The NBA, A-through-Z: (Derrick) Favors

The free agents have just about all been signed up. The NBA is down to a series of Instagram photos from moving yachts and crossed fingers from worried teams hoping their players stay safe in the summer off. There’s nothing going on, save for that clock on the wall that is ticking down to the 2013-14 season.

And it’s moving SO SLOWLY.

This is why we’ve decided to pick 26 things we’re looking forward to in 2013-14. Or, at the very least, 26 things that intrigue us as we wait out an offseason that feels like it has thousands of miles left to cross before we can get to Halloween and opening week. Because there are 26 letters in the alphabet – you guessed, NBA A-through-Z.

We continue with Derrick Favors.

The Utah Jazz are rebuilding. Tanking, really, which is strange because there’s only been one real instance of this in the team’s recent history – a 26-win miss of a season that took place in a 2004-05 campaign that saw Carlos Boozer miss 31 games and Andrei Kirilenko sit out for half the season. Beyond that, the Jazz have been attempting to stay competitive on the fly, quickly reacting to the loss of Karl Malone and John Stockton with the ascension of Kirilenko and signing of Boozer, featuring sound depth all along (save for that pesky, never-to-be-filled shooting guard slot), and cashing in on that 2004-05 struggle with the drafting of Deron Williams.

The Jazz watched as Al Jefferson signed with Charlotte and Paul Millsap hooked up with the Atlanta Hawks in the offseason, figuratively signing off on a tandem that, while respected offensively and on the glass, did little to change the franchise’s fortunes. Enes Kanter, a mix of the orthodox and modern era in 7-foot form, will step in at center. And the player the team acquired for Williams, young big man Derrick Favors, will be asked to give Jazz fans hope for the future as they sit out what will be a rough and trying 2013-14.

Favors has started just 11 games with the Jazz since coming over to the team in February 2011, and while the big man has enjoyed his moments on both ends, he hasn’t exactly blown the team away with All-Star-worthy-per-minute stats. The young man just turned 22 in July, though, and his massive wingspan and center-worthy bulk could be enough to help Jazz fans forget how miserable this team has been at defending the sort of pick and roll that dragged this franchise so deep into the playoffs for years under both Stockton and Williams’ guidance.

There’s no such backcourt force in place for Utah right now, which is by design. The team took a pass on signing a sure thing like Jose Calderon and declined to take a chance on a question mark like Tyreke Evans at the wing position. Instead, the team drafted Michigan’s Trey Burke to become (let’s be honest; though I hope he proves me wrong) Utah’s mindful backup point guard of the future, while keeping the payroll nice and tidy. The team willingly took on Golden State’s awful expiring contracts (Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins will combine to make more than $20 million this year) in return for draft picks and a possible helper in the recovering Brandon Rush. Beyond that, it’s a youth movement.

One that features a player in Favors that Jazz fans are likely dying to see let loose. The issue for Favors is, even with his age and new-found responsibility, figuring out just how high his ceiling can be. There’s no shame in becoming the next Buck Williams or Otis Thorpe – two sub-All-Star studs that Favors compares with favorably – but those aren’t the sort of talents you build franchises around. Neither are respected types like Kanter, Burke or Gordon Hayward. The constellation has been named, but the starts haven’t been acquired.

(And we’re still not sure, after years of iffy emphasis on offense and dodgy defensive principles that may not be all Al Jefferson’s fault, if head coach Tyrone Corbin is the tactician to lead this hoped-for turnaround.)

Money talks, though. It’s why Jefferson went to Charlotte, a once-feted college star in O.J. Mayo went to Milwaukee, why Jeff Teague wanted to go to Milwaukee, why Kevin Martin stuck with Sacramento and recently signed with Minnesota, and why Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic are attempting to stay in Minnesota for as long as possible. And once the cap holds of their current roster are extinguished next summer, the Jazz will have money to work with in 2014; even if the respective qualifying offers/cap holds of Favors and Hayward could complicate things. And there are still those incoming draft picks to work with.

Until then? Plenty of reps for players who have been held back for too long. Plenty of gaffes, plenty of potential, and plenty of Derrick Favors. Four seasons in, it’s about damn time.

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