If Suns have a Choice, Derek Favors or Jahlil Okafor?

Nov 7, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) is defended by Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor (8) during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 7, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) is defended by Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor (8) during the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

This morning a rumor broke that the Phoenix Suns have interest in trading for Utah Jazz Forward/Center Derrick Favors.

Until this season Derrick Favors had seemingly been a piece of the Utah Jazz’s long-term future at power forward until nagging knee injuries have curtailed his production for the second straight year. Questions too have arisen regarding his ability to play effectively alongside Rudy Gobert, and with Gobert and Gordon Hayward as the star centerpieces of the future for Utah, making the right moves to fit around them is imperative. Although Favors’ knee issues are certainly a reason to draw concern, at only 25-years old, it would not be a presumptive thought that Favors could still grow into a very exciting frontcourt piece for many years – regardless of the city he represents.

On the opposite side of the country, the Philadelphia 76ers have been shopping embattled Jahlil Okafor, a player who for a short time over the past few weeks had been linked to the New Orleans Pelicans. Okafor too has had a poor year in 2016-17, unable to yet reach the potential that made him the third overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft out of Duke and the 2016 fourth runner-up in the Rookie of the Year voting. The 21-year old did miss time last season due to injuries, although this year has remained relatively healthy. But even as a superior scorer, he has been unable to pass Nerlens Noel in the Philadelphia frontcourt rotation. The assumption in Philly had originally been that he could play alongside Joel Embiid, but that has yet to come to fruition, possibly making Okafor expendable.

At the moment there are no public rumors connecting the Suns to Okafor, although there had been rumors linking the two sides early in the season. With the news that the Suns have interest in Favors (and the league-wide rumors involving Okafor) it is not out of the realm of possibility that Phoenix may yet rustle through that bush once again. With the Suns’ interest in Favors and the presumption that there still may be interest in Okafor, the question becomes who would the Suns prefer to acquire?

Right now it appears that the Jazz are only ‘testing the waters’ regarding the possibility of trading Favors. Thus there may not be any significant interest in even moving him at the moment. However Okafor appears destined to be moved at some point and already has significant interest from many teams around the league, possibly even greater than Favors. The downside to this for Phoenix is that a bidding war may emerge between any number of teams, including the Suns, driving up Okafor’s trade value quickly superseding Favors’.

Derrick Favors is a superior defensive player to Jahlil Okafor, although at 21 there is no reason to believe that Okafor’s holes cannot be filled or bandaged. Averaging only 7.5 rebounds per 36 minutes this season compared to Favors’ 9.3, Okafor is actually a better shot blocker, recording 1.7 per 36 to Favors’ 1.3. Derrick averaged 11.1 rebounds per 36 in 2011-12, his peak, in only second season in the NBA.

Whereas Okafor may not be a dominant stopper down low, he in a better scorer and can be expected to far outscore Favor over his career. While Favors averaged over 16 points the last two years, a combination of injuries and not meshing well with his Utah frontcourt counterparts again has held him back this year and he has dropped his scoring average to 9.2 points, and only 14.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per 36 minutes – hardly impressive for a hopeful star big man. Okafor however averaged 17.5 points last season, his rookie year, as the team’s starting center, until injuries derealied his rookie campaign. But this season, now that he is behind Embiid and Noel, his average per game has sunk, although he still averages 17.9 per 36.

If the Suns Acquired Favors, he would be expected to step into a veteran role anchoring the frontcourt immediately. At 26-years old next season, while still young, the learning curve should be all but complete. He should be entering the prime of his career and be ready to take on a central role on the team immediately. Ryan McDonough would begin to build the roster for playoff participation more quickly and would likely be more active in improving the roster through free agency. However, as a 21-year old, Okafor would fit the long-term rebuilding timeline, and depending on what package was used to acquire him, McDonough would still treat Okafor as a piece in a developing young core, with the expectation of not making a playoff run for another 2-3 years.

As of now the rumors for Favors are nothing more than speculation that the Suns have interest. There is no guarantee that the Jazz would even be willing to trade him, let alone that the package they might request would fit into the Suns’ budget. Also the Suns aren’t publically linked to Okafor at the moment, although once a conversation has taken place, it does not mean that it is ever dead, even if the two teams have not spoken for some time. There is entirely the possibility that the two teams revisit a trade between now and Thursday and a move is made.

Next: Rumor: Suns have Interest in Derrick Favors?

If the Suns did reach a deal for either player, which would you prefer?