When the Utah Jazz dealt Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets, it was one of the most surprising trades the NBA has ever seen. A month ago, the Jazz were a regular contender in the Western Conference. They had the longest-tenured coach in the NBA. Now they have lost their coach and their superstar. The departure of Williams from Utah is a terrible sign for small market teams across the NBA.
The Utah Jazz parted ways with Deron Williams on Feb. 23. They got a lot in return from the New Jersey Nets. In exchange for Williams, Utah received former All-Star point guard Devin Harris, rookie forward Derrick Favors, $3 million in cash, and a first round draft pick in 2011 and 2012. That is a nice package, but Williams is among the best point guards in the NBA. Utah dealt him because they were afraid they would not be able to sign him to a contract extension next season.
After a year of drama around Carmelo Anthony, Utah may have made a wise decision. However, it is another sign that superstars want no part of playing in a small market. Already, Lebron James has bolted from Cleveland, Carmelo Anthony has left Denver, Chris Bosh has left Toronto, and Williams has left Utah. Trade rumors continue to swirl around Chris Paul leaving New Orleans and Dwight Howard leaving Orlando. That is a bad omen for a majority of NBA teams who can’t seem to hold onto any superstars. In a sport driven by superstars, that doesn’t bode well for those teams.
Utah is 31-27 this season. They are in the midst of a 5-game losing streak and are fading from playoff contention. The shorthanded Jazz got crushed by Dallas on Feb. 23. Point guard Earl Watson managed 7 points and five assists. That is a far cry from the 21.3 points and 9.7 assists that Williams was averaging. Devin Harris is a nice player, but his 15 points and 7.6 assists won’t replace what Williams gave Utah.
Utah was one of the proudest franchises in the NBA. Jerry Sloan, Karl Malone, and John Stockton combined to make Utah a regular powerhouse. Those days seem long gone now. The Jazz have lost Sloan, Carlos Boozer, and Williams since last season ended. This is a team that is on its way to rebuilding. Even tougher to swallow is the fact that Utah fans will always fear that the Jazz will never be able to retain a star player. Williams is an elite point guard in his prime. He guided Utah to the Western Conference Finals just a few seasons ago. Those days seem like a distant memory for Jazz fans.