Mikhail Prokhorov Perhaps Too Desperate As Nets Take Big Risk in Deron Williams Trade

Mikhail Prokhorov Perhaps Too Desperate As Nets Take Big Risk in Deron Williams TradeMikhail Prokhorov was desperate to make a big splash as the rookie owner of the New Jersey Nets.

Perhaps too desperate.

After failed attempts at landing LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the offseason — and again at landing Carmelo Anthony leading up to the trade deadline — the Russian billionaire has now orchestrated a blockbuster deal for Utah Jazz point guard Deron Williams.

Williams is a sure thing. Already a two-time All Star, the 26-year-old is just entering his prime and is averaging 21.3 points (46 percent shooting), 9.7 dimes, four boards and 1.2 steals per game.

D-Will is battle tested, reaching the playoffs in four of his five full seasons in the league, including the Western Conference Finals in 2007.

But the price for the West Virginia native — and the risk it carries for Prokhorov — are perhaps too high. Even for the 39th richest man in the world.

The Deal
In exchange for Williams, the Nets relinquish Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and two first-round picks.

"Rarely are you able to trade for somebody that's one of the top players at their position," Nets coach Avery Johnson told the media Wednesday at practice. "We know we had to give up a lot to get him, but we felt it was worth it."

And they certainly did give up a lot.

While there's little doubt that Williams is more polished and a better defensive point guard, Harris is no slouch. As Boston Celtics fans can attest, the 27-year-old is a prolific scorer, averaging 17 points per game in 2009-10.

Where New Jersey lacks ability isn't necessarily at the point guard position. Anthony Morrow at shooting guard and the enormously overpaid Travis Outlaw at small forward are perhaps better places to lay the blame. While Williams will no doubt improve their play with his passing, he's not the cure-all answer.

Losing Favors is more painful. The rookie out of Georgia Tech (third-overall pick) is a blossoming 6-foot-10 power forward who, despite limited minutes in his first year, is averaging 6.3 points on 51 percent shooting and 5.4 rebounds. Because the Nets also dealt backup power forward Troy Murphy to Golden State in a separate trade, they're replacing Favors with Brandan Wright. Not bad, but not a one-to-one exchange in upside.

Add in the two first-round picks (one this year, one next year through Golden State), plus $3 million in cash and this is where you start to wonder if it's worth it.

In short: D-Will < Harris + Favors + two first-round picks

The Risk
Even if the above equation isn't true, there's no guarantee Williams will stay. Yes, New Jersey's moving to what's supposed to be a beautiful new complex in Brooklyn. And yes, the Illinois alum will have access to the PR and advertising markets of New York City and can hang with Jay-Z and Beyoncé.

Problem is, the Nets are terrible. At 17-40, they're already effectively eliminated from the upcoming postseason. While Brook Lopez is a standout center, there's virtually nobody else on the current roster capable of becoming a reliable No. 3 option in an Eastern Conference now dominated by teams with Big Threes (or Big Fours, in the case of Boston).

D-Will's a winner. If he was complaining in Utah, where the Jazz are 31-26 this year, imagine what his reaction will be in New Jersey.

An NBA lockout next year is a very real possibility
In their most recent meetings, the owners and players union representatives seem to have inched closer toward a deal. But given the distance between them on revenue sharing and the CBA, they needed to make up feet, not inches.

Which means Prokhorov and the Nets are staring at this potential: Williams plays in N.J. for half of a season, where it's virtually impossible for them to make the playoffs. He then sits for a year through a lockout in 2011-12 and decides to sign elsewhere.

If that's not a risky proposition, I don't know what is. Then again, perhaps Prokhorov figures the Nets have little to lose — they're fourth from last in the conference, after all.

If nothing else, D-Will effectively ensures they finish better than that. When you won 12 games last season, even a risky move can seem like a good one.

What do you think of the Nets' deal? Leave your comments below.

 

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