What If Wednesday is a weekly topic made by the society writers giving opinions on what could have happened in certain events in the NBA/NCAA. This week we are going over the Deron Williams trade to the New Jersey Nets.
Deron Williams was a prolific player coming out of the University of Illinois. He won many awards there during his junior season, including First Team All-Big Ten and leading the Fighting Illini to the NCAA Championship. Despite losing to the University of North Carolina, Williams was considered a top player and even a finalist for the Wooden Award (best college player).
After the loss he declared for the draft, forgoing his final season at Illinois. In the 2005 NBA Draft, Williams was selected 3rd overall to the Utah Jazz. He was selected over Chris Paul, who at the time sports writers had debates upon who would be the better point guard.
For the first 6 years in Utah, he had success, making the playoffs four of those years, including a Western Conference Finals appearance. The Jazz back then was not only Williams leading the way, they also had Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur, Kyle Korver, and a young Paul Millsap. The team on paper looked great and in a tough Western Conference with the Spurs and Lakers being who they were, it was tough for them to make any sort of Finals run.
Fast forward to the middle of the 2010-2011 season, February 7th to be exact, when longtime Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan made a shocking decision to resign. A lot of people were pointing fingers at Williams, who apparently had clashes with Sloan during meetings, practices and games. There also had been talks on Williams not wanting to re-sign with Utah. So in desperation at the time, right after the 2011 All-Star Game, Williams was traded to the then New Jersey Nets in exchange for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, two 1st-round picks and $3 million. It was another shocking move at the time but let’s break down each asset of the trade and see how it panned out for both sides.
Utah Jazz Received:
PG Devin Harris: At the time, Harris was playing great for New Jersey. After spending the first three and a half seasons in Dallas as a backup, he was traded to the Nets. His best season came in 2008-09 when he averaged 21.3 PPG and earned himself an All-Star appearance. By the time he was traded he was looked at as more of a fill-in starter until they were able to find an upgrade. He left the Jazz in 2012 to sign with the Hawks and has carved out a nice role for himself back in Dallas where he began his career.
PF Derrick Favors: Favors was a rookie at the time and looked like he was going to have a nice career in New Jersey. The Jazz wanted young talent to start rebuilding and they knew the Nets were in a “win now” mode and willing to give up young potential talent for a top point guard at the time. Recently he signed a nice extension with Utah and it looks like he will be the cornerstone of the franchise for years to come.
Two 1st-Round Picks: In the 2011 Draft, the Jazz used that selection to pick Enes Kanter from Turkey with the third overall selection. For the first couple of years he looked like a great building block to the team, but after playing behind the likes of Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Paul Millsap and now recently Rudy Gobert, he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder this past trade deadline. The second pick was a conditional pick from the Golden State Warriors and ultimately they kept it and used it to select Harrison Barnes.
New Jersey Nets Received:
PG Deron Williams: The Nets wanted to win and figured that Deron Williams would help them out as title contenders. That has not worked out for them and it looks like the window has closed. Despite him making an All-Star appearance, the team has never made it past the second round of the playoffs. When he was a free agent in the 2012 offseason, the Nets signed Williams to a 5-year, $98 million deal. At the time it seemed a sure fire thing that they could be a championship team with also the acquisition of Joe Johnson, signing Brook Lopez, and also trading for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Much like Jerry Sloan resigning, the management of the Nets fired Avery Johnson after a 14-14 record for the new Brooklyn Nets because of rumors that Deron Williams was clashing with Avery Johnson.
Now lets look at what each team has been doing as of late. As stated earlier, the Nets never performed to their potential and as for the Jazz it looks like they will have a nice building block in Favors and not worrying amount Williams’ large salary. What if the Nets never actually accepted the trade?
Deron Williams at the time was unsure if he wanted to sign a long-term deal with Utah, so if the trade never happened then Williams would have left for free agency for the 2012 season to sign with another big market team, like the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks maybe even New Jersey could have signed him to a contract that wasn’t as big as the $98 million. Even though Deron Williams was a top player at the time, constant ankle injuries have kept him struggling, not to mention the arguments and disagreements with coaches.
So if Williams wasn’t traded, then Derrick Favors would have been with the Nets for a long period of time, and I think could have complemented well with Brook Lopez. Devin Harris was playing well with the Nets at the time so he would have been a consistent starting point guard until they found an upgrade. As for the 2011 first-round pick, I do not think they would have used it on Enes Kanter as they had Favors and Lopez. Even with a lottery system, the Nets won the 3rd pick in the draft but it was sent to Utah. So if the draft stayed the same order, Kyrie Irving would be selected first to Cleveland and Derrick Williams would be selected second, then with the third pick the Nets could have picked the services of either Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker to help out there Point Guard needs.
So overall, this trade at the time seemed like the Nets won because of a high caliber player like Williams, but looking at it a couple of years later it seems like the Jazz have won it not only because of Derrick Favors, but also the fact that Deron Williams’ contract is large enough where they have no financial flexibility to sign other top name free agents. Meanwhile the Jazz have a nice core with Favors, Trey Burke, Dante Exum, Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert. As for the other two involved, Harris has a nice role with Dallas and Kanter is now starting for the Thunder and is a nightly double-double machine.