Utah Jazz Power forward Derrick Favors’ injury-riddled start to the 2016-2017 NBA season has left many Utah Jazz fans concerned. Some fans even went so far as to suggest that the Jazz should trade Favors before the deadline instead of giving him a contract extension. Losing Favors via trade, free agency, or injury could have long-term detrimental effects on the Jazz. Fortunately, Utah has time to make that decision.
The Jazz announced that Favors had an MRI on Wednesday, which showed a bone contusion on his left knee. The Jazz indicated after their game against Memphis on Monday Nov. 14th that he will not play today against Chicago. His status will be re-evaluated going forward, but it is questionable at best.
With Favors’ latest injury, Jazz fans should be concerned. Favors helps the Jazz win on both ends of the floor. In their Jazz season preview, the Salt Lake Tribune wrote, “Favors is one of the better two-way power forwards in the NBA, one who has averaged over 16 points and 8 rebounds per game the past two seasons while defending at a high level.” The Tribune went on, “He can hit from the perimeter, or pound inside for buckets. His versatility at power forward and center is one of his best traits.”
After missing 20 games last season, mostly with back pain that never seemed to quite get better, and playing hurt much of the second half of the season, Favors spent the summer rehabbing his back and building muscle as he prepared to lead the Jazz to the postseason, where the team hasn’t been since 2012. “I want to get to the playoffs. That’s my only goal this year,” Favors said.
Favors’ return hasn’t been promising. After suffering iliotibial (IT) band syndrome in the preseason, a knee injury usually associated with runners, he missed the first three games of 2016. Favors returned for a couple of mediocre games on limited minutes, but then he started to get into the swing of things, averaging 16 points, 9 rebounds, and almost 2 blocks in the first four games of Utah’s eastern road trip last week.
Favors finished the 5-game trip with 6 points and 1 rebound against the Heat, playing only 5 minutes before leaving with a sore knee. When the Jazz returned home to face the Grizzlies, Favors did not look good, scoring 6 points and grabbing 1 rebound in 21 minutes before another early exit due to knee pain. His shot was off as he struggled to jump, and he tossed up a couple of air balls. At the end of the second quarter, Favors went after a loose ball, but couldn’t bend over and pick it up.
While Favors’ abilities to play with his back to the basket, pass from the low post, and a deadly 10-foot jump shot are missed when he’s out, the Jazz have other players who can pick up the slack on offense.
Trey Lyles, the second-year player out of Kentucky, has shown that he can put up points and stretch the floor with his ability to hit the three, although he is inconsistent at times. Favors, however, is superior to Lyles at this point in their careers is on the defensive end.
According to Basketball Reference, opponents have an offensive rating of 97.6 when Favors is on the floor, and 108.4 when he’s off. Favors and center Rudy Gobert, known as “The Stifle Tower,” are the Jazz’s “Block Brothers.” Favors averages 1.4 blocks per game for his career, along with Gobert’s 2 blocks per game. He frustrates shooters with his interior defense and is a large part of why the Jazz are the second best defensive team in the league, holding opponents to 93.8 points per game. What makes Favors unique defensively is his ability to guard players on the perimeter and even keep up with smaller players when they drive on him, which allows him to switch on defense two through five.
While the Jazz might be able to continue scoring without Favors, it would be difficult to find another player of his caliber to make up for what they would lose defensively. Utah has some time let Favors heal, and decide whether the injuries are too much of a risk. They have until March to restructure and extend his contract an additional one to two years. If they decide to move Favors, the NBA trade deadline is Feb. 23. If the Jazz haven’t decided by then, Favors is under contract through the 2017-18 season, so they can wait another year to move him or offer him a max contract, which he will likely receive as a free agent.
Even with the injuries, Favors has value. If he can play, the Jazz should pay to keep him here. He has expressed that he wants to stay in Utah. If they consider the risks to be too great, they should trade him to improve the team. Favors, with his ability to play well on both ends of the floor, can be a large part of the Jazz’s push into the playoffs this year and a deep playoff run in the future.