The Utah Jazz: A Valued Lesson In Perception

(Matt Gade, Deseret News)

We are just over ten days from the start of the 2013-2014 Utah Jazz season. Opening night is October 30th, as the Jazz will play host to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Fans and media have had their first looks at the new revamped Jazz and Salt Lake City is buzzing with excitement.


The off-season has seen a plethora of moves that have folks ready for the season to begin. All of those moves culminated last night when the Jazz were reported to have locked up Derrick Favors in a long term extension, securing the athletic big for four more years:


Later this report was confirmed by Jody Genessy of the Deseret News:


See Jody’s article here.


Earlier this summer it was announced that Karl Malone would accept a part time position with the Jazz to work with the development of the young bigs. Fans and media, brimmed with excitement. The idea of the Hall of Fame power forward imparting of his knowledge, wisdom, and experience of the NBA game on the two young, talented, athletic bigs meant immeasurable opportunities going forward for the franchise.


WIth that news in their back pockets, fans and media were ready for fall camp to get under way. Expectations were now placed on the young Jazz squad, especially Kanter and Favors.


How have the two promising bigs responded?


Let’s take a quick look at some numbers as we’ve reached the halfway point preseason.


Favors is averaging nearly 25 minutes per game. In that time he is shooting a woeful 33% from the floor, averaging a dismal 7.3 points per game. While Enes Kanter is making the most of his 23 minutes on the floor shooting 52% and averaging 12 points per contest. (Complete stats are available here.)


It’s clear that Kanter has come to play. He’s dominating on offense and in big ways. His offensive production is coming in a plethora of moves. And it’s clear that he is becoming a very versatile player.


Favors on the other hand has shown frustration on the offensive end. He appears, at times, to be lost offensively. He doesn’t have a “go-to” move and gets into foul trouble quickly, making it even more difficult to find a rhythm of any sort. Additionally, there are times that both Favors and Kanter seem to stumble into each other in the paint. One attempting to post up a defender, while the other camps on the opposite side or waits for the other to make a move. This ends up creating very poor spacing on the floor, a recipe for disaster.


With the news came discussion and speculation both on a national level and local level. Fans joined the discussion, as well, via Twitter. Many expressing their jubilance at the news, while others (myself included) evaluating the situation in a different light. Many are leery of paying the fourth year player a big contract on potential alone. Especially when considering his lackluster performance at times during fall camp and now preseason.


I tweeted out in a discussion: “he’s been disappointing in preseason thus far. I hope to see marginal improvement as season starts.”


Clint Peterson (@Clintonite33) also shared his reservation on the move to extend Favors:

Immediately my conversation caught some attention:


That tweet revisited the reality of something more innately valuable than Favors offensive struggles or his seeming disinterest in improving those skills. So much has been made of his offense, that other valuable assets have been forgotten. As Ashly put it, Defense, Defense, Defense.


Another look at the numbers:


In the same span of games, Kanter has averaged just 5 rebounds per game. Favors, on the other hand, has averaged a whopping 11 rebounds, 9 of those coming on the defensive end. Additionally Favors has been dominating the rim, averaging 2.25 blocks per contest, that’s two blocks more than Kanter. While Kanter is truly becoming an elite offensive force, Favors is only improving as an elite defender in the league.


Back to the Malone-effect. It’s obvious Malone’s imprint is showing in Kanter’s game. It’s the unseen, non-statistical qualities in Favors game on and off the court, imparted by Malone, that take a little more effort to see.


Back when Favors was interviewed about Malone and what he is learning from him, he stated: “Most I learned working with him (Malone) is a lot mental stuff. He was telling me to take care of my body. Conditioned before training camp so that you’re ready to go during training camp.” (Media Day notes via 1280 The Zone)


Another valuable thing Favors learned from Malone is the value of loyalty. Loyalty to an organization and loyalty to a community. He learned the value of commitment. He has a commitment to making himself a better player. That commitment involves both aspects of the game, on and off the court.


Let’s not forget, it was Derrick Favors who reached out to Jazz management to bring in Malone to work with him. Derrick wanted to learn the core values needed to succeed in the life that is the NBA. Additionally it was Favors who in turn solidified himself as a resident of the Salt Lake community by purchasing a home. He made his intentions clear with one simple move.


In the end, it’s a win-win. The Jazz bigs, Kanter and Favors, have both benefited from working with Malone. The results have varied between the two players, but no one said they both had to benefit in the exact same way. It just became an assumption. The final results have yet to be realized, as both players are continuing to mature and develop.


One thing is certain, we will have at least four more years to assess the results. During that time, we may see Favors offensive game explode. In the meantime, the Jazz have made it quite clear they are content with locking up their elite defender for the future. And he is quite clear that this is his home.


Today, I learned a valuable lesson in perception from a friend. Ashly (@SurlyMae), I won’t expect that Mountain Dew from you, instead, it is I that owe you a drink.

About the author

Alan "Jedi" Zaugg

Alan “Jedi” Zaugg is managing editor of TornBySports and host of the Jedi & Jerms podcast. He’s an avid NBA fan and basketball junkie and passionate sports enthusiast. He enjoys writing and illustrating. He hosts a Star Wars podcast and writes for The Cantina Cast in addition to a myriad of other projects. He also writes fantasy and science fiction in his spare time. You can follow him on Twitter: @jedizaugg

  • JazzyTameKate

    very nice points of view on him. I worry about favors’ conditioning after Malone and pre-season. Well written post

    • Jedizaugg

      Thank you Kate. I’m cautiously optimistic about Favors. Hence my initial reservations about the extension. The next four years will involve a few growing pains I think.