clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The return of Derrick Favors has given the New Orleans Pelicans a new lease on life this season

New, comments

You know about the defense and rebounding so don’t overlook the dividends of the big fella’s offensive production!

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Derrick Favors is back, healthy, and playing instrumental basketball for the New Orleans Pelicans.

So much was previously said in regards to Favors while he was battling injuries on the court earlier in the season — nevertheless he was an irreplaceable figure when off the floor. Somehow through it all, Favors is playing at a level again that could easily have you forget all the turmoil which includes missing almost a month of game action.

When pinpointing Favors’ important contributions, the praise centers around his defensive impact, aggression on the boards, and the fundamentals/attention to detail the nine-year veteran equips on a nightly basis.

With Favors on the floor, the Pelicans are simply a more complete team on both ends of the floor. When you consider the drastic defensive leaps, the communication breakthroughs and the additions to the win column of late, it’s fair to question whether he is the Pelicans mort important player on this roster.

Brandon Ingram’s ascendancy into stardom and Jrue Holiday’s sometimes rocky but elite two-way contributions already had NOLA knocking on several opponents’ doors in the midst of dogfights for victory. Favors appears to be the additional calming force needed when adversity comes calling — ironic considering the unimaginable tragedy that he and his family recently were forced to deal with.

For all that can be said about his intangibles and carrying the load of the team’s dirty work, Favors offensive contributions deserve just as much love and recognition.

He probably won’t lead the Pelicans in scoring much this season, but his skills, instincts, and IQ will buoy several teammates around him in accomplishing that feat. Let’s take a look at some videos for a deeper dive, positioning around a staple of every NBA playbook: The Pick and Roll.

It’s one of the simplest actions a team can run, but the decisions made throughout the play can add so many layers and difficult challenges. From his short roll instincts to his passing vision to his decisiveness, Derrick Favors has shown the Pelicans a little bit of everything throughout his 16 game introduction,

In the first play below, Favors comes to set a high screen. As a Holiday trap ensues, Favors smoothly steps into open space and waits for a pass, knowing that he’ll be in prime position to attack the defense.

The beauty in this sequence is that Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris can’t leave Favors. While he isn’t necessarily a threat from that distance, Favors possesses the patience and awareness to drive that basketball into an interior look for himself or a teammate. Harris chooses to attack Favors, who quickly assesses the right move, and Lonzo Ball ands up nailing a clutch, uncontested three-pointer.

The next attachment shows several highlights from Favors best game of the season, where he recorded 20 points and 20 rebounds versus the Clippers back in November. The first highlight of this package is what we want to focus on though as it feeds off of our opening example from the Nuggets game. It further details the havoc Favors can create on opposing defenses.

Upon catching a neat bounce pass, Favors eyes the Clippers to see if they will help on his drive attempt. They choose to stay home so in response he swiftly lowers his shoulder with zero hesitation, completing a strong And-1 opportunity.

Here’s a similar play from the Nuggets game where after rolling out of a screen Favors catches the ball and looks to make the right play. The difference is, he probably doesn’t have much longer in the paint before a violation should be whistled, and has Jamal Murray right under him in his landing area as he gathers the ball.

Favors has to make a quick read and decisive move under control. There are a plethora of big men, who upon catching and turning would have:

  1. Elbowed Murray into the hospital
  2. Traveled
  3. Made a contested corner pass expecting help

Watch Favors avoid all three obstacles while smoothly taking advantage of the mismatch down low.

On top of his threat to destroy defenses as the “roll man,” the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket has been working on a floater from inside ten feet that we’ve seen find some success on occasion — due to the work he puts in during pre-game.

Favors’ advanced numbers don’t show the headaches he’s giving opponents like our video examples just yet, but it’s clear his playmaking ability in space should be a go-to of sorts for the New Orleans offense going forward. Especially those instances involving off-the-ball stress he can cause defenses.

Favors simply gives the Pelicans a well-rounded weapon that isn’t replaceable on this roster. There’s no other center who can duplicate his wide array of talents and threaten opponents as we learned in his absence. Not Jahlil Okafor. Not rookie Jaxson Hayes, even though he’s shown flashes of excellent basketball — especially defensively.

Believe it or not, Hayes ranks first in the NBA in free throw frequency as the roll man for players with a minimum of 10 minutes per game and 10 possessions per play type. But Hayes’ body and raw skill set limits his current ceiling out of the pick and roll as he’s best used as a dive/poster artist almost 100 percent of the time. With further polish and additional weight, those free throw attempts should turn into various types of finishes for Hayes.

The Pelicans final remaining true center in Okafor is still in the transition phase of learning to move quickly and decisively in tight spaces. Due to being a methodical post player on most of his touches in his career, the type of movement required in Alvin Gentry’s offense often turns into telegraphed spin move attempts and awkward looking possessions. In addition, Okafor’s defense remains a work in progress.

This all brings the shining light back to Derrick Favors. His body, combined with the ability to make smart and effective plays, assists New Orleans in the half-court immensely, where they have struggled this season with shot selection, turnovers, and consistent quality possessions. The less you turn the ball over or allow opportunities for long rebounds, the less frequent you end up in easy scoring opportunities for the opponent.

Much to the chagrin of management, things were slowly starting to appear as if the whole organization was dependent solely on the arrival of Zion Williamson, making him exactly what they didn’t want in regards to expectation or perception — a saving grace.

The attention shaping, breathtaking, charismatic phenom was the juice New Orleans seemingly needed during the 13-game losing streak. While that still may be the case in some respects, NOLA has found their glue in the process, and now after Christmas, it should no longer be a secret across the league. Derrick Favors may not say a ton, but his game speaks volumes as he’s been the primary reason the Pelicans have been getting over the hump in winning three of their last four contests.

You know what they say: It’s the quiet ones you have to look out for.