Trade Retrospective: Deron Williams To Nets

August 9 at 12:18pm CST By Eddie Scarito

The soon-to-be blockbuster trade that will send Kevin Love to the Cavaliers for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and a future first-rounder, is just awaiting the 30-day moratorium from the date that Wiggins signed his contract to pass before the trade can become official. While the Timberwolves have no choice but to trade their star player, lest they risk losing him in free agency for nothing after the season, there is always a danger in dealing away a player of Love’s talent.

I’ve begun looking back at past trades involving big name superstars being dealt, and the results of these deals for all parties involved. Previously I had examined the four-team trade which sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers, and the outcomes for all the teams involved turned out to be less than stellar.

The next trade that I’ll be looking back at is the February 2011 deal that sent Deron Williams from the Jazz to the Nets. Let’s first recap the pieces that changed hands:

  1. The Nets received Williams.
  2. The Jazz received Derrick Favors; Devin Harris; a 2011 first-round pick (used to select Enes Kanter); a 2013 first-round pick (which was later traded along with Utah’s No. 14 overall pick for the rights to Trey Burke); and $3MM.

Note: The Nets also traded forward Troy Murphy and a 2012 second-round pick to the Warriors for center Dan Gadzuric and forward Brandan Wright the same day. This deal was announced at the same time, but wasn’t part of the Jazz-Nets transaction.

This deal came together after Williams had expressed his displeasure with playing in Utah, and his season-long friction with then coach Jerry Sloan, which had a direct influence on Sloan resigning from his long-time position with the team. The Nets made this deal after being unsuccessful in their numerous attempts to land Carmelo Anthony from the Nuggets, who forced his way into being traded to the Knicks instead.

From the Nets’ perspective, it would be safe to say that this trade hasn’t quite worked out for the franchise as planned. Williams has been hobbled by injuries for much of his time in New Jersey/Brooklyn, and his production hasn’t quite been worth the assets surrendered, nor the subsequent 5-year, $98MM extension he signed with the team in July of 2012.

Let’s look at Williams’ numbers since joining the Nets:

  1. In 2011/12, Williams averaged 21.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 8.7 APG. He appeared in 55 games that year, and his slash line was .407/.336/.843.
  2. In 2012/13, he appeared in 78 games, averaging 18.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG, and 7.7 APG. His slash line was .440/.378/.859.
  3. In 2013/14, Williams played in 64 contests, putting up 14.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, and 6.1 APG. His shooting numbers were .450/.366/.801.

His numbers the first two seasons were very respectable, but arguably not in line with the level of his contract, nor the perception of him being a franchise player. Injuries have had much to do with this, and he underwent surgery this May on both of his ankles. Both the Nets and Williams hope this will alleviate the pain he was forced to play through, and perhaps help him regain some of the explosiveness that he has lost since his days in Utah. Williams still has three years and $63.1MM remaining on his contract, so Brooklyn certainly hopes it helps.

From Utah’s perspective, the trade looks better every time Williams hobbles up and down the court, and I’m sure they’re happy not having to pay max-level money for his decline years. But the deal hasn’t helped them advance in the standings. Since dealing Williams, the Jazz have gone 104-126, and have made it to the postseason just once, and were ousted in the first round by the Spurs that year. During the same time period, Brooklyn sits at an even 115-115, with two playoff appearances.

As for the players they received in return, the results have been mixed. Both Favors and Kanter have improved with each season, and have the potential to anchor a productive frontcourt for years to come. But neither player has performed at an All-Star level. Let’s look at their numbers since arriving in Utah.

Favors:

  1. During the 2011/12 season, Favors averaged 8.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and 1.0 BPG. His slash line was .499/.000/.649.
  2. In 2012/13 he averaged 9.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG, and 1.7 BPG, while shooting .482/.000/.688.
  3. Last season, Favors put up 13.3 PPG, 8.7 RPG, and 1.5 BPG. His slash line was .522/.000/.669.

Kanter:

  1. Back in 2011/12, as a rookie he put up 4.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 0.3 BPG. His slash line was .496/.000/.667.
  2. During the 2012/13 campaign, Kanter provided 7.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 0.5 BPG. His shooting numbers were .544/1.000/.795.
  3. Last year’s numbers were 12.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG, and 0.5 BPG. Kanter’s slash line was .491/.000/.730.

Harris played one full season in Utah, and averaged 11.3 PPG, 1.8 RPG, and 5.0 APG. He was then traded during the offseason to the Hawks for forward Marvin Williams. Williams was a productive rotation piece for the Jazz, averaging 7.2 PPG and 3.6 RPG during the 2012/13 season, and 9.1 PPG and 5.1 RPG last year. Williams signed a two-year, $14MM deal with the Hornets this offseason.

The last piece of the deal for the Jazz was the 2013 first-rounder they received, which ended up being the No. 21 overall pick. Utah packaged that selection along with their own first-rounder (No. 14) in a draft night trade with the Timberwolves. The Jazz received the rights to point guard Trey Burke, whom Minnesota had taken 9th overall.

The Wolves used those selections to take Shabazz Muhammad (No. 14) and Gorgui Dieng (No. 21). Nether of those players have set the league on fire, but Dieng has showed flashes of potential and could become a productive rotation player in Minnesota. Muhammad has been a bust thus far, displaying maturity issues, and his offensive game hasn’t developed as hoped.

Burke has easily been the most productive player involved in that deal. In his rookie season, he averaged 12.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG, and 5.7 APG. His slash line was .380/.330/.903. Burke’s shooting was abysmal, but he displayed some improvement towards the end of the season. He also brings a number of intangibles to the table, which can’t be discounted. He is a high-character player, who outperforms his athletic ability.

His role as a starter could be in jeopardy though, seeing as the Jazz picked Dante Exum with the 5th overall selection in this year’s draft. Exum will likely begin his career as a shooting guard, pairing with Burke in the backcourt, but Exum views himself as a point guard, and if he develops quickly, could push Burke into a role off the bench.

As with the Howard trade, this is another example of neither franchise “winning” the deal. If Williams had remained healthy, and put up similar numbers to his days in Utah, then the Nets would have come out on top. A star player in the NBA is worth far more than a number of good rotation pieces.

But in light of Williams’ injury issues, and him being unlikely to regain his past explosiveness at the age of 30, coupled with his enormous contract and resulting cap hit, Utah did reasonably well here. Kanter and Favors could anchor a solid, if unspectacular frontcourt for the next few seasons, and if Burke can improve his outside shooting and keep Exum at shooting guard, then this trade will look much better from the Jazz’s perspective.

That’s a lot of ifs, and it only serves to illustrate the risks involved when franchises deal away their star players. Like the Jazz had with Williams, Minnesota has very little choice but to deal away Love, lest they risk getting nothing to show for their troubles. But while they might acquire some pieces that can help, even acquiring a player of Wiggins’ potential doesn’t mean they’ll be selling playoff tickets any time soon.

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