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Why Derrick Favors won't shine during Rudy Gobert's absence

Derrick Favors has a great opportunity to step his game up with Rudy Gobert sidelined, but will he come through? Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we pose a question to a panel of ESPN fantasy basketball experts to gauge their thoughts on a hot topic.

Today's contributors are ESPN Fantasy's John Cregan, Jim McCormick, Kyle Soppe and Joe Kaiser.

The Utah Jazz lost Rudy Gobert for four to six weeks due to a knee injury sustained Friday. This opens the door for Derrick Favors, who has been frustrating fantasy managers since the 2015-16 season. Do you think he will shine?


John Cregan: After seeing Favors' minutes yo-yoed, Gobert's injury means this is as locked in as he will get in terms of a rotation spot. But ... rostering Favors is always a maddening proposition. But ... I've noticed a tendency over Favors' schizophrenic statistical history: When he's blocking shots, he manages some kind of fantasy consistency.

If he's at or near 1.5 blocks per night, his other production tends to slot in place. And replacing Gobert should put a focus on his shot-blocking. The out-of-position steals are a nice bonus at the five. 13.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals per game feel like a reasonable expectation.

Kyle Soppe: I expect Favors to still be frustrating, but he certainly deserves to be added (available in roughly 48 percent of leagues). Why will he remain frustrating? Gobert ranked 37th among centers in usage last season and currently sits at 32nd this season -- quick reminder: There are only 30 teams in the NBA.

So, yeah, the role bump that Favors is getting for the next four to six weeks isn't the most fantasy-friendly. Having said that, the Jazz don't play a strong defense for the rest of November, and we've seen him produce fine numbers in the two games sans Gobert in plus-matchups (16.5 points, 11 rebounds and 2.5 blocks-plus-steals per game ... looks a little bit like Gobert's 13.9/10.5/3.6 for this season?).

For the rest of this calendar year, I could see Favors averaging roughly 13-14 points to go along with 7-8 rebounds a night, which are roster-worthy numbers in most formats.

Joe Kaiser: I don't think Favors has it in him to shine, with or without Gobert. He has put together a few nice games lately, but they came against the Nets and Timberwolves -- two of the very worst defenses in the league -- and he doesn't score enough, block enough shots or shoot the 3-ball enough to be a coveted big man in fantasy.

While his rebounding will likely rise from the 5.4 RPG that he's averaged in Utah's first 14 games, keep in mind that Favors has never averaged more than 8.7 RPG in any of his first seven seasons. He remains outside of my top 120, even without Gobert.

Jim McCormick: At the height of health in his early 20s, Favors posted an elite block rate -- an estimate of the percentage of field goal attempts a player blocked while on the floor -- of 4.3 percent during his first five seasons. For some context, gifted rim-protector Anthony Davis has a block rate of 4.9 percent in the past three campaigns.

During the past two seasons, Favors' block rate has dipped to just 2.6 percent, removing any elite appeal he offered on the defensive end. I focus on his block rate since that's the skill set that could differentiate him from his otherwise pedestrian production rates. In the past two seasons, even when we extrapolate things to an inflated per-36 clip, Favors has averaged 14.6 points and 8.7 rebounds, yet with 1.1 blocks per 36 minutes.

Until and unless the special block rate returns, something we haven't seen happen very often over career arcs (think about Serge Ibaka's decline), I don't think Favors is much more than Trevor Booker with a bit better defensive production. This isn't a slight to Favors, as he has admirably returned from a series of significant injuries, yet my lofty expectations for this season have resulted in the same diminished rates we witnessed last season.

I think the best hope for the next month or so is for Favors to near double-double production without any special defensive rates during Gobert's absence.