Is Derrick Favors an Elite Big Man?
Be honest: this is the first time you have heard the words “elite” and “Derrick Favors” used in the same sentence, isn’t it? Well, at least since college (he was an elite prospect considering he was drafted #4 overall). At this point, it probably sounds crazy to you to hear someone dub him as one of fantasy’s best. I’m here to tell you it may not be as far-fetched as you may think. Is Derrick Favors an elite big man? Let’s examine:
First of all, I believe it is only fair to start with his pre-NBA days. I mentioned he was the #4 overall pick, but before he could accomplish that, he had to be a college stud. Even before he was a college standout, scouts were all over him in high school. If you weren’t aware, Favors was the ESPN 100 #2 overall ranked high school player in 2009. The number one player, you ask? Avery Bradley. Yes, Favors was ranked over players such as Xavier Henry (2), DeMarcus Cousins (3), John Wall (4), John Henson (5) and Lance Stephenson (12). The 98 overall grade he earned from scouts led to him choosing Georgia Tech for college. He, and Georgia Tech, had to have known all along it would be short lived.
Like most elite prospects, Favors was almost immediately inserted into the starting lineup for his college team. Of 36 games that Favors played in his freshman year in college (which turned out to be all his college games), he started 35 of them. College statistics as a whole can be deceiving due to playing less minutes (40 minutes to the NBA’s 48) and according to each team’s style of play. Favors’ numbers as a whole ended up good but not great: 12.4 PPG, 8.4 REB, 0.9 STL and 2.1 BLK in 27.5 minutes per contest. Just like the Favors we know today, however, he could put the ball in the basket at an extremely efficient clip. His FG% as a freshman was 61.1%. You could just look at the points and say Favors was an overrated scorer or you could look at the fact that he scored 6 out of 10 times that he touched the ball. The efficient scoring and all around game led NBADraft.net to conclude Al Horford was his closest NBA comparison. Considering where the New Jersey Nets (that was still their name at the time) decided to draft him after just his freshman season, I think they realized the statistics were deceiving. This was a can’t miss talent that they absolutely had to have after John Wall and Evan Turner.
Early in his NBA career, Favors had a hard time finding playing time. New Jersey only allotted him 19.7 MPG in his first season. Deciding that they wanted a superstar, New Jersey traded Favors and Devin Harris in the middle of the 2010-11 NBA season to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Deron Williams. Is Derrick Favors an elite big man? Well, he was a big part of a trade that landed New Jersey an elite point guard. From the Jazz perspective, they just needed him for depth at the time of the trade because they already had Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. Lack of playing time didn’t stop Favors’ talent from flashing: he averaged 12.5 PTS on 51.7% FG, 9.7 REB, 0.7 STL and 1.6 BLK per-36 minutes in his first NBA season combining the stats from his two teams. To make a long story short, it didn’t take the Jazz long to realize that they could get rid of Millsap and/or Jefferson because Favors had such a bright future.
Fast forward to present day. Favors’ minutes have increased every season. Nothing has changed in terms of his per-36 minute across-the-board borderline dominance. Since his first season, here are his per-36 numbers in each season:
2011-12: 14.9 PPG on 49.9% FG , 11.1 REB, 1.0 STL and 1.7 BLK
2012-13: 14.6 PPG on 48.2% FG, 11.0 REB, 1.3 STL and 2.6 BLK
2013-14 (this season): 15.0 PPG on 51.2% FG, 10.7 REB, 1.4 STL and 1.3 BLK
It really is not easy to continue to mimic your original per-36 numbers with increasing minutes every year leading up to his 32.1 so far this season. The 32.1 minutes are easily the most of his career as his previous high was last year’s 23.2. Not many players average the defensive stats he does along with the efficient offensive production. Is Derrick Favors an elite big man? Take a look at all the players in the NBA who average at least 9 REB, 1+ STL and 1+ BLK: Favors, DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, Nikola Vucevic, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis (who is currently hurt) and Tyson Chandler (also hurt). That makes him one of seven players currently producing those kind of numbers. If you limit the search to players scoring over 13 per game, he is one of only five players to do so (that eliminates Chandler and Jordan). If you limit it even further to only include players averaging 50% FG+, he is one of just three NBA players to do so (eliminate Cousins and Davis). So of all players in the NBA, Favors, Andre Drummond and Nikola Vucevic are the only three to average 50+ FG%, 13+ PPG, 9+ REB, 1+ STL and 1+ BLK. When I ranked the top 100 players according to head-to-head format, I had Drummond at 22, Favors at 26 and Vucevic (who was hurt at the time) at 40. What more do you want from a big man? These guys do literally everything (aside from FT% in the case of Drummond and Favors but Favors’ percentage doesnt’ kill you). Having heard me out through all this, do you care to change your opinion?
Bottom line: is Derrick Favors an elite big man? If he is not already, he is knocking on the door. It appears he is near his ceiling when looking at his per-36 numbers but his ceiling is pretty damn good. The scouts were right because he and Al Horford do have similar stat lines. There are worse things in the world than being a poor man’s Al Hoford because that man is an All-Star. I’m not ready to dub Derrick Favors as elite but I think the conversation is interesting. In yearly leagues, I think he may be undervalued because he doesn’t have the big name. He is in tier 2 of centers and can probably be had for tier 3 and 4 type players. So while he may not be “elite,” which is just an overused word that the media loves anyways, he definitely is worth the time and consideration for your fantasy team. If you play in dynasty leagues, however, I think Favors is a top tier commodity to own. So don’t shy away from the Utah big man just because he doesn’t have the superstar name; he will give you everything you need for him to be one of you “favor”ite players to own.
Agree or disagree with my analysis on Derrick Favors? Let me know how you feel by commenting on this article or hitting me up on twitter.
Author: Ricky Sanders, @RSandersFR