It was a little over two years when Jazz fans had their world turned upside down. The team was spiraling downhill after a promising start to the season, legendary coach Jerry Sloan had just walked away seemingly in the middle of the night and Deron Williams was traded away to the Nets.
A lot of the blame for Jerry quitting fell on Williams. It was reported that the two had been arguing for months and a major blow up after the Bulls game ended up being the straw that broke the camel’s back. Soon after, Williams was shipped to New Jersey for a collection of draft picks and players.
Coming off one of their performances of the season last night in Portland, where the Jazz beat the Blazers 105-95 behind a strong 28 points from Mo Williams, the Jazz are suddenly on a three-game winning streak. The Nets make their way to Salt Lake city tonight and the Jazz need to keep the streak alive in must-win game.
“Every game is a must-win for us,” said Al Jefferson. “We have to come out and fight like each game could be our last.”
With the homecoming of Deron Williams it feels appropriate to examine how each piece of the trade has fared since the blockbuster deal and if the Jazz made the right move shipping away their star.
When the Nets failed to land Carmelo Anthony after six months of negotiations and what seemed like a hundred failed trades, they pulled the trigger fast and silently to get Williams. The Jazz didn’t feel confident that Williams would re-sign with the team at the end of his deal and with him taking a lot of the heat from fans about Sloan walking away coupled with the team struggling they were probably right. Deron has never come out and said whether or not he would have signed with the Jazz, but it didn’t seem like it was going to work out.
The first season and a half Williams was with the Nets, they were a lame duck team. Two new owners, Russian-billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and Hip-Hop superstar Jay-Z were moving the team to Brooklyn in 2012 and there were no other star players on the team, unless you count Mr. Kardashian, Kris Humphries.
This past off-season the team gave Williams a max-contract, making him the face of the franchise as they moved to their new home in Brooklyn. They added Joe Johnson to help take some of the load of Williams and also re-signed big man Brook Lopez.
The Nets have been greatly improved this season at 42-30 but not necessarily outstanding. Williams was inconsistent at the beginning of the year, to the point of calling out his coach’s offense and saying that he liked the way the Jazz ran their sets and plays. Only a few days after those comments Avery Johnson was fired and Deron has played a lot better since.
Deron’s numbers have been very similar to his days in Utah, with the Nets he is averaging 18 PPG and while with the Jazz he averaged 17.5. His assists per game have also been similar, averaging just under eight dimes per game this season.
The Nets got what they wanted in the trade, a superstar who they could build their re-branded franchise around. While Deron hasn’t been spectacular, the Nets are in the playoffs for the first time in a while and he is still a top-ten point guard.
The pieces the Jazz got are a little more interesting. They received a young and raw Derrick Favors who at the time of the trade was the youngest player in the NBA. Veteran point guard Devin Harris also came over along with cash and draft picks. The ping pong balls were kind to the Jazz that off-season as the pick they received from the Nets ended up being number three, a pick the Jazz used to select big man Enes Kanter. They haven’t been able to use the other pick they received yet. Last year it was a top-eight protected pick that originally belonged with Golden State, and we all remember how hard they tanked to keep it. It looks like the Jazz will get that pick this year, it is top-seven protected but the Warriors are firmly entrenched in the playoffs so it’s safe to say that pick will come to the Jazz as a mid to late first rounder.
The Jazz never really had huge expectations for Harris while he was here. The team planned on him being a stopgap at the position and that’s exactly what he was. He only had one memorable moment while with the team, his game-winning floater and free throw at the end of the game to beat the Miami Heat.
He was traded for Marvin Williams this last off-season. Marvin has also been a disappointment with the Jazz but has seemed to find a niche coming off the bench in recent weeks.
A lot of Jazz fans were surprised when the team didn’t take Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker with this pick. Either young guard seemed like they could come in and take over where Deron left off. The Jazz opted to go with “Big Turkey” and his potential. Year one was rough for Kanter; he had problems adjusting to the athleticism of guys in the league and seemed to be bobbling the ball out of bounds all the time.
This off-season Kanter put in a ton of work to get himself in great shape and the results have paid off. Kanter’s offensive game is light-years ahead of where it was last season. He has several moves at his disposal and has stopped bringing the ball down low so guards could come tie him up. If Kanter can continue to improve like he has from last year he has the opportunity to be a very special player as he could be an All-Star level talent in the NBA very soon.
Favors is the key piece in the trade. The Jazz loved Favors coming out of Georgia Tech, Kevin O’Connor wouldn’t say where they had him on their draft board but he did say he was higher than number three, where the Nets took him.
Favors’ offensive game is still raw but there have been signs of improvement and flashes of amazing. His jump shot is looking better and he is developing stronger post moves down low. Defensively he is already elite and shuts down everything ten feet and in near the basket. It’s hard to tell what kind of player Favors is going to be. At times he shows brilliance that get fans excited. Yet, at other times we see him chucking up brick after brick and in foul trouble. He is still so young and has the potential to be a special player in this league.
Some fans argue the Jazz should have kept Williams and done everything they could to sign him to a max deal when his contract was up. Others say it was a good move to trade the star before he held them hostage similar to what Carmelo Anthony did to the Nuggets as well as Dwight Howard in Orlando.
It’s hard to say at this point who won the trade. Obviously Deron is a better point guard than Devin Harris but the Jazz never thought Harris would be a franchise player for them. Favors and Kanter both have great potential, something Jazz fans want to see more of. Favors and Kanter have been limited in their playing time behind Paul Millsap and Jefferson, something that has been extremely frustrating for Jazz fans. They want to see the young guys play and see the trade pay off.
A win on Saturday would be huge for the Jazz not only in the playoff race but also to solidify that they made the right decision trading away Deron Williams