An eight-year vet with career averages of 11.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks nightly, Derrick Favors should attract solid interest this offseason on the secondary market once he hits unrestricted free agency.
The Georgia Tech product and current Utah Jazzman has played mostly power forward in his career, but likely needs to transition to center full time in order to maximize his effectiveness. It’s not that Favors is old (2018-19 will be his Age-27 season), but as he’s bulked up throughout his time as a professional, he’s lost some of the burst that made him such an intriguing prospect coming out of college.
Regardless, Favors is still quite the effective player, and in a full-time role manning the paint, he should see an uptick in production.
When Favors’ frontcourt partner and All-NBA big man Rudy Gobert missed 11 games with a knee injury late in 2017, Favors became Utah’s starter at center next to a floor-spacing power forward in Jonas Jerebko. In those 11 outings, Favors wound up showing out, averaging 16.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 blocks while converting an impressive 61 percent of his field-goal attempts and 77.1 percent of his free throws.
And, more importantly, the Jazz were victorious in seven of the 11 contests.
It’s clear Favors can put up numbers and contribute to winning basketball if placed in the right situation. Can he play power forward next to a traditional big? Sure, in a pinch, if you need him to. But is he better suited to play center in the modern NBA, next to a floor-spacing frontcourt mate? That answer is an obvious and resounding yes.
Favors likely won’t command a monster deal this summer, especially with how money-tight most teams will find themselves. Nevertheless, there will still be a bevy of suitors – both contenders and rebuilding franchises alike – after his signature once the first wave of free agents find their next homes.
We break down the big man’s likeliest landing spots.
The Washington Wizards potentially being interested in adding Favors is contingent upon the team moving on from their current big man, Marcin Gortat, this offseason.
Truth be told, it’s not difficult to envision that happening, either.
After all, Gortat and All-Star/franchise cornerstone John Wall have seen their relationship deteriorate to the point the duo were taking not-so-subtle shots at each other throughout 2017-18 – both through media and their personal Twitter accounts.
What’s more, once Washington’s season ended following a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Toronto Raptors, Wall took the back-and-forth to another level by telling the media that he wanted his team to get more athletic, specifically at the 5-spot (via NBC Sports):
“A lot, to be honest. There’s a lot that we can use… I think it’s pretty obvious. I don’t need to point it out. I think the way the league is going, you need athletic bigs, you need scoring off the bench, you need all of those types of things. We don’t really have an athletic big. I mean, Ian [Mahinmi] is older. [Marcin Gortat] is older. They’re not athletic guys, but they do the little things that permit their game to help as much as possible.”
While Favors may not be a freak athlete, he still presents an upgrade in that department over both Gortat and Ian Mahinmi. And his pick-and-roll prowess (Favors ranked in the 58th percentile in finishing out of such play-types during the regular season) would mesh wonderfully with Wall and fellow All-Star guard Bradley Beal.
Where a potential union between Favors and the Wizards gets tricky is on the financial side, as Washington is already projected to be over the luxury tax ($123 million) for 2018-19 with just 10 players signed. Even if they do manage to trade Gortat, who is due $13.6 million next season and which will likely require the Wizards to add a future first-round pick as sweetener, it’s hard to see the team getting under the luxury tax line once they fill out their full roster.
As such, it appears all Washington will have to offer Favors will be the taxpayer mid-level exception, worth roughly $5.3 million.
Luckily for the Wizards, not many teams will have much money to offer prospective free agents, and Favors’ age (26, nearing 27) will make him unattractive to the rebuilding franchises who are set to have extra cap space to use.
Thus, perhaps a two-year, $10.6 million offer with a player option on Year-2 could be enough for Washington to land Favors, upgrade their frontcourt and prevent the Gortat-Wall dynamic from getting any worse.
As far as why Favors would accept such a deal, it would allow him to prove he can play center full-time on a playoff-caliber team while giving him the freedom to test the market again in the summer of 2019, when more teams will have free cap space to use.
Despite the admirable job John Henson did in his first season as an every-night starting center, it became clear as the year went on that the Milwaukee Bucks could use an upgrade at the position.
The 6-foot-10 big man is a sturdier rebounder than Milwaukee’s starter at the 5, and a far more reliable scorer. Favors doesn’t often shoot threes but he can still space the floor from the mid-range, while possessing solid touch from between 8′ and 12′ out, an important area to excel in for non-freakishly athletic bigs:
Playing next to rim-attacking beasts like Giannis Antetokoumpo and Eric Bledsoe, any extra bit of spacing can make a world of difference for the Bucks offense. Favors’ range would give them just that: extra room for rim forays from the team’s stars.
