The Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors Conundrum

Rudy Gobert is the marquee player down low, but it's hindering Derrick Favors' production.

This season has been full of ups and downs that range from devastating injuries, players returning to form, and a certain rookie (Donovan Mitchell — in case you were wondering) that is playing beyond his years. But one of the biggest storylines of the season to this point is what’s been happening in the frontcourt. There is no doubt that Rudy Gobert is the marquee player down low; his primary job is to protect the rim, grab rebounds and dunk the ball, but since he can’t score elsewhere, Derrick Favors is having a hard time producing the way he would like, resulting in a crowded frontcourt that lacks the production needed to succeed.   

Before Gobert was sidelined, the Jazz were under .500 at 5-7. Sure, that’s not terrible when the NBA season is just getting started, but consider their averages over that span. The Jazz were making 42.9 percent of their field goals, 34.2 percent from three, 52.2 rebounds, 19.3 assists, and a league-leading 17 turnovers. Their averages in both offensive rating and effective field goals per game were 100 and .484 respectively, and their average pace of play was at 96.1. On the defensive side of the ball, they were averaging 9.9 steals and 6.3 blocks per game, holding opposing teams to an average offensive rating of 101.1, but allowed teams to shoot an admirable .518 for their effective field goal percentage.   

When Gobert was forced to sit out for 11 games, the Jazz’s offense started rolling, averaging 47.8 percent from the field, 42.7 percent from deep, 49.8 rebounds, 24.7 assists and 12.3 turnovers. Their offensive rating skyrocketed to 116.9, but surprisingly their pace of play slowed down to 94.0. Speaking of surprises (I’m being facetious), it affected their defensive production. They averaged 9.27 steals and 4.3 blocks per game, allowing opposing teams to improve their offensive rating to 107.3, and bumped their effective field goal percentages to .560 against the Jazz. Despite their defense taking a hit, a number of players that didn’t get to put in a ton minutes were finally able to produce more, namely Alec Burks (who has been phenomenal in this stretch), Jonas Jerebko, Royce O’Neal, and Raul Neto (who is making a strong case as to why he should be starting in place of Ricky Rubio, but I’ll save that another time). The Jazz went 8 - 4 over this stretch. They beat the Orlando Magic by 40 and kicked off a 6 game win streak by beating the Chicago Bulls by 30, two nights later. They put down 18 threes against the Milwaukee Bucks, setting a franchise record and dishing out 31 assists in the process. That was later topped by 38 assists against the Clippers in LA.

All of this brings me to the main topic here: the Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors conundrum.

  Photo taken by rchdj10

Last year, Favors was battling injuries and averaged 23.7 minutes per game and only played in 60 of the 82 possible regular season games, and thankfully Gobert was healthy for the entirety of the year, until the playoffs. This year, however, is a different story — Derrick is healthy. There’s just a slight problem with that, he and Rudy can’t share the paint, which has forced Derrick to become a stretch four. Sure, he can score outside of the paint — whereas Rudy cannot (with the exception of his absurd 15 footer he drained earlier this season) — but Favors relies on his shots inside to get his rhythm going before he starts hitting jumpers with consistency. Through the first 12 games, Derrick’s stat line looks something like this: .527 percent from the field, .125 percent from behind the three-point line (4 of 15), .294 percent from the line (10 of 17), 4.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists, .8 steals, .4 blocks, and 10.3 points per game. Sure, his field goal percentage is great, but look at that three-point stat line! He took 10 threes over the course of one season last year and in the first 12 games of this season, he has already taken 15. I don’t care that Quin Snyder is trying to stretch the floor to open up opportunities for Rudy down low, that's a lost cause. Not to mention that he had only attempted 17 shots from the free throw line, that’s just wrong.

Now, over that same 12 game stretch, Rudy’s numbers were right where you might expect them to be. He was averaging .632 percent from the field, .587 percent from the free throw line (43 - 60), 10.5 rebounds, 1.25 assists, .5 steals, 2.5 blocks, and 13.9 points per game. That’s great and all until you look at what Favors was doing in his absence.

During the 11 games in which Rudy was sidelined, Favors was an absolute beast at the five spot. He averaged 16.4 points per game, shot .600 percent from the field, didn’t take a single three-pointer, shot .647 from the free throw line (tripling his free throw attempts from the previous 12 games), grabbed 9.27 rebounds, dished out 2.5 assists, snagged .8 steals, and blocked 1.4 shots. Favors was not only back to his former self, but he proved to everyone in the league that he is an absolute force when given the opportunity.

Now that Rudy is back from injury, there are just too many scenarios that could play out from this point on. Favors could be traded for a nice stretch four option and some future draft picks, or moved to the second unit to backup Gobert when he’s on the bench and play alongside Udoh at the five or four, or they could even stick with the lineup as is and see if they can figure out how to create enough space for each other. Either way, I am neither Quin Snyder nor Dennis Lindsey, two guys that know and see things that I cannot possibly understand. All we can do is see what happens.    

   

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