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SALT LAKE CITY — Deron Williams led the Jazz to the Western Conference Finals alongside Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur in his first playoff run. It was the Jazz's best postseason run since the days of John Stockton and Karl Malone.
Four years later, Jazz vice president of basketball operations Kevin O’Connor sent the All-Star point guard to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for Devin Harris and unproven rookie Derrick Favors.
Favors had appeared in 56 games for the Nets before they decided to give up on the promising young big man in favor of the already proven point guard from Utah. Harris had reached his peak in New Jersey, and was included in the deal to make salaries match.
In addition to Harris and Favors, the Nets shipped out two future first round draft picks, one used to select Enes Kanter and another the Jazz packaged with an existing first round pick to acquire Trey Burke.
In total, the haul is impressive, as four years since the deal, the Jazz have ended up with three starting-caliber NBA players in place of Williams.
However, three starters in the NBA don’t add up to one All-Star level player, especially one that at the time of the trade was a top five player at his position in the league.
Three starters in the NBA don't add up to one All-Star level player, especially one that at the time of the trade was a top five player at his position in the league.
Until recently, the winner of this deal seemed to hinge on the health of Williams, now in Brooklyn with the Nets. The point guard missed 11 games in his initial season with the team, four the following year, and 18 last season. This year, Williams has been forced to sit out five games for the Nets.
The further the Jazz get from the trade, the clearer the picture gets. O’Connor made the right trade. While Kanter and Burks have contributed mixed results, Favors' growth has given the Jazz the most promising young piece in the deal, if not the best player overall.
For the season, Williams is averaging 13.9 points per game, 6.3 assists and 3 rebounds — solid, albeit unspectacular, numbers for the guard in his 10th year.
Favors is contributing 16 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game for the Jazz in only his fifth career season. Most impressively for Favors is the growth he’s continued to show from one season to the next. Favors is currently experiencing career highs in points per game, assists and field goal percentage. Favors’ scoring has grown over six points during his past two seasons as a full-time starter, with more room to grow.
While Williams proved to be a valuable recruiting piece for the Nets, landing both Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in a trade with the Boston Celtics, the results for Brooklyn have been disappointing.
Though Favors is yet to provide the Jazz with a postseason victory, his recent play hints at an enormously high ceiling. Over his last four games, Favors is averaging 21 points and 10 rebounds per outing. Before this stretch, the power forward had never strung together back-to-back 20-point, 10-rebound performances. He’s now done it three times in his last four games, including a 20-point win on the road in Chicago.
While Favors has yet to achieve the personal accomplishments, or lead the Jazz to similar postseason success that fans saw from Williams during his six-season career in Utah, his future looks bright. If Favors can continue his recent high scoring outings, not only will he make an All-Star appearance of his own, he can take the Jazz back to postseason success.