By now, NBA season previews are rolling out. Countless basketball sites, podcasts, and television shows are breaking down all 30 teams; projecting how each will fare based on additions and subtractions. I would like to do something different and focus on teams through the fish-eyed lens of their respective most-intriguing player or players. I continue with the Utah Jazz.
There is very little that is aesthetically appealing about the Utah Jazz. Their team name does not fit the climate of the state because the franchise moved to Salt Lake City from New Orleans--a city famous for its jazz influence. At one point, their uniforms were designed with a mountain range even as they kept the Jazz as the team name. The team hasn't had any superstar players since Stockton and Malone. It feels like Michael Jordan sank the franchise into oblivion's abyss in 1998 after hitting the Finals-sealing jumper over a sprawling Bryon Russell. (Editor's note: a push-off for the ages.)
Currently, the Jazz have some notable names. Gordon Hayward (and his hair) is probably widely considered the team's best player. French big man Rudy Gobert has one of the best nicknames in sports--The Stifle Tower. Rodney Hood has established himself as an upcoming wing. Alec Burks got paid. But the Jazz have a hidden gem in Salt Lake City--if a 6'10", 260-pound Black man can somehow hide in Utah.
Derrick Favors has grown into a pretty good basketball player while residing in Utah. He was traded from New Jersey in the middle of his rookie season, and spent the first two and a half years as a rotational reserve. Since becoming a starter three years ago, his season averages have increased exponentially. Last year was his best NBA season, posting 16.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG, and 51.5% field goal shooting. He cemented himself as more than a quality big, and has shown to be incredibly effective on both ends of the floor.
But why doesn't most of the NBA universe know this? I know that Favors has a, um, mature visage--as if he has been replacing alternators for decades and knows there isn't an engine he can't identify--but he's only 25. He's younger than DeMarcus Cousins. He should be coveted by several teams in desperate need of frontcourt help.
For some reason, Gordon Heyward emerged as the premier player on the Jazz. This isn't to say Heyward isn't good--he is very good. But when comparing sheer talent, he does not outshine Favors. No one on the team does.
Derrick Favors's existence is cloaked in more recognizable names. Because it took him a couple years to blossom as a pro, Heyward was able to continue the momentum he had from narrowly missing the game-winning halfcourt shot for Butler in the 2010 NCAA National Championship Game against Duke. Favors doesn't have a landmark moment like that. He played one year at Georgia Tech, on a team that didn't make the Big Dance. He was just another highly-talented Super Freshman that went to college because of the mandatory one-year draft rule.
Maybe this is the year Favors emerges from Salt Lake City's shadows and joins Heyward, Hood and the other young Jazz players and has his name illuminated like theirs. I hope so, because he deserves the recognition. Hopefully, this post helps in doing Derrick that...favor. Sorry, not sorry.
Derrick Favors is that dude.
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