One day after the Knicks traded half of their active roster for Carmelo Anthony, the Nets swooped in and nabbed Deron Williams from the suddenly doomed Utah Jazz.
Truth be told, the New Jersey picture is still unclear. Even if the team just obtained the second-best point guard in the league, its roster is still stocked with the likes of Jordan Farmar and Travis Outlaw. Brook Lopez, its nominal second star, has regressed to small forward-like rebounding numbers and shooting percentage. To say that his progression has disappointed would be akin to calling the Egyptian revolution tumultuous. Although Lopez’s PER hovers around 20, all the speculation about his rise to second-best center in the league was overblown.
Still, Williams could do much to re-energize the Nets, especially if they decide to give newly-acquired Brandan Wright a shot to prove that leaving him to rot on the Golden State bench was one of Head Coach Don Nelson’s many mistakes. The NBA is all about finding your star, and it would appear that the Nets have upstaged their big brother in the Big Apple in that regard.
I actually kind of love this trade for the Jazz. Although they traded their best player — one who wholly embraced the Utah Jazz experience — for a rookie and for Devin Harris, they also made out with two potentially high draft picks. Look — the Nets aren’t doing anything this year, and Williams’ continued presence in either New Jersey or Utah is far from guaranteed, so it makes sense that the Jazz would try to extract some value for him while they still had the opportunity. My only question: Why wait until after Utah Jazz Head Coach Jerry Sloan retires to deal their marquee attraction?
So the Jazz get a promising and hopefully tough, young big in the bargain while securing a lottery pick and a talented but inconsistent scorer in Harris. For the Jazz, Derrick Favors is the key to this deal.
To succeed in the NBA, you either need a star or five guys so attuned to each other that only a championship and Larry Brown could derail them. If — and this is a massive “if,” — Favors develops to give the Jazz a tougher, more defensively competent counterpart to Big Al and Paul Millsap inside, then they come out of this trade ahead. If Favors flames out, which is not out of the question, then only a draft miracle could save this deal for the Jazz. And I’m not talking about Jimmer Fredette.
As for the Knicks, they sure look like assholes after this, don’t they? James Dolan got to crow for about 12 hours before having the rug rudely yanked from under him by the Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. Combined with the fact that Donnie Walsh seems to be on his way out, to be replaced by Isiah Thomas, New Yorkers have to be feeling little better than suicidal. Reports seem to indicate that Thomas, still a Dolan favorite, engineered the trade that sent three starters, a first rounder and Eddy Curry’s donut addiction to the Nuggets. In retrospect, this makes perfect sense. Why else would the Knicks start bidding wildly against themselves? The only threat to Melo’s inevitable move east was his assertion that he would consider signing an extension.
I really hope we get Isiah back so he can do ridiculous things like offer Greg Oden a maximum contract or flip Chauncey Billups to the Lakers for Ron Artest and Luke Walton. Please, NBA god, please. On the basketball side of things, I’m sure Carmelo will help a little, but is anyone sure that Billups can run anymore? The tandem of Melo and Amar’e Stoudemire sounds really nice but Knicks Head Coach Mike D’Antoni predicates his system on great, speedy point guard play. Billups may be a monument to efficient scoring — not joking, learn what true shooting percentage is and then worship at the altar that is Mr. Big Shot — but he’s not known for his ability to lead a fast break.
The Nuggets appear to have made out like bandits. With their star player all but guaranteed to leave and demanding to be traded to one team and one team only, they somehow extracted two-and-a-half useful players and a first rounder. Although duping the Knicks’ James Dolan isn’t something one should be proud of — I’ve seen babies hold onto candy better than he negotiates — Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri deserves a ton of credit for turning a pile of shit into, well, anything. The Nuggets brought him in because of his experience with Chris Bosh fleeing Toronto, and the first African-born NBA general manager did not disappoint in his rookie season. The big question now is whether the team feels that Felton Raymond Felton should stick around or be shipped off for more assets while Ty Lawson takes the reins that rightfully belong to him.
The Nuggets even added a legit three-point threat in Danilo Gallinari, bumping Al Harrington out of the sixth-man spot that he has been begging someone else to take all season. They’re still stuck under Harrington’s onerous contract, and would probably like to start moving some other flotsam around before the deadline, but their rebuilding effort may not be as painful as many predicted.
Four teams headed in four very different directions. The Knicks and Nets get better short term, but Prokhorov shows why he made billions in the former USSR — I refuse to give Billy King any credit for this deal — and Dolan exemplifies the dangers of nepotism. While the Jazz and Nuggets may feel a little sting for now, this hurts you much more than it hurts them.
Neither team is as screwed as Toronto or Cleveland over the next few seasons.