NBA / Nov 16, 2010 / 12:00 pm

NBA Journeyman may turn Derrick Favors into Hasheem Thabeet

Kwame Brown was cooked before he even had a chance. While the No. 1 pick of the 2001 NBA Draft can be blamed for a lot of missteps on his road to becoming one of the most notorious draft busts of all-time, the biggest (and most overlooked) factor in Kwame’s stunted NBA growth was that the expectations for him changed in between the night he was drafted and the night his rookie season began.

The problem? Michael Jordan the front-office exec decided to come back to the League as MJ the player.

When Jordan drafted Kwame to the Wizards, he was adding a teenage project to a young rebuilding squad. Pressure and expectations were low, as it was understood that the team and its high school-to-pros rookie needed time to develop. And the Wizards (plus the public) were willing to be patient. But then Jordan decided to play, and suddenly the Wizards had to become a team that would challenge for a playoff spot. The idea of Jordan playing for a Lottery team was ridiculous.

So instead of being brought along slowly, Kwame in particular had to produce instant results. His leash got shorter, his mistakes became bigger. As chronicled in the book When Nothing Else Matters about Jordan’s comeback, MJ went from from being a nurturing mentor for Kwame to a hard-ass taskmaster. Once Jordan traded the suit for a jersey, he didn’t have the time or patience for Kwame to play like a high schooler.

Derrick Favors isn’t in danger of being the next Kwame Brown, but it’s looking like the No. 3 pick of the 2010 Draft will finish his rookie season closer to Hasheem Thabeet-level production than Blake Griffin numbers.

Why? Because the New Jersey Nets are trying to win. Head coach Avery Johnson was brought in to rebuild a team that won just 12 games last year, but Avery is accustomed to winning, and through the early stages of New Jersey’s schedule, he’s showing signs of a coach who has put the youth movement on the backburner for more immediate results. Favors is playing 20 minutes a night, second-year wing Terrence Williams is playing 24 mpg, and rookie first-round pick Damion James has logged less than eight minutes per game.

Over the last three games, seventh-year veteran Kris Humphries has been starting at power forward, which is keeping Favors’ playing time down. Last night against the Clippers, Favors played just 17 minutes (6 pts, 4 rebs), while Humphries posted a double-double with 13 points and 12 boards.

It’s tough to blame Avery for going with the lineup that will win games, but Favors also needs to get more time on the court before he gets lost in the shuffle. Humphries is making himself invaluable by doing “glue guy” things like rebounding, setting screens, running the floor hard and playing D, and is a solid enforcer for franchise center Brook Lopez. But that’s what New Jersey drafted Favors to be. The 19-year-old physically has the tools to be a defensive/rebounding force and take pressure off Lopez, but it will take time and reps in real games for him to learn the “little things” that vets like Humphries already know.

“(Favors) has given us a great lift off the bench,” point guard Devin Harris said in an NBA TV interview earlier this season. “Not so much running a lot of plays for him, but doing a lot of little things: offensive rebounds, loose balls, blocking shots. That’s the things we need him to do to kind of work himself into the game.”

Favors isn’t in the doghouse by any stretch. When he is on the court he’s rebounded well and makes up for not knowing the whole playbook by hustling and not being careless with the basketball. He’s just not getting as much time as you’d expect from a Top-3 pick. In that sense, he could find himself in a situation similar to Thabeet (No. 2 pick, 2009 Draft) last year, when the Memphis Grizzlies unexpectedly had a chance at making the playoffs and didn’t have time to let the rookie learn on the job.

“Somewhere around the halfway point of the season or maybe if it’s sooner, if something really comes along faster, then we’ll take a look at maybe starting (Favors) or growing his minutes,” Avery Johnson told NBA.com. “But right now we really like where he is.”

When I interviewed him before the season, Favors said all the right things about doing whatever his coach asks and just being an eager, patient pupil early in his career. Hopefully he sticks to that positive attitude, because as long as the Nets are within striking distance of a playoff spot — they’re currently in 9th place in the East — he may see even more of his minutes wind up on Humphries’ stat sheet.

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  • Dennis

    I find this to be an unfair look at Favors. Thabeet was a 3 college athlete and when he did come to the NBA he just looked lost on the court. He didn’t get minutes because it basically turned into a 4 on 5 minus a block and 2 weird fouls that Thabeet committed.

    Favors is getting his time out on the court, and though his stats aren’t showing it, he is doing a great job for a 19 year old. But he is also a 19 year old and growing into his role as an NBA player. Hump has earned his spot on the court, he hustles on both ends of the court, and in the last two games put Dwight in foul trouble, and help Blake Griffin in check.

    If Favors got Troy Murphy minutes I would worry but to have Favors as our 20-25 minute guy off the bench with Farmar and Twill (when healthy) is a great second unit.

