Breaking down the Deron Williams trade

Utah Jazz Deron Williams drives calls out a play against the Washington Wizards during the first half at the Verizon Center in Washington on January 17, 2011. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

Holy surprise blockbuster, Batman! The Nets just acquired Deron Williams.

Al Iannazzone of NorthJersey.com broke the story:

The Nets have acquired All-Star point guard Deron Williams in an out-of-the-blue blockbuster. In the deal, the Nets will send Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and two No. 1 picks to the Utah Jazz. Williams is averaging 21.3 points and is third in the league in assists, dishing 9.7 per game.

The deal has been agreed upon. It’s pending league approval and everyone passing their physicals.

Nets fans should be dancing in the streets. The team missed out on Carmelo Anthony, but I believe that Williams is actually a better acquisition for the franchise, assuming he doesn’t bolt after the 2011-12 season.

This is a curious move for the Jazz, who are giving up a two-time All-NBA 2nd Teamer, and a player who has been jockeying with Chris Paul for best point guard in the league honors for the last couple of seasons. He’s a franchise player, and the Nets just wrestled him away for Devin Harris, a raw prospect, and two first round draft picks. Favors is a nice acquisition, but the Jazz are already set at power forward with Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. I guess the idea is that Harris isn’t too much of a downgrade from Williams — only he is — while Favors can develop in a supporting role behind Millsap and Jefferson, and eventually turn into a star. For this to work out for the Jazz, Favors needs to develop into an All-Star and Utah has to strike gold with at least one of those draft picks.

Williams clearly burned some bridges this season with his role in the Jerry Sloan resignation along with the rumors that he wanted to join the Knicks in 2012. The Nets are in a good position to add another top tier free agent that summer if they stay the course financially, even with a new collective bargaining agreement. So they have a decent shot at keeping him around for the long-term, especially with their pending move to Brooklyn.

What they don’t need are any more contracts like the one they gave Travis Outlaw last summer that averages $7 million a season. That deal really made me question the Nets’ decision-making, but this trade for Williams more than made up for it. Other than Outlaw, the Nets don’t have any contracts that extend past the 2012-13 season, so there’s an opportunity to quickly remake this roster and turn it into a winner.

After missing out on LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in the last eight months, it sure looked like the Nets would always be the bridesmaid and never the bride, but today they are the bride, and in a big way.

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Did the Knicks give up too much to get Carmelo?

ESPN’s John Hollinger answers this question with an emphatic “yes.” In his trade grades column, he gave the Knicks a D+ in this deal.

The worst part, of course, is that this deal proves that no matter how many advantages New York gains from its magnetic appeal to potential free agents, owner James Dolan will screw them up. Leaning on the genius of Isiah Thomas — because it worked out so well for the first time — he fell hook, line and sinker for every bluff thrown his way by the Nuggets and Melo’s people. (Yes, Melo’s people participated — Anthony needed to make sure he got a lucrative contract extension under the current salary rules before being traded.)

New York still gets its Melo-Stoudemire nucleus, but now lacks the supporting pieces to do anything important with that core. And by extending Melo now, they agree to lock him up at such an expensive price that, in concert with Stoudemire’s deal, it likely precludes making a run at Chris Paul, Deron Williams or Dwight Howard in 2012.

The Knicks were bid up by the Nets, who never really had a chance at acquiring Carmelo in the first place. It would have been worth all of this to acquire a Top 5 player like LeBron James or Dwight Howard, but Carmelo is in the second or third tier of NBA stars and by acquiring and extending him now, they’re going to be paying a premium for his services for the next three or four years. His contract could make things especially tough if there’s a hard(er) cap.

Carmelo Anthony is not living the High Life

Denver Nuggets Carmelo Anthony (R) and Chauncey Billups watch the scoreboard during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Pepsi Center in Denver on January 21, 2011. The Lakers beat the Nuggets 107-97. UPI/Gary C. Caskey

This series is sponsored by Miller High Life – The Official Beer Of You. Find out how you can get sponsored by Miller High Life.

