Derrick Favors – Tyson Chandler 2.0

When you look at the players surrounding his lofty draft position, it’s hard not to think that Derrick Favors has been a disappointment. John Wall, Paul George, Greg Monroe, and DeMarcus Cousins have all seemingly had much more successful NBA careers. However, I’d argue that Derrick Favors has played at a similar level to all of them, and perhaps can still become the top player of the 2010 draft. For one, his defense is fantastic; he flies around the court harassing pick-and-rolls and altering opponent’s shots with a speed that behooves a man of 6’4”, not 6’10”. It’s hard to imagine him not being a future yearly defensive player of the year candidate, especially when you look at his defensive RAPM 1 in conjunction with the 3rd year marks posted by today’s premier big man defenders:

Player

3rd Season Defensive RAPM (Higher is Better)

Dwight Howard

4.1

Tim Duncan

3.5

Tyson Chandler

3.4

Marc Gasol

3.2

Derrick Favors

3.1

Roy Hibbert

2.7

Joakim Noah

2.4

Kevin Garnett

2.3

Favors is clearly on his way to becoming one of the best defenders in the league. However, if he is to become the best of his draft, he has to improve on the other end of the floor.

Favors’ offense isn’t bad per se; in fact, his offensive statistics – 14.6 points per 36 minutes on 53.3% true shooting while being assisted on 57.6% of his buckets – are slightly above average 2. However, Favors should be much better on offense. A player with his physical tools 3 should be the epitome of efficiency, destroying defenders around the basket and posting true shooting numbers in the upper 50s. And yet, he wallows with disappointingly average true shooting numbers. If he wants to be the best player in his class, he’ll have to improve.

One player that you’d like Favors to emulate on offense is Tyson Chandler. It’s almost a cliché to implore any young, athletic big to mirror Chandler, but it’s become so for a reason. Chandler has crafted himself into a very effective offensive force mainly through hard work and restraint rather than through traditional skill 4; he doesn’t take any long twos on offense, limiting himself to dump-offs from penetrating guards and close shots out of the pick-and-roll, and he works tirelessly on the offensive glass. Chandler’s offense may not be traditionally appealing, but his hard work in the less glamorous facets of offense make him a much more effective offensive center than many other more “skilled” bigs. Clearly, Chandler is a great target for Favors to shoot for.

In a promising sign for Favors, he’s already very good at the many of the cornerstones of Chandler’s offensive commandments. First off, as demonstrated by the video below, he’s an excellent target for ball handlers slashing to the rim.

 
Due to his great size and soft hands, Favors is an enticing dump-off target; his slight adjustments off the ball serve to make him the recipient of even more such passes. Once he catches the ball, Favors puts his prodigious athletic tools to good use. Last season he shot 68.0% at the rim 5 and even more impressive was his whopping 0.47 free throw rate 6, which ranked 4th among all power forwards. Clearly, Favors was an excellent off-ball cutter.

The favorable Chandler comparisons extend to offensive rebounding, where Favors is very superb for many reasons, which are demonstrated in this video:

 
He hits the glass hard, which, combined with his considerable strength and quickness, enables him to get great interior position. From then on he uses his length and explosiveness to gobble up boards and finish the job. Since he’s been drafted, Favors has had an offensive rebounding percentage 7 of 12.6%, 7th among all power forwards in that same time frame.

Favors can also get out and run in transition, where last season he averaged and excellent 1.25 PPP, good for 66th in the league. Transition comprised a small percent of Favors’ offensive play types (6.8%), but that’s more attributable to the slow pace the Jazz played at 8 rather than an inability/unwillingness to run on Favors’ part. He moves very impressively for a big man and, in what has become a recurring theme with him, he runs hard, which enables him to pick up easy dunks and shooting fouls while leading the break:

 
Even when Favors can’t score immediately, his rim runs pay off. More often than not he’ll beat his man down the floor and get great position under the basket. All it takes is one or two passes, or a probing drive, and Favors has the ball in his hands right underneath the basket for an easy two points.

 
Favors didn’t score a whole lot of his points in transition this season, but if Utah begins to run a more fast paced offense, you should certainly expect his transition touches to rise.

Until now, Favors has been faring very well in this Tyson Chandler comparison. He’s a fantastic off ball target, he’s great on the offensive glass, and he can even run in transition. Unfortunately, in the pick-and-roll, an area where Tyson Chandler arguably makes his biggest impact, Favors falls short. Last season Chandler scored 1.31 PPP as the roll man in the pick-and-roll, 7th in the NBA. Favors? 0.85 PPP, which was good for 119th. Not only is that a disparate difference, but 0.85 PPP is way too low for what is normally a very efficient play type, and is probably one of the biggest reasons behind Favors’ relatively low efficiency numbers 9.

So why was Favors such a poor roll man? Well, that can mainly be explained by the picture below.

favors shooting

In the above picture, Favors has just received the ball after setting a pick and has tons of space in front him. The main rim protector, Greg Stiemsma, is hanging way back by the rim and the player who’s supposed to stop his roll, J.J. Barea, is at his side. And yet, Favors is pulling up for a midrange jump shot. That’s a bad shot for the average NBA big and a terrible one for Favors. He simply can’t shoot. It takes him eons to get his shot off, he doesn’t completely square up to the basket, and he just has terrible touch in general. For his career, he’s shot 28% from 10-23 feet. 28%! Overall, Favors takes way too many of these kinds of shots out of the pick-and-roll and it tanks his effectiveness.