  • http://www.mohercansukit.com Chicagorilla

    Whats wrong with Favors gettin 20min a night? He is the equivalent to Ibaka in OKC or Tyrus Thomas when he was on the Bulls. Favors needed another year or two of college if he wanted to play right away. His IQ is that of not just a rookie, but a college sophmore. Same thing Avery did with Devin Harris and it helped him. Also Kwame sucked balls because he has no work ethic. Stop blaming others because he failed. Dude had some skills he just refused to work on them. Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry are no different. Btw, besides Pau, who else were the Wiz supposed to draft from that crop of bums in 01′? Arenas eventually ended up on the Wiz and every team passed on him in the 1st round. Anyone else wouldve been a bust as the #1 pick.

  • dmitry of jersey

    I’m with Dennis here…lumping Favors with Thabeet is just uncalled for. Big men in the NBA go 3 ways:

    1. Instant success, like Griffin, Duncan etc
    2. Instant failure, like Thabeet
    3. Gradual success, like Jermaine O’neal, Marc Gasol. Favors seems to be on this path and there is nothing wrong with that.

  • nola

    20 minutes on the court is bad? not every rookie can be put in a situation where he’s free to play 35+ minutes and have the greenlight for any shot he wants. if anything, i think that situation is worse for a rookie. look at players like lebron who (as good as he is) never received any discipline as a player because for his entire career, everything has been given to him. he gets whatever he wants.

  • Zero

    Completely flawed article. Favors will not go to the D League. His case is entirely different from the case back with Kwame.

    No, the Nets franchise do not have a “WIN NOW” mentality. They may have gotten a new owner in Prokorovh who promised a championship winning team in the next half decade, but that was only because he is a highly competitive and ambitious NEW/INEXPERIENCED OWNER. With the terrible free agent acquisitions of Outlaw and Morrow, giving them contracts that seem ridiculous for the stats they’ve put up in their careers, no one expected any major turnaround for the 10-11 season. If the Nets got LeBron that would be another story, but the NETS were hoping they were going to get him or Rudy Gay or Boozer. We all know that didn’t happen.

    Never in the Nets’ mind did they ever really consider starting Favors, does that mean he should just go down to the D League? No, it doesn’t. He is one of the most efficient players in the LEAGUE with the limited minutes he gets off the bench. He does his job right as you said which makes your argument completely flawed. Thabeet produced nothing and was a complete liability for the Grizzlies last year. His offensive skills were a ton worse than Favors, he has no ahtleticism, his physicality is extremely low which contributed to low rebounding for the minutes he got. So in actuality, Favors is looking great. The Nets didn’t expect much from Favors and that is why both parties are benefiting right now.

    Its just two-three weeks, how much can you expect from a rookie. So far, no rookie has played major minutes this season except for John Wall and Eric Bledsoe. With your logic, we would think that Cousins should go down to the D League too right? Last time I checked, Cousins has been playing super sloppy. But like you said, Favors doesnt do anything careless. Cousins had the starting job due to injury and then lost it in a heartbeat.

    LETS NOT MAKE HEADLINES BY MAKING THEORIES UP! Just like when people thought Terrence Williams was headed to the D League, sheesh.

    I wrote enough, maybe next time use this as your next article.

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    @Zero — Re-read the article: “Derrick Favors isn’t in danger of being the next Kwame Brown, but it’s looking like the No. 3 pick of the 2010 Draft will finish his rookie season closer to Hasheem Thabeet-level production than Blake Griffin numbers.”

    Thabeet averaged 3.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 13 mpg as a rookie. Blake is averaging 16.1 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 34 mpg as a rookie. Which stat line is closer to Favors’ production? Favors is currently at 7.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 20 mpg. The more Avery likes Humphries and if the Nets stay in the playoff picture, do you think Favors is more likely to lose 7 mpg, or gain 14 mpg?

    There are actually 7 rookies who are getting more minutes than Favors: Wall, Turner, Bledsoe, Griffin, Cousins, Landry Fields and Wes Johnson.

    Again, re-read: “In that sense, he could find himself in a situation similar to Thabeet (No. 2 pick, 2009 Draft) last year, when the Memphis Grizzlies unexpectedly had a chance at making the playoffs and didn’t have time to let the rookie learn on the job.”

    Did I say Favors will be a bust or that he needs to go to the D-League? You might think Thabeet sucks, but obviously the Grizzlies drafted him thinking otherwise. When the team had a chance at the playoffs, though, letting the rookie develop was put on the backburner because they had to play Marc Gasol and their big guys who were more NBA-ready. Thabeet’s minutes went up in March and April, when Memphis’ playoffs hopes began fading and they could focus again on developing him. That could easily happen to Favors.