Commentary

Nuggets can still make the playoffs

The new-look Jazz will have a tough time making it, but Denver's chances are good

Updated: February 24, 2011, 12:52 PM ET
By Kevin Pelton | Basketball Prospectus
Mehmet Okur and Arron AfflaloGetty ImagesMehmet Okur's return will be key for the Jazz, while Arron Afflalo is important for Denver.

Naturally, most of the attention on this week's blockbuster trades has focused on what the New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks will look like after dealing for Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony, respectively. On the other end of those trades, however, are two teams that are in the playoff chase in the Western Conference. Can the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz still compete for the postseason without their former stars, or are they lottery-bound?

Utah's first game without Williams was an ugly 118-99 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, but it's tough to take much away from that game. Since newcomers Devin Harris and Derrick Favors had yet to join the team and backup guard Ronnie Price was sidelined with a sprained right big toe, the Jazz had only Earl Watson available at the point guard position. Watson shot 3-of-11 from the field and turned the ball over four times, while C.J. Miles and Andrei Kirilenko were forced to split ballhandling duties during the 11 minutes Watson sat out.

In Harris, Utah has replaced Williams with a point guard who is just two years removed from being an All-Star in the Eastern Conference. Though Harris has struggled to maintain that level of play and ended up falling out of favor in New Jersey, he remains an average starter at the point. Over a full season, the difference in value between Williams and Harris is about eight games based on Basketball Prospectus' wins above replacement player statistic. Over the rest of the schedule, that should translate to about two or three wins the Jazz lost by swapping Williams for Harris.


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