SALT LAKE CITY — For a number of years, Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey and head coach Quin Snyder have been asked if the team can truly be successful with big men Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors sharing the floor at the same time.
Up until last season’s trade deadline, however, the Jazz didn’t really have a starting-quality forward to pair with Gobert, so he and Favors played plenty together. But then Utah acquired Jae Crowder at the trade deadline, and Snyder almost immediately started playing Crowder and Gobert together more than Gobert and Favors.
Now with the 2018-19 season in the books, it has become more and more clear how Snyder views the “power forward” position moving forward: In the regular season, Gobert and Crowder played 1,369 minutes together, while Gobert and Favors shared the court for just 739 minutes.
As the season progressed, the roles of all three players settled into what is seen more and more in today’s NBA: Gobert was one of the best rim-running and shot-blocking centers in the league, while Crowder at 6-foot-6 spent most of his time on the perimeter offensively but had the size to defend other modern power forwards.
Favors, then, assumed more the role of backup center rather than playing power forward as a non-shooter (although he did try, rather unsuccessfully, to shoot more 3-pointers when playing with Gobert).
The overall results for all three players had both positives and negatives. In the minutes Crowder played with the other usual starters (Gobert, Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles), the Jazz were rather phenomenal, finishing with a net rating of exactly 12 during the regular season, the best among the 23 most-used lineups in the NBA.
The lineup of Favors with Rubio, Mitchell, Ingles and Gobert finished the regular season with a net rating of 5.1, 14th out of the top 23 most-used lineups in the league (the combo of Favors with the other starters wound up playing 23 more minutes on the regular season than Crowder with the other starters).
Individually, Favors mostly fared well with his primary role being that of Gobert’s backup (even though he started 70 regular-season games). After a number of years dealing with nagging injuries, the longest-tenured Jazzman was healthy for most of the season and wound up averaging 11.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
“I think for the most part I got comfortable in my role coming off the bench, playing the backup (center) position,” he said during exit interviews. “I kind of bought into it a little bit more as the season went on. I wasn’t stressing about points or being involved in the offense as much. I was just going out there and just playing hard basically, just finding my role, finding different ways to be effective. … I kind of bought into it, and I think that’s what helped me out a lot.”
- Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives to the basket as Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, left, and forward Derrick Favors (15) defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, In Houston. Eric Christian Smith, AP
- Utah's Rudy Gobert stretches during a pre-game practice before taking on the Houston Rockets in Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Houston on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. Laura Seitz, Deseret News
- Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) is blocked by Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) during Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Houston on Wednesday, April 24, 2019. Laura Seitz, Deseret News
- Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) fouls Oklahoma City Thunder forward Abdel Nader (11) as he shoots during an NBA game at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 11, 2019. The Jazz lost 89-98. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
- Utah Jazz forward Jae Crowder (99) shoots over Houston Rockets forward PJ Tucker (17) during Game 4 of the NBA Playoffs at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 22, 2019. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
- Utah Jazz forward Jae Crowder (99) gets to the basket past Houston Rockets forward PJ Tucker (17) during Game 4 of the NBA Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, April 22, 2019. Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Utah has a team option on Favors’ contract, but both he and Lindsey expressed at exit interviews a heavy interest in him coming back next season.
Crowder averaged 11.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists per contest. If there was a knock on his season, perhaps it should lie with Snyder as much as anyone, as Crowder finished tied for 13th in the NBA in 3-point attempts, but made just 33 percent of them.
The Marquette product, though, became one of the Jazz’s leaders, especially in bringing a mentality of toughness.
“I didn’t know the guys listened to me and watched me as much as they do. … That helped solidify that I have a major role on this team, and I didn’t take it for granted,” he said. “I’m very appreciative of my teammates believing in me and believing in what I bring.”
In the middle of it was Gobert, who, in addition to making a strong case for winning a second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year Award, became even more of a focal point of Utah’s offense with his ability to set screens and roll hard to the basket, often for alley-oops.
The native of France led the league in field goal percentage (67 percent) while averaging 15.9 points per game and finished third in blocks (2.31 per game) and fourth in rebounds (12.9 per game).
He wants more next season, however.
“I think I’ve been putting too many limits on myself and what I can do for this team,” he said. “Now I have a little bit more time to work and come back as a better player.”