How much money Milwaukee has to offer the eight-year veteran will largely depend on what they do with Jabari Parker, an impending restricted free agent. Parker had a decent season in 2017-18 following his return from another ACL tear, but if he were to land a big-time offer sheet from a rebuilding organization (like his hometown Chicago Bulls, for example), it’s hard to envision the Bucks matching it to keep him around.
If Parker does sign elsewhere, that would leave the Bucks roughly $2 million under the projected salary cap of $101 million. After filling out the roster with minimum salaries, Milwaukee would have just the standard mid-level exception to offer free agents, which is worth around $8.6 million.
A two-year, $17.2 million offer for Favors with a player option on Year-2 could be enough to get the job done, and would greatly strengthen the Bucks’ starting-5.
(Even if Parker does re-sign, Milwaukee should still have the standard mid-level exception to offer Favors, it’ll just put them perilously close to the luxury-tax line.)
Golden State Warriors
Throughout his eight seasons as a professional, Favors has earned almost $67 million just from his player salaries.
Because he’s not a player coming off his rookie-scale deal in search of his first payday, but rather a veteran who’s already received one pretty healthy contract (a four-year, $47 million agreement with Utah back in 2013), there’s a chance Favors seeks a bit of team glory over personal gain with his next situation.
And what better place to gain that than with the reigning champions, the Golden State Warriors?
At the moment, Golden State’s frontcourt is pretty loaded. But JaVale McGee, Kevon Looney, Zaza Pachulia and David West – the Warriors’ four primary centers – will all be available on the open market this offseason.
McGee is playing the most consistent basketball of his career since joining the Warriors two years ago, and could look to acquire long-term security, which Golden State may not be all that willing to provide due to their current financial burdens, with his next deal. Looney did not have his option for 2018-19 picked up, making him an unrestricted free agent this summer. Even more concerning if you’re a Golden State fan, the Warriors will only be able to offer him $2.3 million as his starting salary for next season, and with the way the UCLA product has impacted games this postseason, it’s starting to look likelier and likelier he’ll be rocking a different uniform by the time 2018-19 rolls around.
Meanwhile, the latter two are getting up there in age, and it wouldn’t be all that shocking to see either retire. That’s a particularly strong concern with West, who’s 37 and already flirted with the idea of hanging them up last summer.
If Golden State loses their four centers, that would leave them with just Jordan Bell and Damian Jones to man the 5-spot full-time. It’s true that Draymond Green plays a ton of center for them when the games get more important in April, May and June, but asking him to do that during the regular season is overkill.
All of that is to say: the Warriors could very well end up needing to find a new big man over the offseason.
That’s where a player like Favors could enter the picture.
Like Washington, all Golden State is going to be able to offer Favors is the taxpayer mid-level exception, i.e. $5.3 million annually, which may not sound like a lot. But if Favors wants to play an important role on the best team in the league for a year, try and win a ring and then test the free-agent market again in 2019, a marriage between the big man and the Warriors is entirely plausible.
As is often the case with most free agents, the likeliest outcome to a player’s free agency – usually due to financial reasons – is a return to said player’s current team.
And the Favors case is no different.
The Jazz own Favors’ Bird Rights, so if they need to, they’ll be able to go over the cap to re-sign him. Regardless, Utah probably won’t have to worry about that, as the team has a comfortable amount of cap room at the moment and, as we’ve mentioned, money will be tight around the Association this offseason.
By the comments Favors made the day after the Jazz were eliminated by the Houston Rockets, he certainly doesn’t sound like someone who plans on leaving:
It’s not all about love, though. Results are what matter most in the cutthroat business known as the NBA.
Well, Favors contributes to those, too.
In the time Favors shared the floor with All-NBA big man Gobert, Utah had a dominant +8 net rating (per NBAWowy) – with a sample size of over 1000-plus minutes of action.
So in an emotional, economic and result-based sense, Favors staying with the Jazz makes the most sense.
Nevertheless, the NBA is impossible to predict. As such, his free agency should still be monitored closely.
You can find Frank Urbina on Twitter @frankurbina_.
HoopsHype’s Alberto de Roa contributed to this article.