In case you haven’t heard, Carmelo Anthony was traded to the Knicks last night. If you haven’t heard, count yourself lucky (and completely oblivious), because all of this “Melodrama” got old a full month ago. A quick search at Twitter shows just how sick everyone was of the speculation.

You see, Carmelo didn’t ask to be traded. Or maybe he did, we don’t really know. He wouldn’t admit to the press that he asked for a trade, instead putting the onus on the Nuggets for wanting to trade him away. After what happened to LeBron’s image last summer, he didn’t want to be painted as the bad guy, but his act has worn thin. Everyone knows he wants to play for the Knicks. He wants to play in New York so badly that he doesn’t care that his new team had to give up the farm to get him. He just wants to be a Knick. Oh, and he wants a three-year, $65 million extension too. Let’s not forget about that.

There was another team pursuing him — the New Jersey Nets. But New Jersey (who will soon move to Carmelo’s hometown of Brooklyn) wasn’t good enough for this guy. The Nuggets and Nets worked out a trade, but the only thing holding up the deal was Carmelo’s unwillingness to sign the aforementioned extension. Who can blame the Nets? Why would they trade for him if he’s just going to leave after the season?

All of this drama would be enough to keep High Life from sponsoring Carmelo. But he recently took his hat off to himself — seriously — for playing through all this speculation. Here’s the mind-bending quote from FanHouse:

“I think it takes a strong-willed person, a strong-minded person, to deal with the stuff that I deal with and still go out there and go to work every day and perform on a nightly basis,” the Denver forward said about trade rumors that have swirled all season as the Feb. 24 trade deadline approaches. “I take my hat off to myself for dealing with all this stuff that’s going on and still be able to go out there and play at the high level that I can play at. I really don’t think an average person can walk in my shoes. I don’t think that.”

Somehow, in Carmelo’s World, he was the victim of circumstance. Not his team of eight years, the Denver Nuggets, who had no leverage and were forced into making a suspect deal because he was only willing to play for the Knicks.

Fortunately for the Common Man living the High Life, this NBA nightmare is now over. We can all go back to our lives and not be inundated with Carmelo rumors on SportsCenter.

Because it’s painful to watch a guy who refuses to live the High Life.

How will the new-look Knicks match up in the East?

New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni reacts in the fourth quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Madison Square Garden in New York City on January 14, 2011. The Kings defeated the Knicks 93-83. UPI/John Angelillo

Once the dust settles and the Carmelo trade becomes final, the Knicks are looking at a starting five of Chauncey Billups, Landry Fields, Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and probably Ronny Turiaf at center. The Knicks will be solid at point guard through power forward, but Turiaf is at best an average center who gets by on hustle and hard work. Per 82games, he does tend to outplay his counterpart (15.0 vs. 13.3 PER) which is a good sign because his minutes are going to jump.

Turiaf is going to need to play well for the Knicks to do anything in the postseason because the team is now very thin in the frontcourt. They lost two 6-10 or taller players (Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov) and are likely to lose 6-11 Anthony Randolph as well. In return, 6-9 Shelden Williams is the only bona fide power forward or center they’ll acquire, and he hasn’t done much in his 4+ year career to indicate that he can play significant minutes on a good playoff team.

This lack of frontcourt depth could be a problem because both the Celtics (Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett) and the Magic (Dwight Howard) have big men who are adept at scoring on the block. The Celtics are less of a concern at center because Doc Rivers usually uses Glen Davis to finish games instead of O’Neal (or Kendrick Perkins, for that matter).

Against the Heat or Bulls, the Knicks should fare better. Chris Bosh is not terribly good on the block and the Heat prefer to play Joel Anthony at center. Joakim Noah is a great defensive center, but his post up game is limited, so Turiaf (or Stoudemire, in a pinch) shouldn’t be overmatched on the block.

