Favors is a special player

Apr 8 2013 - 11:51pm

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First things first: Derrick Favors is a special player.

The Utah Jazz power forward is a tough, dynamic defender with a cat-like first step that routinely allows him to get to spots on the floor others can't. At 6-foot-10 and more than 260 pounds, he's already got great size. However, his long arms, coupled with quickness and foot speed, make him even more formidable around the basket.

Just ask Golden State's Draymond Green, whose layup Favors blocked in the final minute of Sunday's 97-90 gotta-have-it road victory.

Green and the Warriors may have thought they had the Jazz on the ropes, but Favors had a different idea.

"There's no hesitation," Favors said Monday. "He was trying to go for the layup, the game was on the line, so I just blocked it."

With Sunday's win, the Jazz put themselves back in the Western Conference playoff picture. They own the No. 8 spot going into tonight's home game with Oklahoma City.

Although he made a key play against the Warriors, Favors isn't likely to be in the starting lineup against the Thunder.

In due time, DFave -- as he's called by his teammates -- will be one of Utah's starting five. But for now he's better served coming off the bench, one because he provides a much-needed defensive toughness while Utah's starters are on the bench; and two because he's not yet consistent enough on the offensive end.

Although there are plenty among Utah's diehard fanbase who've been clamoring for Favors to start, he isn't quite ready for those extended minutes.

Oh, he's had some great moments this season. The play he made on Green Sunday night is one of them; the 23-point, 15-rebound effort he had as a fill-in starter March 4 at Milwaukee is another.

But there also have been some struggles, too. During the Jazz's pathetic March 18 home loss to New York, he played 21 minutes and went 1-for-7 from the field, 5-for-12 from the free throw line and finished with just seven points (although he did pull down 13 rebounds that night).

Also, there was the Feb. 8 home loss to Chicago in which he fouled out after 23 minutes of playing time. And the March 1 blowout victory over Charlotte, when he fouled out after 21 minutes.

Don't misunderstand. He is a star in the making and a player the Jazz must hold onto, but there is plenty of work to be done.

The No. 3 overall pick of the 2010 draft, Favors was supposed to have a longterm home in New Jersey. However, he became the key piece in the deal that sent Deron Williams to the Nets midway through the 2010-11 season.

He was just 19 at the time, full of raw talent and potential after just one season at Georgia Tech.

In much the same way current starter Paul Millsap benefited from his time as a reserve playing behind Carlos Boozer, Favors has benefited from playing behind Millsap.

Although he doesn't possess the physical gifts Favors does, Millsap is a more complete player, especially on the offensive end, simply because he's got more experience.

Five years from now, Favors will be far ahead of where Millsap is now. But three yeas ago, Millsap put up great numbers as a backup and fill-in starter, mostly because opponents didn't have to come up with a gameplan to stop him.

So it is with Favors, who scores the majority of his points off rebounds, put-backs and fastbreaks.

But there is no denying his ability to create trouble on the defensive end. He is easily Utah's best defensive player and, in fact, is among the West's best young defenders.

As he develops offensively and learns to be a more consistent player, Favors can be -- should be -- a critical piece to the puzzle.

He certainly showed some of his potential late in Sunday's game, when Corbin wisely pulled starting center Al Jefferson and let Favors do what he does best.

"He'll be hugely effective (as his offensive progresses)," Corbin said. "I think he's getting there now."

Indeed he is. And he's only going to get better.

After all, Derrick Favors is a special player.

Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner's sports columnist. He also covers the Utah Jazz and the NBA. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at jburton@standard.net. He tweets at http://twitter.com/jmb247

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