Are the Utah Jazz Bigs Still on Track for Stardom?

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistMarch 25, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - SEPTEMBER 30:  (from left) Enes Kanter #0, Tyrone Corbin Head Coach and Derrick Favors #15 of the Utah Jazz pose for a photo during 2013 Media Day at Zions Basketball Center on September 30, 2013 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)
Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

When the Utah Jazz allowed Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap to walk in free agency last summer, it was expected that backups Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter would break out.

Each of the younger bigs is a former No. 3 pick: Favors in 2010, Kanter in 2011. But even with more minutes and responsibility, neither is posting huge numbers:

Favors and Kanter
Derrick Favors3012.98.651.7%
Enes Kanter26.112.16.949.1%

Does that mean they won't eventually live up to their lofty draft status? Does coaching have anything to do with their lackluster stats? And what do they still need to do to become stars?

Both Favors and Kanter have shown flashes of what they might be able to do in the future. Favors has gone for 20 and 10 five times—Kanter seven.

And when they play at least 30 minutes in a game, their numbers look a lot better:

When Playing 30-Plus Minutes
Derrick Favors321510.253.3%
Enes Kanter2317.79.152.4%

With how well both have played when they get real starter's minutes, it seems confusing that neither has topped 30 minutes in even half the games Utah has played.

The problem is, they've struggled to jell defensively.

According to, Utah gives up a true shooting percentage of 57.4 percent when both Favors and Kanter are on the floor. When it's Kanter alone, it's at 57.2 percent. With only Favors on the floor, it drops to 54.3 percent. And when both Kanter and Favors are on the bench, the opponents' true shooting percentage is 48.8 percent.

The problem when both are on the floor is that inevitably one has to guard a forward with much quicker feet. Neither Favors nor Kanter is really able to keep up with his matchup on the perimeter.

So it's hard to blame Tyrone Corbin for adjusting his lineup from the initial starting frontcourt that included the two youngsters. From a wins-and-losses standpoint, it just wasn't working:

That record is now 2-28 following Monday's loss to the Detroit Pistons. But that doesn't mean this combo can't work in the future.

One of the basic tenets of basketball—and really all sports—is that teammates develop chemistry by spending time together on the court.

This season was supposed to be the time for Favors and Kanter to develop that chemistry. Utah wasn't going to make the playoffs anyway, so you might as well let the two big men work through their growing pains together.

Instead, Corbin has played veteran Marvin Williams just 0.6 fewer minutes per game than Kanter. He's also played Richard Jefferson one minute more than Kanter. You may think that's unrelated, but Williams could easily slide over to Jefferson's small forward position. Prior to this season, that's where he spent the majority of his career.

There's no guarantee that Favors and Kanter would've developed chemistry and played better together with more minutes this season, but it certainly would've given them a better chance.

And they're not the only big men who would've benefited from some more time during this rebuilding season.

Rudy Gobert and Jeremy Evans have completely disappeared from Corbin's rotation (Gobert was never really in it):

Evans not playing is particularly confusing. In limited minutes, he's been one of Utah's most effective players. He averages just 18.5 minutes off the bench, but his player efficiency rating of 16.9 is second on the team behind Favors. He's also second in offensive rebounding percentage at 11.2 percent, just behind Gobert.

What makes Evans so effective is the fact that he only takes good shots. For him, that means lots of dunks and layups—often from offensive rebounds—and an occasional 15-foot jumper here and there. He knows his strengths, and he doesn't try to do more.

His smart and energetic play somehow couldn't save him from being chopped from the rotation.

And as for the guy who's never made the rotation, Gobert may be raw, but he has some pretty insane potential on defense and on the boards.

Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger recently said as much:

He's 7'2" with a 7'9" wingspan, and he doesn't just rely on his unique physical gifts. When you watch Gobert play in the few minutes he gets, he's always going as hard as he can.

It's why he leads the Jazz in both block percentage and rebounding percentage among qualified players.

Even if he doesn't develop much of an offensive game, getting to the point where he's a capable alley-oop target out of pick-and-rolls will be enough. That's how much of an impact he can have in the other two-thirds of the game.

He—along with Favors, Kanter and Evans—has the potential to be so much more than what we've seen this season.

The two former No. 3 picks have a chance to be stars. They can work their way through their weaknesses. They just need the time to do it on the floor.


Unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of and and are current as of March 24, 2014.

Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.


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