Let’s start with this: Holy cow.
The Nets, according to multiple reports (and confirmed by SI.com’s Chris Mannix), have agreed to acquire Deron Williams from Utah for rookie Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two first-round picks. If the Nets are confident that Williams will pick up his 2012-13 player option and then agree to an extension — and the team may not have made this deal otherwise — then they have just pulled off the deal of the trade deadline. For a package of lesser value than the one they were reportedly open to sending the Nuggets for Carmelo Anthony, they are getting a better player.
This is, frankly, an astounding deal. There was not a whisper of this at All-Star weekend, at least not one that I heard, and it will do nothing to quell rumors that Williams ran Jerry Sloan off the sidelines in Utah. Forget that. It almost doesn’t matter. What matters is that the Jazz, whether because of Sloan’s abrupt departure or because they are not confident Williams would re-sign there, have dealt a 26-year-old, all-world point guard to the Nets and probably surrendered their 2011 season, boosting the playoff hopes for the Grizzlies, Suns, Blazers, Hornets and Nuggets.
The extension thing is an important issue, and one I’ll return to in a second. The Nets own several first-round picks, and early reports from NBA.com’s John Schuhmann indicate that they are sending their own 2011 pick and the 2012 pick they received from Golden State — a pick only protected if it falls in the top seven of the lottery. These are New Jersey’s two best draft picks, which is good for Utah. It should be noted, though, that college hoops experts consider the 2011 draft one of the weakest in years.
The Nets are giving up a lot, but Williams is a guy for whom you give a lot — provided you feel good about your chances of re-signing him. Favors, a 19-year-old power forward learning on the job, is a potential stud. He is rebounding well (particularly on offense), playing hard on defense and picking up the nuances of the pick-and-roll on offense. There is enormous potential here.
Harris is a loss, but not a significant one long term. He’s about to turn 28, he has never developed a three-point shot and he’s due about $18 million over the next two seasons. He’s a nice player — a good defender when he cares, and a creative shot-maker whose passing is underrated. But you give up him in a second for Williams, even if you’re only 50 percent sure you can sign Williams to a new deal to kick in after 2012-2013.
About that extension: Williams signed his most recent contract extension (a three-year deal, with a player option for a fourth year) on July 17, 2008, according to Pro Sports Transactions and news archives. According to Larry Coon’s salary cap guide, Williams would not be eligible to sign an extension until exactly three years later — July 17 of this year. The current collective bargaining agreement expires by then, which means the Nets — if I’m reading things right, and Coon confirm I am — cannot sign Williams to an extension under the current CBA. Which means whatever extension Williams gets will come under a new CBA, which is expected to be less friendly to players.
In other words: This does not appear to be a case in which the Nets are getting Williams with a mutual understanding that they can get him a Carmelo-type, big-money extension now.
Whatever. This is a great trade for New Jersey. And it’s not a bad haul for the Jazz, considering the trade really only makes sense for them if they were sure Williams was leaving after next season.
The Warriors are reportedly involved, too, as they are set to trade Dan Gadzuric and Brandan Wright (both on expiring deals, the latter set to be a restricted free agent) to New Jersey for Troy Murphy. Golden State will undoubtedly buy out Murphy (who is making $12 million in the last year of his contract) and save some cash. (UPDATE: The Warriors-Nets deal would be a separate trade and has not been finalized yet.)
We’ll have more on this deal later, from all angles, but this is a home run for Jersey.