors Q&A with Aaron Falk

by Jim Eichenhofer

To gain more insight into one of New Orleans’ key veteran additions of the NBA offseason, nine-year pro Derrick Favors, we caught up with Aaron Falk, writer for the website. Falk covered Favors for six seasons, starting as the beat reporter for The Salt Lake Tribune in 2013. Traded halfway through his rookie 2010-11 season by the Nets, as a vital piece in the Deron Williams trade, Favors went on to spend his next eight-plus campaigns in Salt Lake City. When people look back at his time with Utah, what will be some of fans’ fondest memories for both Favors and the Jazz?

Falk: First of all, the fans here loved watching Derrick grow up in Utah. Fav was so young and soft-spoken that he barely said a word on his flight from New Jersey to meet the team. But over the years, he got comfortable, found his voice and really became a fan favorite. He helped the franchise transition through a rebuilding period (the team won 25 games in 2013-14) to a perennial playoff team now. When fans here think of Derrick, they will immediately remember how he stepped up in the first round against the Clippers three years ago. Rudy Gobert went down with an injury in Game 1 of the series and Favors was key in helping the team advance. Likewise, the Jazz don’t beat Oklahoma City in the first round a year later without Fav. He had 20 and 16 in a Game 2 win on the road. And I’ll always remember a clutch straightaway jumper he had to seal the series in Game 6. Immediately after the trade to New Orleans was reported, many Pelicans fans began projecting how Favors fits into his new team’s lineup. Based on his Utah tenure and the presence of Rudy Gobert, it seemed like Favors sometimes played power forward, but was also capable of moving to center. Where has he been most comfortable and why did his minutes begin to shift – at least on paper  more to center in recent years?

Falk: The league is obviously trending smaller, so there were always questions about whether Favors and Gobert could play together. Defensively, they are a monstrous duo. Offensively, spacing could have been an issue. To Derrick’s credit, he sacrificed a lot for the team. He gave up touches. He tried to add a corner-3 to his game to space the floor when he shared it with Rudy. But his best offensive position is still probably at center. He can knock down a 15-footer with ease and he is one of the best pick-and-roll big men out there. He has great timing and feel and absolutely terrific hands. The Favors-Ingles pick-and-roll gave teams all sorts of trouble last season. New Orleans has placed an emphasis on acquiring defensive talent this summer. Despite averaging 23.2 minutes last season, Favors rejected 1.4 shots per game, which equals 2.2 blocks per 36 minutes. That was the second-best rate of his NBA career and ranked 10th in the league in ’18-19 (Gobert was seventh at 3.5, while New York’s Mitchell Robinson led the league at 5.7). What makes Favors so effective at rim protection?

Falk: Rudy Gobert gets a lot of attention for his rim protection, as well he should. He’s the back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year for a reason. But Fav is an excellent defender in his own right. He’s all of 6-10 and can still switch out on smaller guys. Meanwhile, his timing and athleticism make him an exceptional rim-protector. Sometimes I wonder if players would see Gobert out of the lineup and think they’d have an open path to the hoop. Fav was there so many times to remind them otherwise. In addition to his shot-blocking increasing on a per-minute basis last season, he also fared well in several other key categories (career high in field-goal percentage, career high in rebounds per minute, close to a career high in points per minute). What was behind Favors being so effective in Year 9 of his career in various areas?

Falk: Derrick was playing through some nagging injuries a couple of years ago and you could tell it was affecting him on the court. Last summer, he really dedicated himself to getting healthy, working on his body, getting super lean. You could see the benefits all season. You should Google Derrick Favors versus Ersan Ilyasova. That dunk was 1) objectively freaking awesome 2) part of a massive performance during a huge game for the Jazz this season and 3) all the proof anybody should need that Derrick is as good and explosive as ever. Donovan Mitchell started calling him the Hulk after that one. One Utah columnist described Favors as a “pro’s pro” as a teammate and in terms of his approach to the game. How would you describe his personality off the court?

Falk: Fav is unflappable. He has been through it all, the highs and lows of the NBA. I will personally miss having him in the locker room because of that. Even great teams have tough losses and Derrick knows that, so he was always willing to talk with reporters afterward. His name has been in trade rumors since he was drafted and he made up his mind long ago to not let that bother him. He’s not going to be the loudest, or someone seeking attention. But he is always thoughtful and kind. He’s also lowkey hilarious. Gobert has a charity called Rudy’s Kids and Derrick got a Rudy’s Kids T-shirt made that featured a photo of a young Gobert. He loved that shirt. What’s one thing even diehard Jazz fans may not know about Favors?
Falk: Derrick grew up Atlanta and some of his first basketball games were just him and his friends shooting into a garbage bin on Cleveland Avenue. He loves the Falcons (don’t hold that against him Saints fans). And he is a big comic book fan. We have our own comic convention in Salt Lake City, and Favors definitely attended.

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