Over the past year and a half, the Utah Jazz have slowly pieced together the deepest frontcourt in the league. With All-Star-caliber starters Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, the Jazz put forth a formidable interior force.
Reserves Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter up the ante as they provide two big body defenders with limitless potential. As recent Top-5 draft choices, Favors and Kanter offer a sense of promise for not only their contributions off of the bench, but their potential for stardom.
Which is exactly why the rapidly rising Derrick Favors must replace Paul Millsap in the starting lineup.
Prior to evaluating Favors' game and how it would benefit from his earning a spot in the starting lineup, it's important to give Millsap his due. His averages of 16.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game suggest that he is borderline elite.
Millsap's Player Efficiency Rating of 21.85 confirms that notion.
Millsap is an offensive monster with a solid mid-range game and powerful interior scoring skills. He's strong enough to take contact and long enough to overcome his slight size deficiency. The fact that he moves well without the ball in his hands and rebounds at an excellent rate simply adds fuel to this fire.
On defense, Millsap is a steal artist. He can poke balls free out of the defensive post or take his man on from the perimeter. Unfortunately, his size does hinder him somewhat on defense. Neither Millsap nor Jefferson are reliable shot blockers.
This is where Derrick Favors comes into play.
Despite spending just two years in the league, the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket has emerged as one of the better interior defenders in the league. He's a physical monster at 6'10" and 248 pounds, utilizing his strength and length to overwhelm opponents.
Favors is an outstanding rebounder and equally efficient shot blocker. This was on full display during the postseason as Favors averaged 9.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game on an average of 29.0 minutes per game.
While his offensive ability is mediocre at best, he has the potential to be elite on that end as well. Although his mid-range and low-post games could improve, he's an excellent finisher in the paint. Holding him hostage as a reserve, however, will do nothing but stunt his growth.
Truthfully, it's nonsensical to keep this rotation as is. Currently, the Jazz start two offensive-minded big men that are capable of lighting the scoreboard up. Neither player, however, is elite on the defensive end.
Inserting Derrick Favors into the starting lineup could give the Jazz the proper combination of offensive and defensive prowess. Millsap, meanwhile, could see the same amount of minutes while coming off of the bench and contending for Sixth Man of the Year.
More importantly, the Utah Jazz would see an improvement in both their bench's scoring production and starting lineup's defensive tenacity.
The question that most fans will have is simple: is Derrick Favors ready to start in the NBA? Although he's just 21 years old, the 2012 postseason should prove he is. The statistics were already noted, but it's the numbers that range beyond averages that define how far he has come as a player.
Unlike a majority of young players, Favors has discovered how to overcome inconsistency in playing time. Regardless of how many minutes he spends on the floor, Favors displays a consistent level of production all the way through.
For instance, Favors averaged 23.5 minutes during Game 1 and Game 2 of their first round series against the San Antonio Spurs. During those games, Favors averaged 8.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game.
During Games 3 and 4, Favors upped those numbers to 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 2.0 steals per contest. This came as the youngster was matched up against Hall of Fame lock Tim Duncan.
It's these type of performances that define the progression Favors has made in just two years. While Paul Millsap remains of indescribable value, there is no logical reason to stunt the development of one of the most promising young players in the league.
If the Utah Jazz hope to return to the postseason in 2012-13, they must start Derrick Favors.