It’s been nearly six years since that day and we’ve all poured over the deal, analyzing it and thinking about what it changed. But it’s time to revisit the trade once more to see how it changed the fate of the Utah Jazz forever.
Perhaps I am jumping the gun a bit on this, as the actual anniversary of this trade is nearly two months away. But Utah’s first game against the Nets this season is a good occasion as any to take a look back.
Utah traded Deron Williams on February 23, 2011 in exchange for Devin Harris, two future first-round picks, and Derrick Favors. The deal occurred just 16 days following the earth-shattering retirement of head coach Jerry Sloan.
For many Jazz fans (like myself), Sloan and Williams were the defining features of the franchise. The keystone and cornerstone of a perennial playoff team. And in the space of a couple of weeks both were gone and the franchise was left to stand on Ty Corbin and Al Jefferson.
Though then-GM Kevin O’Connor would never admit it; the Jazz began rebuilding their franchise the moment D-Will was gone. It would take years for Jazz management to finally accept the rebuild and make more moves toward it. But it all started with the Deron Williams trade.
Trading away Deron Williams was more than just trading a player. It was a shift in mindset. In Williams was the hope of winning playoff games and possibly a title. From 2006-2010, the Jazz had three 50-win seasons (and a 48-win one) and a Western Conference Finals appearance with Deron as a driving force. The Jazz traded that away for an average PG, draft picks, and an undeveloped 6’10” rookie out of Georgia Tech.
From the moment Kevin O’Connor made the bold decision to move D-Will the Jazz were looking more toward the future than looking at the current season. Yes, they still had capable players such as Jefferson and Paul Milsap. But Utah had acquired two top-ten picks from the 2010 draft: Favors, and Gordon Hayward. These were to be the future stars of the franchise, not Jefferson and Milsap.
Within a few years and after a couple of failed attempts at relevance, the Jazz took the final step away from the Deron Williams era and allowed Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap to walk. The keys to the Jazz were (kind of) handed to Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors.
I think most of us would agree that, at the time, trading Deron Williams was a bit painful. But that trade, though it lead to six years of (mostly) losing seasons and zero playoff wins, it was worth it. It has led us to this point. We’re better off, better built, and better prepared for a playoff run.
Will we win a title with this group? Time will only tell. But trading Deron Williams was a step in the right direction.