Derrick Favors Has A Prime Opportunity With OKC Thunder To Revitalize His Career
Over the past several years, quite a few veterans have made their way through Oklahoma City, using their opportunity with the Thunder as a catalyst to get their career back on track before moving to a new situation.
This season, Derrick Favors will have that opportunity as he will once again be in a starting role on the young Thunder roster.
Things really started to click for Favors in the 2013-14 season, which was the first year in which he became a consistent starter. At just 22 years old and a member of the Utah Jazz, the former No. 3 overall pick would start in all 77 games that he played in. At the time, he primarily played power forward, but was also a viable center as well.
For the next six seasons in Utah, Favors started 392 of the 412 contests he appeared in, averaging 13.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. From there, he played the 2019-20 season with the New Orleans Pelicans, starting at center and averaging 9.0 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.
During the 2020-21 season, Favors made his way back to the Jazz on a three-year, $29.2 million contract, but this time his role was much different. He came off the bench in all 68 games he played in while averaging just 5.4 points and 5.5 rebounds in 15.3 minutes per contest.
This just went to show that Favors likely isn’t a starting-caliber big on a playoff contender.
In the modern NBA, to be a starting center you must have the ability to space the floor. The pivot towards becoming a shooter’s league over the past half-decade has been to the detriment of Favors. Not only is he an undersized center at 6-foot-9, but he also plays more of the traditional big, doing his work near the rim.
In fact, over the past two seasons, Favors has only attempted nine 3-pointers. This is one of the reasons he’s become more of a backup center in the NBA. He’s also struggled with playing the power forward position like he once did with how versatile and athletic the modern forward has become.
With that in mind, he’s got the skillset to be one of the best backups in the entire league. This will be showcased in the 2021-22 season as he will have the opportunity to start on an inexperienced team that lacks depth at the center position.
It’s unlikely that his performance in Oklahoma City this season catapults him back into the starting center conversation for a true playoff team, but he could certainly intrigue one of those teams enough to trade for him to fill the backup big spot.
Just 30 years old, Favors has quite a bit left in the tank. The tricky part of his situation is the roughly $19.9 million he’s due over the next two seasons. Utah wasn’t willing to pay that much for his production, which is why they dumped him to the Thunder this summer.
There’s no question that most playoff teams could use a player like Favors, but is it worth almost $10 million per season? As of now, the answer is likely no. However, a comeback season with the Thunder as a starter could change that narrative as Thunder GM Sam Presti looks to flip Favors at some point.
While Oklahoma City has several players who can play small-ball center in Mike Muscala, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Isaiah Roby, Favors is the only true center on the roster. Not only will he start, but he should get a ton of minutes.
The last time he had a starting role was in the 2019-20 season with the Pelicans. This should be a similar role to what he will have with the Thunder, filling a void on a non-playoff team. His play with New Orleans that season ultimately landed him the large contract he’s on currently, meaning he thrived in that role. If there’s any season to compare what Favors’ role will be with the Thunder this season, it’s that one.
For Favors, the ideal scenario would be playing well enough with the Thunder for a contender to be willing to trade for his contract and fill a key bench role. He’ll have every opportunity to do just that in the 2021-22 season as a starter in Oklahoma City.