Just under two weeks ago, it was reported that Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan had retired after 23 seasons with the team. The aftermath resulted in speculation as to whether a half-time argument with Deron Williams pushed Sloan into retirement. There was talk how the situation had boiled down to the organization having to choose between Williams and Sloan. Now it appears the team is left with neither.
In Wednesdays deal, the Nets have re-energized their lackluster fan base, in an attempt to draw excitement prior to the teams expected move to Brooklyn. The Nets acquisition of Deron Williams in exchange for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, two first round picks and $3 million dollars, can be compared to the Nets famous acquisition of Jason Kidd for Stephon Marbury and Soumaila Samake.Ten years ago, armed with Jason Kidd, the Nets moved from perennial doormat, to the top of the eastern conference overnight. Despite running with a sub par supporting cast, Kidd managed to bring out the best of everyone and propel his team through the leastern conference. With the move, the Nets immediately become a more favorable destination for future free agents, playing in Brooklyn and having a point guard in Williams, who will put players in position to succeed. Regardless of the alleged arguments between Williams and Sloan, it is obvious to even the casual fan, that D-Will is a guy any basketball player would love to play with.
While Harris is a nice guard, who made the All-Star team two years ago for the Nets, he never quite meshed with head coach Avery Johnson. It was only a matter of time before Harris was moved, since Harris and Johnson had butted heads previously in Dallas. While Williams is a clear upgrade over Harris, was it worth it for the Nets to trade two first round picks and Derrick Favors to complete the deal? The answer is a resounding YESSSSSS!
The seven or eight folks out there who have been able to sit through Nets games this season, will tell you that Favors has a long way to go before becoming a difference maker. For every athletic play he makes, he finds himself out of position, or fouling, or fumbling the ball at least 3 times. He may blossom into a productive player, but I don’t see any justification for his selection over DeMarcus Cousins. As for those two first round picks, they can easily be recouped by having the Russian Mutant Mark Cuban as your owner. Just like Prokhorov was willing to spend $3 million to get this deal done, he will be willing to spend millions to acquire picks in the future.
After a summer filled with questionable decisions, including the selections of Favors over Cousins and the signing of Travis Outlaw, the Nets have finally made their big splash. Unfortunately the Nets currently sit 9 games out of the playoffs, with only 25 games remaining. This means Prokhorov’s plan for the Nets to make the playoffs this season and win a championship within five years may not be off to the greatest start, but this move certainly represents some progress.
The Jazz on the other hand, may have saved their future by striking this deal early. With all the current tension in Utah surrounding the departure of Jerry Sloan and the teams recent slide, it appeared very unlikely that Deron Williams would remain in Utah long-term. Rather than allow 18 months of speculation, and force the team into the same soap opera the Denver Nuggets just concluded, the Jazz came away with a deal that allows them to remain competitive in the future, and rebuild on the fly.
While Harris is not the same caliber player as Williams, he is good enough to help the team compete for a playoff spot. Realistically, this years Jazz team was probably not getting out of the first round, which is likely where the team stands after the deal. Now the Jazz can fight for a playoff spot, while picking up a young big man in Derrick Favors and a few nice draft picks. Favors should find Utah to be a more comfortable situation, as he can develop slowly behind Paul Milsap and Al Jefferson, while running Utah’s more simple pick and roll offense. Favors may be the real winner in this deal, as he no longer has to listen to Avery Johnson yelling at him to stop screwing up all the time.
In addition to this move, the Nets made another sideways trade with Golden State, sending Troy Murphy and a second round pick in return for Brandan Wright and Dan Gadzuric. Brandan Wright is a nice player when he’s healthy, but then again, if I had 1000x more talent and was 6″6 I’d be Michael Jordan. Gadzuric is a serviceable backup center in short spurts, and maybe he can remind Brooke Lopez that centers are supposed to get rebounds. Either way, this deal doesn’t do too much, since all the players involved are in the last years of their respective deals.
While Deron Williams may turn out to be angry that he was traded to a non-playoff team, this trade still represents a change in perception of the Nets. Even if Deron Williams walks in a year and half, Prokhorov has finally shown the NBA that he is willing to spend big to make his team competitive.
In these past two days, we have seen two of the NBA’s top 10 talents moved. What will happen next?