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Carmelo Trade Reaction

East All Star Amare Stoudamire (R) of the New York Knicks laughs with West All Star Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets during the NBA All-Star basketball game in Los Angeles, February 20, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Michael Wilbon, ESPN: Even with all the analysis of the Knicks we’ll be indulging in for the next few weeks, the club is so much better off post-Carmelo than pre-Carmelo. Goodness, if anything the Knicks should probably be criticized for not simply getting down to business and making this deal six or eight weeks ago. The team could have played 20 games with Billups-Fields-Anthony-Stoudemire already. If the Knicks hadn’t goofed around until nearly the trade deadline, they probably could have made a deal that excluded Mozgov. But they let the New Jersey Nets set the terms, which likely pushed Denver’s price higher. Still, after a lot of false starts the Knicks appear to be actually on the road to contention — how serious we’ll find out soon enough. Miami’s all-new cast needed close to 30 games to figure out how to play with one another. Stoudemire, Anthony and Billups do have different skill sets and don’t have to examine everything they’ve done for years the way LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had to do. Then again, James and Wade are adept passers; Stoudemire and Anthony are not, which is why Billups, intimidated by nothing and calm in the face of all kinds of NBA drama, is better off running the point with this group than Felton, whose shoulders have no stripes.

Dave Krieger, Denver Post: As excited as NBA officials may be about the resurrection of the Knicks in the league’s biggest market, they cannot ignore the dire straits in which smaller-market teams find themselves as the old labor agreement expires. Denver joins an unfortunate club that already included Cleveland and Toronto. Three of the game’s biggest stars — Anthony, LeBron James and Chris Bosh — abandoned these markets for brighter lights in the last eight months.

Mike Lupica, New York Daily News: The Knicks get Carmelo Anthony even after giving away all the leverage they had in this thing, and what feels like half their roster. The player only wanted to come to New York, only wanted to get his huge contract extension here, didn’t want to go to Jersey or anywhere else. The Knicks – meaning Walsh – always had the Nuggets where they wanted them, and should have been able to make this deal with Wilson Chandler and Eddy Curry’s big, fat expiring contract and some other junk thrown in. Instead they give up Raymond Felton and Danilo Gallinari and Chandler and Timofey Mozgov, too. If the trade deadline were next Thursday instead of this Thursday, Denver could have gotten James Dolan to throw in Mike Breen and Clyde Frazier, too. Clearly Dolan still has Isiah Thomas as his muse, apparently because all the good ones were taken.

William C. Rhoden, New York Times: Nearly all of the burden of proof rests on Anthony’s shoulders. He asked for this situation and now he has it. If he knows the Knicks’ history, Anthony knows that with the possible exception of Bernard King, no New York City player has ever come back as a Knick and turned the place upside down — in a positive way. He will have something to prove to the legions of fans who consider him a one-dimensional player who lacks the skills and the drive to play defense or make his teammates better. Anthony is not the answer, but he is unquestionably a building block. He led Syracuse to a national championship and was a vital component for the United States when it won an Olympic gold medal in Beijing. He could be a winner on a properly outfitted team, something the Knicks, with Stoudemire, are becoming. And now that the Knicks have two star players in place, a player like Chris Paul is much more likely to leave cash-strapped New Orleans for well-heeled New York.

J.A. Adande, ESPN: The Nuggets did well for themselves … which is more than the Cleveland Cavaliers or Toronto Raptors could say when LeBron James and Chris Bosh bolted for South Beach. The Cavs and Raptors made last-minute sign-and-trade deals for picks and trade exceptions, but those are just possibilities and cap space. The Nuggets have more tangible assets. They have three players averaging at least 16 points per game in Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari and a 7-footer in Timofey Mozgov. They got a first-round pick and two second-round picks. I know the Nuggets were attracted to all of the first-round picks the New Jersey Nets offered, but I’d rather have the known in proven players than the unknown in picks of undetermined order. Plus that $3 million, in addition to the $13.2 million in luxury tax payments they’re no longer on the hook for, plus whatever cut they’ll receive from the taxpaying teams. This is the reward the Nuggets get for holding out until the end, for refusing to yield to pressure from around the league and a weary NBA media and fandom to just put this to a halt. This whole process dragged on longer and had more false endings than “The Return of the King.” But the Nuggets benefited from the early start, getting the initial lowball offers out of the way before Thanksgiving, learning what the minimum was and working from there.

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