In the surprise aftermath of Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan's resignation last week, many blamed point guard Deron Williams for driving the longest-tenured coach in pro sports to quit immediately, just days after signing a one-year extension.
Now rumors are beginning to fly that the franchise player might be on his way out of Salt Lake City, but not of his own volition. Some believe that the possibility of Utah trading Williams has been opened up after the recent revelations about his discord with the coaching staff.
Normally, smart NBA people would simply dismiss the idea that a guy like Deron Williams, under contract for two more years after this, could be traded. The situation in Utah, though, has always been about stability, consistency and unity—that's this organization's M.O.
So when a player speaks out, spars with the strong-willed Jerry Sloan and causes him to resign, it is not a good sign. In light of that, I think some (not all) trade rumors are relatively legitimate and feasible.
Here are 10 Williams-themed superstar pairings that could happen if Utah is ready to pull the trigger on trading him.
Everyone knows by now that the New York Knicks have a ton of tradeable assets. Everyone knows that Williams' best years came in Jerry Sloan's pick-and-roll offense in tandem with Carlos Boozer.
This makes sense for both teams and is actually possible under the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
Mike D'Antoni, who orchestrated the Steve Nash-Stoudemire duo, can only dream of having a point guard as good as Williams again, after leaving Nash behind in Phoenix.
If Boozer was good at the pick-and-roll, how good would Amar'e be?
LaMarcus Aldridge has reminded the NBA how good he can be when set free offensively. The absence of Brandon Roy's ball dominance has made all the difference to Aldridge, who has stepped up his averages to 26.4 points and 9.9 rebounds in 21 games since the start of 2011.
Not a typical pick-and-roll player, Aldridge's effectiveness with Williams would be found in the low and mid-post area. Aldridge has a nice shooting touch from about 16-17 feet, which would clear lanes for Williams to drive and kick, or finish at the rim.
Howard doesn't take many shots further away from the basket than this. The occasional layup or hook shot is about as far away from the paint as he goes—and for good reason.
Though he can't shoot, Howard would be a lethal pairing with Williams—can you imagine the alley-oop potential with these two? Howard has never played with an impact point guard, so no one really knows how that would improve his well-solidified game.
He is what he is at this point, but could an elite point guard get him 4-6 more points per game?
Did you hear? Kevin Love shoots three-pointers now.
After taking 106 last year, Love has already launched 171 this year and he's hitting them at a ridiculous 43 percent—that's right, 43 percent!!!!! That's better than most of the league's best shooters.
With Love's all-around brilliance, it would be hugely fun to watch him team up with Williams for some pick-and-pop action. Love trails into a screen, Williams comes off of it, Love pops and sets his feet, Williams dishes, Love swishes.
If Minnesota called Utah and told them they'd trade Ricky Rubio for Williams, Utah would say no, but they would think about it first. With some tinkering to a trade offer, the possibility of D-Will landing with Love could be better than you think.
The Aussie lefty is mostly a back-to-the-basket big man, but his size and touch around the basket would make him a fun pairing with Williams in the pick-and-roll.
Even a post-up, two-man game with Williams is possible. After tossing the ball into the post, Williams could cut off of Bogut to get an easy layup or use him as a screen. Bogut has always been a skilled passer, so he and Williams could be effective in a way that Williams isn't really familiar with thus far in his career.
Now this pairing would be a lot of fun. There's a lot you could do if these two were together.
First, Williams' pick-and-roll would set up ideally with Nowitzki doing the screening, although with Dirk there would be significantly more "pops" than "rolls."
Second, Dirk could actually handle the ball while Williams takes a smaller guard into the post. Dirk's guard-like skills allow him to make that entry pass and let D-Will go to work while staying in his vision for a kick-out jump shot.
Third, a high-post screen for Williams—he enters to Nowitzki at the high post, runs off of him toward the hoop, or clears out and frees Dirk up to work from his favorite area on the court.
Fourth, the transition game would be deadly. Dirk already has Jason Kidd, who is legendary on the fast break, but Williams' fresh legs like to push the ball. With Dirk trailing in the whirlwind behind Williams, he could get wide open threes all night.
This is my favorite of these pairings because of all the possibilities that get opened for Dirk when given a point guard who can actually shoot and score. Sorry, J Kidd.
Another big man who plays a more traditional back-to-the-basket style, Hibbert would be fun to watch with Williams on outlet passes. Because of his size and rebounding chops, Hibbert opens up Williams to get way up-court to receive outlet passes and start the break.
The Pacers already play a frenetic pace, but imagine what they could score every night if they had Williams running their break and finishing at the rim ahead of the defense.
Hibbert's raw shooting skills have room to improve, which could be accelerated by the presence of Williams and his pick-and-roll propensity. Plus, Hibbert's post-up game would undoubtedly benefit from having Williams on the perimeter to open up the defense.
Bosh can do it all offensively and he's nothing like the big guys that Utah currently has. If any of Miami Thrice were to be traded, it would be Bosh.
The odds of this pairing being realized are low, but it would be a lot like the Williams-Nowitzki duo. Bosh and Dirk are similar players, except that Bosh will venture into the post more often and do some post-up things.
Bosh has never experienced the pick-and-roll, but would thrive in it when paired with a center like Mehmet Okur who stretches the floor and draws the big out of the paint. Bosh doesn't finish well in traffic or with a shot-blocker in front of him, which is why having a three-point shooting center to clear the paint would allow Bosh to kill it in a pick-and-roll with Williams.
Randolph's transformation from outspoken malcontent into quiet, consistent star is complete.
Over the last two years, Z-Bo has morphed into a top three unguardable player in the post. The 20-10 numbers he effortlessly puts up are a testament to that fact.
Not only is he very tough in the post, but he can shoot from 18 feet as well. Randolph isn't the lithest of bigs, but his footwork and athleticism are good for his size and he can certainly do some things on a pick-and-roll or high-post turn and face.
Though he shoots more often than passes when he touches the ball, Zach has shown an ability to pass out of the post and could hit Williams coming off a screen on designed plays, or trail into a screen for him in transition.
One of the hallmarks of Elton Brand's game as a Bull and Clipper was his mid-range jumper. Before his career derailed in Philly (which he's turned around this year), Brand was one of the most deadly shooting power forwards in basketball.
I believe that, if paired with Williams, Brand could recapture some of his former shine while playing on the perimeter. He's a similar player to Carlos Boozer in that he's a strong but undersized forward who is polished from the high post and within 18 feet.
Williams-Brand could almost be Williams-Boozer 2.0.
There were a few more guys who I would have liked to pair Williams with but are impossible fits for one reason or another. The list includes:
Pau Gasol, Lakers
Carlos Boozer, Bulls
David West, Hornets
Kevin Garnett, Celtics
LeBron James, Heat
Kevin Durant, Thunder