Adding Mike Conley was a huge win for the Utah Jazz. But doing so while also keeping Derrick Favors was almost unbelievably fortunate.
The Utah Jazz could do little more this offseason than fill out their roster with scrubs from the local YMCA and it would still be considered an absolute success. By adding prolific point guard Mike Conley, who should fit the team’s style and culture like a glove, to an already talented roster, this team looks poised to take a major leap in the West next season.
After coming off the best statistical season of his career in 2018-19 in Memphis which saw him post 21.1 points per game to go along with 6.4 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals on solid efficiency from the field, Conley will almost certainly be a largely impactful addition for the Jazz. For a deeper dive on how his style of play will be a match made in heaven in Utah, be sure to check out my piece on the matter here.
But by sending away Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, Grayson Allen and a pair of first-round picks for Mike Conley, the Jazz did more than hit the jackpot by adding a talented point guard who should fit perfectly. They also hit a grand slam by managing to hold onto starting power forward Derrick Favors.
For weeks, the speculation was that for the Jazz to be able to pull off any sort of meaningful trade, they’d need to include Derrick in the mix. After all, with a non-guaranteed contract and the fact that he’s easily one of Utah’s top-five best players, he was among their best assets. Figure in as well that – in the case of Conley specifically – the Jazz would be taking on significant salary, and many figured it would just make sense to part ways with Favors to alleviate some financial stress.
However, front office wizards Dennis Lindsey, Justin Zanik and Co. worked their magic and managed to keep a hold of Favors while still adding their primary target – Mike Conley. This is highly significant for the Jazz as Derrick Favors has been crucial to Utah’s success both in the regular season and the playoffs, and keeping him on board no doubt strengthens the Jazz moving forward. That’s even more true with Conley now set to run the point.
Despite logging fewer minutes than he deserves or is capable of, Favors has been ideal for the Jazz as he’s always perfectly accepted his role and done the things that have been asked of him without question. By backing up Rudy Gobert at the center spot, he provides Utah with 48 minutes of unyielding defense and rim protection. He is also more capable of defending fours out to the perimeter, which makes him an essential piece of Utah’s versatile defense.
Not only that, but Favs is a rebounder extraordinaire whose sheer hustle and grit have gone as far as to turn the tide in playoff series – just ask the 2017 LA Clippers and 2018 OKC Thunder about that as he was revolutionary in both postseason matchups.
As Dennis Lindsey said to close out the 2018-19 season, Derrick Favors isn’t a part of the problem in Utah – a problem that has involved a shortage of spacing and shooting prowess – instead, he’s a part of the solution.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s the answer as a deep-ball threat despite consistent effort to add a 3-pointer to his game and unrelenting hopes from fans that he can follow in the perimeter shooting footsteps of big man Brook Lopez. What it means is that Favors brings so many intangibles – defense, extra possessions, rebounding, versatility on both ends of the floor, hustle, energy, etc. – that he has marked himself as a crucial piece of this Jazz roster.
Add in that he’ll now have the luxury of playing with the best point guard to suit up in a Jazz uniform since the days of Deron Williams, and Derrick is likely to be even more effective this season. No longer will Utah be plagued by a starting lineup that only has two shooting threats in Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles as Mike Conley will now fill that void in an immense way.
The added space that will provide will give Favors more opportunities in the mid-range and better chances as the roll man attacking the rim in the pick and roll. Despite adding a star-caliber point guard and the best player in the trade by obtaining Mike Conley, the Jazz also kept one of their best players on the roster. And that right there was a huge (and in many ways largely unexpected) win.
Not only was keeping hold of Derrick Favors while snagging Conley massive for the Jazz because of how talented Derrick is, but it could be significant for another reason. Favors yet remains one of Utah’s best trade assets, so holding on to him rather than dealing him could potentially allow the Jazz to add another star or near-star player.
Now, the odds of this are very much slim giving the tricky financial spot Utah is in, but there are possible avenues where it could happen. I recently wrote about as much in relation to the Jazz potentially being able to deal Favors and Exum to clear way to bring in Tobias Harris, who has expressed strong interest in the Jazz. Unfortunately, before you get your hopes up too high, it’s unlikely at best that such will be plausible.
Any sort of transaction along those lines would require finding three teams willing to cooperate, including Philadelphia. It would also require one of either Philadelphia and another team to be interested in taking on one or both of Favors and Exum. Favors is a great piece, but still has to be in the right fit, of course. And Exum, well, he’s about as risky as they come given his injury history.
To be frank, I’ll be shocked if either one of those two players suit up for any other team besides the Jazz to start next season, and that’s perfectly fine. Keeping Derrick Favors was obviously a high priority for Jazz brass this summer and they found a way to do it. Whether he’s now able to hit the floor along newcomer Conley and the rest of his teammates (which makes a ton of sense and is most likely) or if he’s used to bring in additional pieces, the fact that the Jazz kept him in the trade is nothing short of monumental.
No matter how you look at it or how the remaining pieces shake out this summer, the Jazz have managed to add one of the league’s best point guards while keeping a strong and daunting roster intact, which includes Derrick Favors, who could have an even better season in 2019-20 with an enhanced point guard in tow.
The Jazz obviously aren’t done yet this summer as they need to fill out their roster and have a roughly $4.8 million Room exception they can use to bring in additional talent. That said, no matter how they close things out before season’s start in October, they’ve already won the offseason in a big, bad way by adding Mike Conley and keeping big man Derrick Favors.
This squad has set itself up to compete with the best of the best in the West. Next season can’t get here soon enough.