Before the dust floated down to Manhattan’s bustling streets, and before the buzz of conversation surrounding Carmelo Anthony’s name had been reduced to a mere echo, the New Jersey Nets stole their fare share of headlines by grabbing what many thought was one of the league’s most untouchable players. Deron Williams for a New Jersey Nets platter that included a has been and several unknown—promising—entities had the basketball world spinning on Mikhail Prokhorov’s gangly index finger. Sure the Carmelo deal was crazy hyped and seismic in its effect on both teams involved, but its eventual occurrence was anticlimactic. Everyone knew Melo wanted to play for the Knicks and either a trade would get done before the deadline or it wouldn’t, and he’d simply sign with the Knicks next season. The Williams deal, on the other hand, was subtle. A lone sniper’s bullet that came and went in a moment, forever changing the perception of an All-Universe point guard, two ownership groups and a franchise that, all of a sudden, meant business.
In the subsequent days, many tried to uncover how a gargantuan deal of such reverberating importance happened so quickly, kept under wraps from the public. The most detailed case of reporting came by way of NBA Confidential’s Sam Amick. This excerpt from an interview with Walsh this past March:
While Walsh is certainly thrilled to land Anthony, he admitted the notion of landing Willams would have been appealing had he known he was on the market. Asked if things might have turned out differently if he was privy to that information, Walsh said with a shrug when asked by NBA Confidential, “it might have.”
It’s not a knock on his view of Anthony so much as it is a reflection of Walsh’s opinion of Williams, who will be available yet again after next season as a free agent (he has a player option for the 2012-13 season). And when that time comes, this revelation should be remembered.
To put it plainly, this league is point guard driven now more than ever before. And Deron Williams is either the second or third best point guard in the world. Place him on the Knicks roster instead of Carmelo Anthony and what you have is, without question, a compliment to what New York already had. There’s no controversy surrounding Carmelo Anthony’s inability to fit in with D’Antoni’s system, no struggle from Landry Fields, no ball stopping, no poor reputation as a disinterested defender, and most importantly, no question of who the go-to scorer is—Amar’e would continue to hold it down. Playing the Steve Nash role, only with more athleticism, Williams would likely increase his assist numbers to a league leading figure, and D’Antoni would have the most talented locker room in his coaching career.
But Deron Williams, like Carmelo, would be an important stepping stone, not the final piece to a championship puzzle. The Knicks still need that mountainous man in the middle (although who knows whether the Jazz would have been as insistent as Denver on Mozgov being apart of their trade package), and they would have still lost Gallinari, Chandler, and Felton (at least). This isn’t to completely discredit what Anthony brings to the table. He’s a supreme scorer entering the prime of his career. Not many players would be capable of duplicating his Game 2 performance against Boston, and it’s a damn pleasure to have him onboard with a smile on his face. Anthony’s played just 31 games in a Knicks uniform and watching him click with a more complete New York roster will hopefully bring the Big Apple an overwhelming sense of glee not felt since the early seventies. It’s really difficult to complain about Carmelo, and asking for Williams over him is like spurning a super sweet BMW for an even sweeter Mercedes. Then again, if you had your heart set on a super rare Mercedes owned by a man who repeatedly turned down fair offer after fair offer to give it up, were forced to “settle” on the BMW, then watched, a few days later, as your neighbor sped down your street in that very same Benz, how would you feel?