Adding further insult to the poor nature of these shots is how good Favors is when he does roll to the rim.

 
He can take long strides and get to the rim in a hurry or he can linger back around the foul line, catch the ball, and in one gigantic step, find himself at the rim. He even showed some intriguing flashes of skill, sometimes catching the ball further back, and then taking one or two dribbles en route to the basket.

 
No matter how Favors receives the ball when he attacks the rim, one thing is assured: he is almost always going to either score or draw a foul. If Favors can simply stop taking so many jump shots out of the pick-and-roll, it’ll do wonders for his offense. Being a dangerous offensive big requires pick-and-roll excellency; Favors clearly has the weapons in his arsenal to be such a big, he just needs to show some restraint.

While Favors’ offense has mostly been similar to Chandler’s until now, he branches wildly off from Chandler in regard to post-ups. Chandler seldom posts up, doing almost all of his damage off the ball. Favors, however, posts up a lot; it was actually his most common play type, taking up 28.5% of his plays. He arguably posted up too much, as the volume of his post touches hurt his efficiency greatly. Post-ups are an inherently inefficient play type and you need to be an elite or at least very good post player, something Favors’ definitely isn’t, to remain efficient while posting up as often as Favors does. With that being said, Favors is a victim of quantity, not quality. While he is a decent post player – he averaged 0.82 PPP in post-ups last year, which ranked a solid 84th in the NBA – he does have some room for improvement.

When posting up, Favors, like another certain Jazz player, favors the left block. Once he has the ball, the first thing Favors looks to do is take his man off the dribble. He can go either baseline or middle, and thanks to his quickness and surprisingly solid handle he’s very tough to stop.

 
When Favors can’t beat his defender off the dribble, his next course of action is a little more old school. He turns around, backs his man down until he’s almost in the restricted area, then drop-steps towards the baseline.

 
Like with his face-up game, Favors has an enviable combination of solid footwork and great quickness, which led to lots of freebies at the rim and shooting fouls from defenders desperately trying to recover.

However, it’s not all good, as Favors struggles immensely when he can’t get inside.

 
As you can see, the problem isn’t Favors’ footwork, so much as it his inability to finish the chances his footwork gets him. Like with his jump shot, Favors lacks any touch on hooks, fade-aways, and turnarounds; he shot an astoundingly poor 28.0% from 3-9 feet. Simply put, Favors struggles to finish any shot that doesn’t come in the immediate vicinity of the rim.

Perhaps even more worrisome is Favors’ struggles with turnovers in the post. He turned the ball over on 14.3% of his possessions, which is already bad, and is a figure that could potentially get worse. His turnover problems stem from his inability to cope with double teams, as shown in the video below. In the first clip, Brook Lopez comes over to double, and Favors turns right into him, causing a jump ball. Even when Favors did see the double, he still he struggled. In the second clip, before Bogut even fully makes his way to Favors, Favors throws the ball over to the opposing team’s bench.

 
Favors had issues with double teams all year. He showed a lack of awareness of when help defenders were actually coming, often getting the ball stripped out of his hands, and when he did attempt to pass out of the double team, his attempts were laughable. With Big Al and Millsap gone, teams will be paying more attention to Favors than ever before, and that means sending double teams his way. If he wants to be a reliable scoring option in the post, he needs to vastly improve his ability to cope with extra defenders.

Though his output right now is unspectacular, Favors’ offensive game is very promising. He excels in all the unglamorous, yet necessary, categories of offense and his problems in the pick-and-roll are fixable. He can easily be Tyson Chandler 2.0. And while even that would undoubtedly thrill Jazz fans, Favors can be even better. Whether it be the glimpses of a dribble-drive game he has shown in the pick-and-roll or his solid fundamental skills in the post, Favors has a burgeoning skill set that leads me to believe he can be an excellent post player and an overall offensive force. It’s very conceivable that Favors builds on these strengths. If he does, don’t be surprised if Favors is being talked about as an All-NBA candidate in a few years.

——–

Statistical Support from MySynergySports, Basketball Reference, and Hoopdata.

 

 

 

 12260 Oranges Squeezed

Notes:

  1. RAPM is basically a beefed up version of regular plus/minus and on/off stats. It’s arguably both the best all-in-one player stat and the best statistical indicator of defense
  2. The average power forward in the NBA last year scored 14.0 PP36M on a 53.1% true shooting while being assisted on 66.6% of his baskets.
  3. At the draft combine Favors measured out with a 9’2” standing reach, which trumps most centers. His athleticism results were arguably even more impressive; he had a 35.5 inch max vertical and ran the ¾ court sprint in 3.25 seconds, both of which are superior to the average marks posted by shooting guards, who generally are 6 inches shorter and 45 pounds lighter than Favors
  4. That is selling Chandler a little short. He’s certainly not some completely unskilled big à la Brendan Haywood, but it mostly holds true.
  5. 2% better than the position average
  6. Free throw rate is simply free throw attempts/field goal attempts. It’s useful because it adjust for both pace (how many possessions a team averages per game) and the volume of shot attempts.
  7. Offensive rebounding percentage measures the percent of a player’s own misses he rebounded.
  8. The Jazz ranked 20th in the league in pace
  9. We’ll get to the other reason further down.
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