Changing of the Point Guard: What Deron Williams Trade Means for New Jersey Nets
Well, that came out of nowhere.
Early Wednesday, just one day before the NBA trade deadline, the Utah Jazz and New Jersey Nets decided to join the fray by agreeing on a trade involving Jazz PG Deron Williams, Nets PG Devin Harris, Nets PF Derrick Favors and draft picks brought in by the Golden State Warriors.
This trade makes waves throughout the NBA, as most thought Harris would end up with the Dallas Mavericks or Portland Trail Blazers, not the Jazz.
His destination is unexpected, as is the fact that Williams, the franchise point guard, was considered so toxic by the Jazz that it warranted a trade.
Now that the news has broken, names are finalized and buzz has started on ESPN, it's time for some reaction to the trade and the implications it might have going forward.
The Nets have clearly marked a competitive strategy for the future, and this is what the Williams-Harris trade means for the team.
The Nets Are Better...For Now
The Nets, by all observations, were a young team that had a solid core (Lopez, Harris and Favors) hoping to really take off around the time they were slated to move into the new arena in Brooklyn. That was supposed to be a few years down the road as the young group developed together.
Now? Two of their prized young studs are out the door in an instant, and the one walking in is a 26-year-old who is widely considered to be the best point guard in the league at a time when point guards are flourishing.
Either the Nets are rolling the dice, taking a huge gamble and trying to deal Williams elsewhere, or they're going for it right now. At 17-40. In 12th place in the East. With a below-average roster.
The most likely of the two options is that they're trying to flip him for a player or players they deem more valuable.
You could have a full discussion about whom they could potentially trade Williams to, but that's not my goal here.
What I say is that, for now, Wednesday, February 23, the Nets are better than they were yesterday because they upgraded significantly at point guard and traded another player who wasn't contributing anything.
Dump Troy Murphy
Murphy, the nine-year veteran, has been the most talked about player in the league leading up to this year's deadline. There's very little doubt that he will be traded, but it's hard to say which teams are in the lead to acquire his expiring $12 million contract.
Doesn't the fact that the Nets now have D-Will to package with Murphy make things interesting?
Instead of giving a trade partner leverage by only having Murphy's dead weight to offer, the Nets now have an elite point guard that drives up the price AND makes sure they don't get ripped off when trading Murphy.
Now, if a team wants Murphy, they're going to have sell one of their own prized assets to get him.
Anthony Morrow Shoulders More Offense
The Nets saw the impact that Morrow had in Golden State and thought that he could be even better for them as he continued his development. They brought him in to get starter's minutes at SG or SF.
Things haven't worked out exactly like the Nets and Morrow hoped. Part of the problem is that the Nets stupidly signed Travis Outlaw to a five-year, $35 million contract in the offseason to essentially do the same things as Morrow.
So far, Morrow has done those things better than Outlaw, and both players are getting just over 30 minutes a game.
Morrow has increased his production lately, and I see an even bigger jump coming.
Morrow takes just under half of his 10 shots a game from three-point range, which means that a drive-and-kick guard who commands a lot of attention will give him plenty of open looks or driving/cutting lanes.
Williams is that type of player, while Harris was less so. The increased attention paid to Williams will result in Morrow recapturing some of his Golden State magic from last year, even though there are less shots by volume to go around.
If Williams gets traded, Morrow will assume even more of an offensive role because Lopez will be all that's left for this team on offense.
Maybe things will turn out well for Morrow and the Nets after all.
The Kris Humphries Show Returns
Favors has been the thorn in Humphries' side all year long. The six-year vet out of Notre Dame has been great when given the opportunity to start, collecting just under 10 rebounds a game on 52% shooting in 25.5 minutes a game.
All season long it has been Humphries playing well, then curiously getting pulled for Favors in order to develop the prized rookie or showcase him as trade bait.
Now that Favors is gone, Humphries can shine. With starter's minutes, he should be well over 10 boards a game, and his 16 double-doubles are an impressive display of his all-around game in the post as a role player.
He is playing for a new contract, which should cause him to focus more and play better. If he keeps up what he's been doing all year, he's bound to be grossly overpaid this offseason by a contender who wants to turn him into something that he's not. Gotta love the NBA for overpaying role power forwards.
Brook Lopez's Confusion Continues
Last year, Lopez put up 19 points and nine rebounds a game. This year, he's taken a mystifying dip to just 5.7 rebounds per game to accompany a drop in shooting percentage.
No one really knows what to attribute this giant backward step to, but its clear that Lopez isn't really the same guy that he was last season.
The acquisition of Williams now means less shots for Lopez because of Williams' ability to score. Also, he might not get the best of Williams' game, which is suited for the pick-and-roll that he's played his whole career in.
I think the most likely result is a lot of confusion on offense, because Williams needs the ball in his hands, and he likes to get to the basket, which is where Lopez plays.
Avery Johnson isn't about to change his offensive plan to incorporate pick-and-rolls with a sloth-like 7-footer who can't shoot mid-range jumpers or handle the ball.
Lopez will have to take a backseat on offense, because Williams can't be in the car without driving it.
Deron Williams Will Sign an Extension or Get Traded, and Soon
As NBA followers continue processing this trade, intriguing facts keep revealing themselves. Among the most intriguing to me is the fact that Williams has one year and $15 million left on his contract after this season.
The Nets just sold the farm to get Williams, presumably to flip him for an even bigger return. They're not about to let him get away at the end of next season without having a nest egg to show for it.
My best guess is that Williams gets traded, and that it will come sooner rather than later. This trade just doesn't have the look of long-term for the Nets, in my opinion. In order to trade him, the receiving team will probably ask the Nets and Williams to agree to a several-year extension that puts him under team control for a while.
The more time passes before a trade, the bigger the need for an extension to be agreed upon to minimize the risk of the receiving team.
The Nets are motivated to extend Williams in any case, whether trading him or keeping him. Nobody in the NBA is in the business of selling half their team for the privilege of a 14-month rental of a superstar, as is common in baseball.
More is Coming
As has been said, this move by the Nets looks like a means to their desired end instead of being their desired end. A trade is most likely coming, whether it's just Murphy, Williams or both.
Whatever happens is going to be big, that is a guarantee. The Nets gave up two building blocks, $5 million in cash and two-first round picks to get Williams. It only makes sense that their goal is to turn Williams to a needy suitor for even more than that.
There are several teams that could be in the market for Williams, and billionaire Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov doesn't seem shy about making a splash. Now that he's got a toy that all the other NBA kids want to play with, here's some possible landing spots for Williams and what the Nets could get in return, at least in part:
New York Knicks: Chauncey Billups' expiring contract?
Dallas Mavericks: Rodrigue Beaubois, Caron Butler's expiring contract and draft picks?
Orlando Magic: Jameer Nelson, Brandon Bass and Chris Duhon?
Atlanta Hawks: Josh Smith and Marvin Williams?
And the real game changer...
New Orleans Hornets: Chris Paul?
The NBA amusement park has been wildly entertaining already this week, but look for the last 24 hours to be a crazy rollercoaster ride that will dramatically shift power centers and star players.