August 9, 2019, 2:12 am
It is undoubtedly true that the NBA has been moving more and more towards positionless basketball the last few seasons. Lineup flexibility is of paramount importance, and many perimeter players seamlessly shift between positions.
But this isn’t true of everyone, and this has adversely affected some former “power forwards” who aren’t quite strong enough to play full-time center and aren’t quite skilled enough to step out and defend the perimeter.
Derrick Favors is not one of these players, but is perhaps one of the biggest breakout candidates for the next season simply because he’ll be playing the position he should’ve been playing for years. Favors may have been drafted as a power forward, but 2019 Derrick Favors is unequivocally suited best for a full-time center role. This full-time transition probably would’ve happened years ago in Utah, but Favors was too good to sit too much but very much a less-than-ideal complement to the Stifle Tower, Rudy Gobert.
A lot of smart people called Favors to the Pelicans before it happened. Here was a player who should be getting starter-caliber minutes sitting on the bench sometimes because his offense overlapped with Gobert’s.
In an era where a lot of players are expanding their shooting range in order to get minutes, Favors is, once again, not that type of player, evidenced by his paltry 3-point percentages and volume. And despite their imperfect fit, lineups with Gobert and Favors on the floor together played at roughly a plus-7.6 plus-minus per 48 minutes together, which equates to somewhere around a 60-win team.
As much as we know what Favors isn’t, we know what he is: an athletic freak who is strong enough to muscle big opponents and light enough on his feet to get up and down the floor. Favors is excellent around the rim when not crowded by other non-shooting players like Gobert.
Here are Favors’ stats with and without Gobert the past three seasons.
Here are Derrick Favors’ stats the last 3 seasons with and without Gobert on the floor. Pretty staggering difference. Worth mentioning that the tandem’s lineups were at the per min differential of a 60ish win team despite imperfect offensive fit. pic.twitter.com/jhP4yQyQCw
— Mike (@Mike_Pelicans) August 8, 2019
The results are pretty clear, particularly in categories that relate to being around the rim. When Favors is forced to become a perimeter offensive player, his performance suffers greatly, as evidenced by the 9% delta between his FG% with and without Gobert. This also extends to his block/steal/rebound figures as well, which each dip next to Gobert. It’s worth mentioning, however, that despite the drop in Favors’ individual defensive numbers, these lineups were fantastic on defense, posting DRTGs in the 95 to 100 range. However, Favors’ individual stats suffered greatly for it.
Moving forward, it’s important to note that Favors may not pair perfectly with Zion Williamson or other Pelican frontcourt partners, but because he is less perimeter-oriented than they are, it would be surprising if he is the one who has to spend an undue amount of time in that area. As a result, he will be tasked with playing to his strengths, which are rim protection, rebounding, running the floor against centers, crashing the offensive boards and finishing near the rim.
David Griffin said that Favors is an important piece in their future, and I expect he will have every opportunity this season to prove that he is exactly that.