Derrick Favors won’t ever be a superstar. He lacks the scoring prowess of marquee bigs, and doesn’t offset that deficiency with the playmaking ability reserved for basketball’s best frontcourt passers. And though the Utah Jazz big man is far from a finished product, he’s just not a natural enough offensive player to ever emerge as a national household name.
But those realities hardly make Favors’ snub from Team USA’s August minicamp justifiable – no matter what he says. Here’s the always mild-mannered 24-year-old on the matter, courtesy of the Salt Lake Tribune’s Aaron Falk:
“I was frustrated for a while,” Favors said at the team’s practice facility Monday, his feelings somewhat tempered after having a few days to digest the news. “Overall I got over it. They picked the guys who they wanted to get. The only thing I can do is continue to work hard, continue to work on my game and prove my point next season.”
First things first: Our disappointment at Favors’ exclusion isn’t about the players participating in this week’s proceedings, or even his potential chances at making the 2016 Olympic team.
A host of highly-accomplished big men dot the national program’s 34-man minicamp roster, and the inclusion of inferior players like Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried, and Mason Plumlee is understandable simply because they played on last year’s gold-winning FIBA World Cup squad. And considering he hasn’t suited up for Team USA since his high school days in 2009, it was going to be highly unlikely Favors would go to Rio de Janeiro next summer even if he was named to the roster.
But as managing director Jerry Colangelo continues to stress, USA Basketball is about far more than overall talent or even ideal roster construction. Its failings on the world stage during the early and mid-2000s led to he and coach Mike Krzyzewski placing a premium on consistent commitment from its members. Colangelo, in fact, says that this summer’s camp “is an opportunity to continue and expand the brotherhood and camaraderie that has been built” since the program’s overhaul following the 2006 FIBA Championships. Favors even took part in a similar session as a member of the Select Team two years ago.
Accounting for his prior USAB experience and current level of effectiveness, there’s just no reason for Colangelo and company to opt against extending Favors a minicamp invitation. The decision is even more confounding given the upward trajectory of his career, as well.
Favors fits the exact mold of what Krzyzewski wants from his big men: A long, athletic, and versatile defensive-oriented player who rebounds, runs the floor, and finishes with ease and aplomb in the paint. He was a major reason Utah emerged as the league’s best defensive team over the second half of 2014-2015, and even flashed a semi-consistent jumper from mid-range, too.
There’s no reason to believe Favors is so disenchanted by this strange neglect that he’ll decide to decline future offers from the national team. He’s a good soldier. But why would Team USA risk that frustration by overlooking him this summer? There’s no difference between 34 attendees and 35, after all, and several players in Las Vegas this week – Michael Carter-Williams immediately comes to mind – have slim-to-none chances of ever wearing the red, white, and blue during meaningful competition.
Most importantly, there’s no obvious center in the national program pecking order behind Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins for the 2018 World Cup and 2020 Olympics. Based on NBA performance alone, Favors rates alongside Drummond as his country’s best bet to become it – and we believe he’s more deserving of that distinction than the Detroit Pistons’ burgeoning star.
In all likelihood, this development won’t come back to bite USA Basketball. There’s even a good chance it will light a fire under Favors that accelerates his path to all-league material. Either way, that doesn’t make his snub from minicamp any more reasonable than it seems on the surface.