2) D-Will over CP3 (2005)
First thing’s first — I am not, nor have I ever been, a Deron Williams hater. Quite to the contrary, he remains one of my all-time favorite Jazzmen (and one that I would like to see return to Utah one day). Having said that, I’ll set my personal bias to the side and admit that the Jazz probably screwed the pooch on this one.
Just ahead of the ’05 draft, Kevin O’Connor moved Heaven and Earth to get into the Top 3 so the Jazz could acquire the franchise point-man they had been missing since John Stockton’s retirement. Chris Paul was the top floor general on the board that year, but the team was enamored with D-Will’s size.
So they went with Williams, and while it didn’t feel like a home run, it was a selection you could get behind. By the end of draft night, I was among those who had convinced themselves that Williams was the greatest thing since sliced bread. And, for a time, he was one of the league’s best players.
However, he was seemingly always chasing Paul’s shadow. And while CP3 has gone on to become one of the best point guards ever to play the game, Williams’ body and skills have been in steady decline for five-plus years. In this year’s NBA Finals with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he averaged just one point per game on 2-of-16 shooting.
He’s also credited by some with running Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan out of the league.
It’s weird, the Williams pick changed so much for the Jazz in such a great way. They rose back to prominence, made it to the Western Conference Finals and put the beatdown on a Houston Rockets team that may have won a title if they hadn’t matched up with the Jazz in the playoffs.
At the same time, had Paul joined the Jazz instead, the team may have enjoyed a decade-plus of sustained success and contended for titles.
Next: No. 1