Note: While I spent hours upon hours studying, compiling & formatting video for the third part in my Derrick Favors analysis, my film program failed me greatly today and for some inexplicable reason the file has become unreadable. It would be impossible for me to make another video in time, but if you request that I add clips, I can do so at a later date – perhaps even some NBA ones as the season progresses. Thanks for understanding, guys. – Devin
When talking about the defensive potential of Derrick Favors, I feel like there’s a broken record playing. Just like his offensive skillset, he shows a lot of good tendencies but also has some fundamental flaws in his game. That being said, in his sole year at Georgia Tech, Derrick Favors showed that his upside on the defensive end is phenomenal. As he works on his game I would be very surprised if he didn’t develop into anything short of a defensive beast. As a power forward, there are four main types of defensive situations Derrick will be playing in throughout his career – being posted up, in isolation, helping on spot-up shooters, and defending the pick & roll.
As a post defender, his size alone is a huge help – with his chiseled 6’10” frame and arms that almost stretch down to his kneecaps, he’s a lot of player to shoot over. He’s also quick on his feet, although at times too timid – after picking up a foul or two he’s sometimes simply either not able or not willing to fight too hard to lock down post position. However, at the end of the day, it’s hard to imagine him not being a good post defender – even if he doesn’t develop into the offensive force we’re imagining him to become, with his length and quickness alone he’ll be able to deter a lot of shots defensively, and his hardworking nature shows when he’s battling down low to get the offense out of position. He’s not afraid of contact by any means – often initiating the banging down low, or at least working to front his man – and he uses his excellent leaping skills as well as timing to block shots when posted up. These same skills are what will make him a good help defender and defender in isolation – his quickness on his feet and his length allow him to deter shots into airballs, as he did against a UNC three-point shooter on at least one occasion.
However, there is one glaring flaw in his defensive ability: his problems defending the pick & roll. It’s strange. Despite his usual timidness, one of his biggest weaknesses defending the pick & roll is that he’s actually often far too aggressive – showing to help on the ballhandler much earlier than he should, flying out far too far to try to cut off the ballhandler, then not communicating to figure out who’s guarding the roll man. On multiple occasions, Favors would even almost be parallel to the ballhandler on the court, standing alongside him instead of cutting off a path to the basket. I’m not sure if this was part of Paul Hewitt’s strategy defensively, but it’s a habit he’ll have to break. One great sign, though, is that as a screener on offense he’s actually excellent at recognizing when players overplay the ballhandler the same way, and has on numerous occasions slid back quickly for easy shots at the rim. One video example of his recognition is in my analysis of Georgia Tech’s Offensive Issues – despite not receiving a good pass, watch as he recognizes the overplay and shoots right back down towards the basket. The fact that he understands the weakness on one side of the floor will be key when it comes to fixing it at the other.
One last positive to look at when discussing Favors on defense is his rebounding. Usually a tenacious rebounder (grabbing 11.6 rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted) , Favors on most occasions is able to find a body and really dig into his man. Sometimes, he’ll even force a good rebounder (like Ed Davis) completely out of bounds, completely removing his ability from even the potential of grabbing a rebound. Cutting off someone else with a solid boxout means one less opposing player with a chance, and if it’s their best rebounder, that’s key. This is another place where his athleticism really helps – even when he’s not in position, there are multiple examples of Favors reaching out over the defender and snaring a rebound he had no business getting. While he still has the occasional tendency to drift, that usually occurred after the Yellow Jackets fired another three they shouldn’t have been taking in the first place. Hopefully Favors isn’t too discouraged by his college experience.
All in all, Favors should be a solid defender in the post from the get-go, and as a project he will only get better. Although he’ll certainly run into foul trouble, he displays solid use of his athleticism and excellent timing on blocked shots. He’s great at helping on the weak side when a guard has found a way to the rim, and his length can deter shots from the hoop and passes from going to their intended targets. He’ll use these same raw talents to provide solid defense in isolation, but I am concerned about his ability to defend the pick & roll adequately. If Avery Johnson can work with him to temper his aggressiveness, we could see a defensive force to be reckoned with sooner than we expected.