Deron Williams: Can the Utah Jazz Make the Playoffs Without Him?

Trae ThompsonSenior Analyst IFebruary 23, 2011

Deron Williams: Can the Utah Jazz Make the Playoffs Without Him?

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    ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 12:  Deron Williams #8 of the Utah Jazz against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on November 12, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User i
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Deron Williams era has now come to a sudden end in Utah.

    The Jazz traded away their All-Star point guard to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two first-round draft picks.

    At first glance, it's obvious Utah is looking to the future, while the Nets made a great counter-move after the Knicks landed Carmelo Anthony. The question now, of course, is whether Williams will remain in New Jersey and sign a long-term deal. With Utah, the question is simple: Can the Jazz still make the playoffs?

    Weigh all the facts, and it doesn't lean heavily either way. I could make valid arguments on both sides and do have a hunch about what will happen. Tell me what you think:

Reason No.5 They Will: Tyrone's Got Some Quality Help

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    4 Dec 1999:  Karl Malone #32 and Jeff Hornacek #14 of the Utah Jazz walking back onto the court from a time out during the game against the Golden State Warriors at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Jazz defeated the Warriors 94-82.     Man
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    I'm not a big believer in Tyrone Corbin and don't know if he's the right man to replace Jerry Sloan. But I do love the move the team made by hiring Jeff Hornacek on as one of his assistants.

    Hornacek was with the Jazz for seven seasons, and averaged 14.4 points, 4.0 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals. I remember watching him plenty during the Malone-Stockton days and I thought he was one of the key pieces that really helped Utah remain a force. The guy was hard-working, competitive and had a great mind for the game.

    That knowledge can only benefit the team, and players would be wise to listen.

    "I am excited at the possibility to increase my involvement with the team in a coaching capacity, and to be a part of this staff, and look forward to working more closely with the coaches and players on a day-to-day basis," Hornacek said after being hired.

Reason No.5 They Won't: Is Tyrone Really The Answer?

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    I know Tyrone Corbin's been an assistant for Jerry Sloan for seven years, and spent 16 years in the NBA as a player.

    But sometimes you have assistants that make the transition to the head coaching ranks. Others bomb in incredible fashion.

    So far, the Corbin Era is off to a rocky start, with the Jazz 0-3 since he took over.

Reason No.4 They Will: They'll Get Healed Up

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    ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 12:  Andrei Kirilenko #47 of the Utah Jazz against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on November 12, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, Use
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Before the All-Star break, the Jazz had only nine available players. 

    Raja Bell, Andrei Kirilenko (pictured) and Mehmet Okur had been out because of various injuries. Get this team back to full strength, and I have a feeling they could still make a push for the playoffs even without Williams.

    "I think we’re coming out of (our recent funk) and I recognize we’re short-handed and we’ve been through some adversity (lately)," Tyrone Corbin said after the team's loss to Golden State. "We’re looking forward to coming out of it and having a good chance to make a run in the second half (of the season)."

Reason No.4 They Won't: On The Brink Of a Tailspin

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    BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 21:  Al Jefferson #25 of the Utah Jazz dunks the ball in the first quarter against the Boston Celtics  on January 21, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downl
    Elsa/Getty Images

    As one writer pointed out, this team could be 0-7 under Corbin by next week.

    The Jazz face Dallas tonight, Indiana on Friday then Detroit on Saturday before returning home to face Boston. 

    This is the time when you want to start developing confidence and hitting a rhythm as the playoffs near. If the Jazz struggle in these next four games, do you really think they'll be able to break out of that funk and still reach the postseason?

Reason No.3 They Will: Devin Harris Isn't Awful

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    BOSTON - NOVEMBER 24:  Devin Harris #34 of the New Jersey Nets drives to the basket in the second half against the Boston Celtics on November 24, 2010 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the nets 89-83. NOTE TO USER: User expre
    Elsa/Getty Images

    It would be one thing if Deron Williams was traded away and the Jazz just got a bench player in return. But Harris is still young and has shown plenty of potential. The move out of New Jersey could also be just the boost he needs.

    Harris was averaging 15 points per game for the Nets and led the team in both assists (7.6) and steals (1.1).

    "Harris can play, he's two years removed from working as a legitimate All-Star in New Jersey, and while he isn't as good as Williams, he's not a bad consolation prize," writes Yahoo's Kelly Dwyer. "The problem with Devin is that he has also essentially taken the last two seasons off, as he's clearly disinterested at times during the course of games despite his significant talent, and ability to shape the course of a game."

