Throughout the offseason, Pick and Popovich will rank the top 50 players in the NBA. To be clear, these are 50 best players for the 2016-17 season, regardless of team situation, past performance or future potential. If you’re trying to win a championship in 2016-17, these are the 50 players you’d want most.
Why He’s Great: More than any other player in basketball, you know exactly what to expect out of Derrick Favors every night:
- 16-20 points.
- 8-10 rebounds.
- B+ or better defense.
- Brick wall screens.
Boom. It’s that simple. That’s what you’re getting. Favors scored in single digits only six times last season despite averaging only 16 points per game. That’s consistency at the highest level, though he’s still more than capable of carrying an offense for a game or two.
It’s nearly impossible to accurately measure Favors’ impact as a rim protector because he plays next to Rudy Gobert, but that in itself makes a point about the quality of his overall defense. He’s slowly becoming a switcher, learning the nuance of guarding smaller players in bits and pieces over the past year and a half. He’s above-average already and getting better. Should Utah decide to dedicate more of their defense to switching or blitzing, Favors is up to the task.
And then there’s his low-post game, underrated both narratively and statistically. Yes, Favors only scored 0.86 points per possession on post ups last season, but he did that through injuries and on a team with some of the worst spacing in basketball. Just think about it for a second. How is a defense going to treat Favors posting up when Gobert is on the floor? They’re just going to double Favors and ignore Rudy. Favors is a good passer but not good enough to make up for one of the worst offensive players in basketball. That he can generate any scoring at all under the circumstances is simply remarkable.
Why He’s Below No. 41 (J.J. Redick): Redick can play in any lineup. Favors might not be able to. He isn’t the dinosaur some make him out to be, but he has trouble with smaller bigs like Draymond Green and is likely the odd man out defensively against small lineups in general as he and Gobert simply aren’t good enough offensively to justify playing together.
He has some range on his jumper, and there have been whispers about him developing a corner-three, but until it actually happens he’s just always going to struggle to stay on the court late in modern NBA games. Bigs have done it before, but Paul Millsaps are rare. Favors is never going to be great at defending smaller players no matter how much better he gets and he’s likely never going to provide enough spacing to share the floor with Gobert. He’d simply be better off on another team, something that shouldn’t affect these rankings, but it’s hard to know how good he really is on a Utah team with such a cramped floor.
Plus, he committed a cardinal basketball sin last season. The Jazz were better with him off of the court. Utah had a +1.1 net rating with him on the floor and a +2.0 net rating without him. I can’t offer a good explanation for that, but it’s just very damning. You can’t make the top-40 without a real reason for your team playing better without you. Roster construction plays a part, but that still looks very bad.