Derrick Favors enters the third season of his NBA career with a significant leap all but preordained; between roster improvements, a likely increase in minutes and the evolution of Favors' incredible talents, all signs point to this being the year when the former lottery pick finally cashes in on his considerable promise.
Favors has already done plenty to date to validate the Utah Jazz's investment in his future, but season-to-season growth is the default expectation of young NBA players—particularly those with Favors' natural advantage and productive instincts.
As is the case with any athletic big man, there will forever be a chorus of critics who deride Favors for his lack of a traditional, back-to-the-basket post game. It's certainly regrettable that Favors doesn't have that particular area of his game in finer form, but at this juncture in his development and at this particular arc in his playing career, it's unfair to expect such an arsenal to develop overnight.
A proper post game can't be built in a single offseason or two, and rather than expect him to fully rectify his weakness in a few months of down time, perhaps we could more reasonably await Favors building on his pre-existing strengths.
The league's brightest stars are all versatile in their own way, but largely arrived at that versatility by carving out a particular niche and expanding outward. That endeavor is already in progress for Favors, who made incredible strides last season as both a pick-and-roll finisher and a back-line defender.
The latter is an area of the game that tends to improve with age and experience (keep in mind that Favors hasn't received as much playing time as one might expect of a No. 3 overall pick), but the former should by no means elude a third-year player with Favors' standout potential.
The progression of Favors' pick-and-roll performance could conceivably go in a number of directions, but here are a few points of emphasis that separate him from the league's most effective roll men:
The mark of a good roll player is his at-the-rim efficiency, but the mark of a great roll player is his ability to expand the two-man game to a five-man enterprise. Passing out of the roll is the easiest way to accomplish that objective, and Favors' kick-out efforts after receiving the initial pass should be aided this season by an improved core of shooters in Utah.
But even with Utah's perimeter players converting their outside shots at a higher rate, Favors could stand to work on his ability to find those open shooters. The scouting report against the Jazz will still stress the value of clogging the paint, and if Favors can take advantage of opposing defenses' willingness to converge on his position, his value to Utah's complete offense would increase dramatically.
Rolling to the Block
Although we tend to conceptualize pick-and-roll sequences as finite plays, they're often only a step in a team's continuity-based offensive set. There are still plenty of flex remainders in Ty Corbin's offense, and thus the utilization of the pick-and-roll as a setup trigger for post play remains firmly in Utah's wheelhouse.
Favors may not be able to create all that reliably in the post just yet, but if he uses a pick-and-roll opportunity as a method to establish himself on the block quickly and without much obstruction, he could very well be in position for a basic baby hook at point-blank range.
He's certainly capable of that much, and if nothing else, this kind of maneuvering would retain the attention of the defense a bit longer following the conclusion of Favors' roll.
Moving Beyond the Straight Line
The roll game really opens up when the finisher involved has the capacity to change their angle of attack mid-stream; though a straight line to the rim affords the defense the least time possible to rotate and respond, NBA-caliber bigs can often still recover in time to contest the play at the basket.
That makes it all the more important for Favors to continue his counters to immediate defensive pressure as he barrels down the lane. He showcased a pretty useful spin move occasionally last season, and if Favors can make that a more regular part of his rolling repertoire, he'll have significantly more opportunities to take advantage of his touch and athleticism around the basket.
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