What if the Deron Williams Trade Never Happened?

July 17th, 2013 | by Denim Millward


A wise man once said “dealing in hypotheticals is a fool’s errand.”  (Okay, I actually just made that up, but doesn’t that sound like something a wise man would say?)  Regardless, I’m preparing to embark on a hypothetical journey exploring the most likely outcomes for the Utah Jazz had the front office not shipped Deron Williams out of town on February 23, 2011.

As of Williams’ last game with Utah, the Jazz held a 31-26 record and were in the midst of a slump, losing 7 of their past 9.  Had Deron not been jettisoned, I have to believe they would’ve stopped the skid eventually.  I know this is assuming a lot, but hey, this is a hypothetical situation; assumptions have to be made.  Utah had a number of close losses post-Deron, and a player of his caliber would most likely have been good for an extra 3-5 points, turning several of those losses into wins.  In this hypothetical scenario, Utah rights the ship, sneaks into the playoffs in the 8th seed and gets swept by the San Antonio Spurs.

Logic dictates that the Jazz front office would’ve looked into dealing Williams that offseason as well, as Deron had a player option for the following season and could bolt Utah for greener pastures, leaving the Jazz without compensation.  However, this scenario assumes Deron was never traded and played out the remainder of his contract.

While no Deron trade would mean no 2010-11 meltdown, it would also mean Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks would’ve never joined the team.  Utah would’ve been selecting in the late teens to early 20’s of the draft, and would’ve likely been looking to acquire either a young point guard as an insurance policy if Deron left or a small forward.  Notable players who would’ve fit the bill in that range would’ve been Tobias Harris, Nolan Smith, Reggie Jackson, Norris Cole, Cory Joseph and Jimmy Butler.

In the 2011 offseason, Williams would’ve undoubtedly pushed for the Jazz to sign a big-name free agent for him to play alongside.  Unfortunately for Williams, a big name was not available via unrestricted free agency in 2011, at least that wasn’t at a position of need for Utah (i.e. Nene) or an over-the-hill star who would not fit in well in Utah (i.e. Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady.)  The Jazz would’ve likely spent their money on minor pieces that fit well with the Jazz, causing Williams to throw another basketball or two at Gordon Hayward’s head.

The following season (Deron’s last with the Jazz) would likely have been very similar to the last season, with Utah putting up a respectable but not overwhelming number of wins, grabbing a 7th or 8th seed, and bowing out in the first round of the playoffs, after which Deron would’ve opted out of his contract.

And let’s be realistic, he wouldn’t have re-signed.

So where would that have left us for last season?  Utah would be without Deron Williams, without Enes Kanter, without Derrick Favors, without Alec Burks and likely with someone like Nolan Smith or Tobias Harris in their place.  Yes, the rebuilding process would’ve began much sooner, which numerous Jazz fans think it should have, but Utah would have been light years behind where they are now in terms of acquiring assets.  A team with that dearth of talent would almost undoubtedly earn a relatively high lottery pick in a 2013 draft that was widely known to be fairly weak at the top.  Even adding an Alex Len, a Ben McLemore or a Nerlens Noel to the Jazz roster still leaves them far behind where they are now.

No, I don’t expect the Jazz to win more games than they lose in the 2013-14 season, but this retrospective look at the Deron Williams trade makes me appreciate it all over again.  Something Utah’s front office did 2 ½ years ago is still paying dividends, and will continue to become an even better value trade for the Jazz if Burke develops into the point guard Utah’s front office believes he is capable of being.

It was a shock and a downer to many fans when Williams was dealt.  In hindsight, Jazz fans should probably give thanks the Jazz powers-that-be had the foresight to get significant value in return for their mercurial star who was unlikely to stay for long.

Denim Millward

Denim Millward

Denim Millward, before SCH, wrote for Bleacher Report about the Jazz and the NBA. Despite this, he is actually a good writer, and we promise we will eschew the slideshow format on this site. He also contributes to The Color Commentator Magazine, and strangely, likes wrestling.
Denim Millward

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  1. duvey42 says:

    So… did you just call yourself wise for calling yourself a fool?

  2. akarmenia1 says:

    There’s nothing hypothetical about this at all. What you describe is precisely correct. The Jazz got a ton of value for Williams in the trade, and we all know he would not have signed to come back anyways. The number of high draft picks the Jazz have acquired as a direct result of the Williams trade is astonishing, and is a testament to the wisdom of the Jazz front office.

    Fans who expect Utah to pick up big name free agents like Dwight Howard or even Monta Ellis are delusional. The truth is that teams like Utah have no choice but to build from the draft. After all, that’s what they did with Deron Williams in the first place. This is the model other small market teams like Oklahoma City and San Antonio Spurs have followed, and so far that’s working out well for them. With all these high draft picks, the Jazz are bound to land a great player that can carry them far.

  3. Deborah says:

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  4. Dallan says:

    You are right. We do have more assets from the D-Will trade then if we didn’t make it. But lets be realistic. That is all they are. We have high hopes for Kanter,Favors and Burks but yet they are no sure thing. Heck Tobias Harris the guy you bring up has shown more then some of these guys. So yes we are ahead in acquiring assets. But we are not ahead in rebuilding. Because we should have kept rebuilding two years ago. Has it worked out decently? Yes but we could have flipped Al or Paul for another asset or two a year and a half ago and still had the cap space to still do the GS deal. Plus we would have been ahead on the rebuild because two of the guys would have had more oppurtunity to grow and better themselves.

    Was it a good move to move D-Will? No question in my mind was that a good move. Was it the most we could have got for him? Possibly but we kind of just took the leftovers of a deal that was on the table. Should we have started our rebuild and been accumulating assets for the last two years instead of twiddling our thumbs in the middle? Yes.

  5. JT McKenna says:

    And what if we’d drafted Paul George instead of Hayward as we should have? Deron might have viewed him as a star he could grow with and been happy to stay. Those 2 are still worth more than all of our young assets combined.

  6. Stock W says:

    Totally agree, and when u think about it, if you’re placing in the 8th seed every season your going no where so to start over and require much more young talent is brilliant…

  7. Lois Schaalje says:

    Well folks, it did happen. Someone indeed was a fool then. Slump or not…we could have turned things around. We gave Chicago a great team also…what about being fools three times…then what is a man? Really Really…stupid!

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