Nearly six years ago, the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets found themselves facing a similar crossroads. They both had stars whose peak in their respective uniforms had clearly passed. In Denver, Carmelo Anthony was the face of the Nuggets for years, at his best leading Denver to a Western Conference Finals appearance in 2009. In Utah, after leading the Jazz to the 2007 WCF, the falling out of Deron Williams was much more clear and dramatic, but you all know that story and I don’t particularly care to rehash it here. Suffice it to say, we love you Jerry Sloan.
The result was that both Anthony and Williams would be traded prior to the 2011 trade deadline. The hope at the time from each franchise was that the hole created by the departure of their stars would be filled with the result of the return. As in all cases with big-name trades, the franchises hoped to get rebuilding pieces to take their teams to greater heights. Prior to tonight’s third Utah-Denver matchup of the season, let’s see who came out better in that pivotal moment.
(Author’s note: This is in no way an exhaustive list of what transpired from every player and pick involved in the Anthony/Williams trades. Trying to track all of that through the six years since would be, well... exhausting. These are simply the highlights.)
The Denver Return
- Danilo Gallinari
- Wilson Chandler
Gallinari and Chandler are still playing in Denver and are currently two of the Nuggets’ best players. They were 22 and 23 years old when they were traded to Denver. The Nuggets made the playoffs during their first two full seasons there but haven’t made an appearance in the postseason since 2013. It’s clear that a team centered on these two players isn’t playoff caliber unless stocked with some great talent around them.
- Timofey Mozgov
This one still has some unfinished business, as Mozgov was later traded to Cleveland for two first-round picks that have yet to be conveyed. However, they both have heavy protections, so the odds of them yielding a future star are slight.
- Raymond Felton
- Knicks' 2014 first-round pick
This pick is where things get interesting and, ironically, where I tip the scales to the Jazz in this consideration. Stay with me, here. Denver used the New York pick in a package that netted Andre Iguodala. While Iggy had some good years in Denver, nothing really notable on a grand scheme came from his time there. After his contract expired, Iggy was traded in a sign-and-trade to Golden State. It was this circumstance that instigated the trade Utah is still benefiting from. In an effort to clear space for Iguodala’s contract, Golden State unloaded some contracts and picks to the Jazz. The first of those picks became none other than Rodney Hood. That’s right, folks. The Carmelo Anthony trade essentially landed Rodney Hood in Utah three years later, and I won’t be told otherwise.
- Pick-swapping rights with the Knicks for 2016, which they exercised to take Jamal Murray
- Two second-round picks
These may have their own fanciful stories, but for the purposes of this piece, we won’t worry about them. They haven’t delivered a title to Denver.
- $3 million cash
The Utah Return
- Derrick Favors
Favors is the best player returned to either team in the Carmelo/DWill trades. In keeping with the theme of Utah’s return from the trade (that this would be a lengthy rebuild plan), Favors was just 19 years old when he was traded to Utah. If he can get through the injuries that have ailed him the last year, Favors is still very capable of being a franchise cornerstone player.
- Devin Harris
- 2011 first-round pick (Enes Kanter, wah wah)
- 2013 first-round pick (packaged for Trey Burke, wah wah)
If there’s a black eye in how Utah managed the return on Deron Williams, it’s found in those draft picks. Kanter and Burke both had turbulent tenures in Utah and contracts aside (lookin’ at you, Mr. Kanter) neither are overly valuable NBA players, certainly not stars.
- $3 million cash (The same amount of money sent to Denver for Rudy Gobert, go figure.)
- The aforementioned unforeseen Iguodala return three years later by way of the Melo trade (Rodney Hood and Golden State’s 2017 first-round pick.)