Reason No.3 They Won't: Memphis Has The Horses To Pass Them

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    PHOENIX - DECEMBER 08:  Mike Conley #11 of the Memphis Grizzlies handles the ball against the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game at US Airways Center on December 8, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by down
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Looking at both teams right now, I'd probably bet that Memphis will eventually pass the Jazz and grab that eighth spot.

    The Grizzlies are a quality young team that's got plenty of athleticism and talent. I'd like to see that core kept together and be allowed to develop. I think there's tons of potential there.

    Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, OJ Mayo and Marc Gasol are all averaging double figures in scoring, and Randolph is averaging just over 13 rebounds a game. I also think it's a wise move to have Mayo coming off the bench. He ended up with 21 points in a loss to Denver.

Reason No.2 They Will: Still In a Good Spot

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    ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 12:  C.J. Miles #34 of the Utah Jazz against Mike Bibby #10 of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on November 12, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Pho
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Right now, Utah is 31-26 and just ahead of Memphis (31-27), Phoenix (27-27) and Houston (27-31). Denver (33-25) is right above them, but I can't see them maintaining their position once the team is gutted.

    Players and coaches had four days off after losses to Phoenix and Golden State, something that could have come just at the right time.

    "I think it was a break we all needed for the guys to get their minds right and their bodies right to be on track for the second half of the season," C.J. Miles told the Deseret News. "We'll approach them hopefully with a sense of urgency, knowing that we could easily not make the playoffs and we could easily be in the fifth spot the way the records go. We just need to come out and play hard and be mentally prepared every night." 

Reason No.2 They Won't: This Thing's Being Torn Down and Rebuilt

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25:  Earl Watson #11 of the Utah Jazz argues a call with referee Mark Ayotte against the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half at Staples Center on January 25, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the Jazz 120-91.
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Utah isn't in position to make the playoffs, and appear to be headed for some rebuilding, which my colleague Tom Kinslow addressed in this piece.

    "In less than a month, the Jazz lost Jerry Sloan and then traded their best player away and went into total rebuilding mode," he writes.

    "It's a good return for one of the top point guards in the game, but Utah is in total disarray right now. To lose one of the best coaches in the history of the game, and then to trade your best player is a huge blow to any franchise. I'm not sure what Utah's thinking is here, but maybe they knew something the rest of us didn't after the whole Sloan fiasco."

Reason No.1 They Will: The Problem Child Is Gone

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  Deron Williams #8 of the Utah Jazz and the Western Conference goes up for a shot in front of Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics and the Eastern Conference in the 2011 NBA All-Star Game at Staples Center on February 20, 2
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    So what was the problem for Williams? Why was he struggling in Utah? It's a generational thing apparently. Really. I'm not joking.

    Williams told KSL.com that the age gap between him and former coach Jerry Sloan was what caused a disconnect.

    "I'm 26, Coach (Sloan) is 69," Williams said. "That's a big difference; different eras, different generations. There's bound to be something. I can't just go and have the same conversation with my grandma that I would have with my friend. It's nothing bad its just how it is and I think Coach Corbin is younger and has kids our age, so I think that helps a little bit."

    Utah fans may be furious, but I guarantee you this will benefit them. I can give you example after example of teams who bond together and do even better after selfish, immature teammates are let go. 

Reason No.1 They Won't: The Window Has Slammed Shut

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 29:  Deron Williams #8 of the Utah Jazz drives past Baron Davis #5 of the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on December 29, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.   The Jazz won 103-85.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    I've said it before, and I'm not the only one who's explained this: Teams have windows of success and chances in which to seriously contend for championships.

    This was the second one for the Jazz. They had it with John Stockton and Karl Malone, but they fell short to the Bulls. Then they looked like they could make a run with Williams, but that never happened, either.

    It's time to start over and try something new.

Conclusion

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    SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 8:  Deron Williams #8 of the Utah Jazz is pressured by Marion Chambers #15 of the Miami Heat during the second half of an NBA game December 8, 2010 at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Heat beat the Jazz 111
    George Frey/Getty Images

    I think you'll learn everything you need to in these next four games about the Jazz, but right now they don't have the makings of a playoff team.

    Trading away Williams is the equivalent of throwing in the towel. 

    At least they got some draft picks and should land somewhere high in the NBA lottery.