John Wall, Deron Williams

Divergence. (AP)

Most would agree that the beginning of the "new Nets" era -- not necessarily the Brooklyn Nets, but the origin of this team's formation -- came on February 23rd, 2011, when the team acquired Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, and two future first-round draft picks. True, the acquisition of Williams was the first domino that led to Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, and eventually Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

But assembling the Brooklyn Nets goes a little further back, and true to form, the first domino that allowed this entire team's construction fell months earlier, in perfectly random fashion, and it's got everything to do with tonight's matchup.
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Deron Williams

Deron Williams looks to beat his former team for the first time tonight. (AP)

The Brooklyn Nets take on the Utah Jazz tonight, at 7:30 P.M. at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, in a matchup of two teams with wildly contrasting managerial styles. Four of Utah's top five minute-getters in the early season are under 23 years old; not one Nets rotation player is under the age of 25. (23-year-old Mason Plumlee has played a grand total of three minutes.) The Jazz are built for 2018, the Nets now.

The Jazz have been in frantic rebuilding mode since the trade that sent Deron Williams to the Brooklyn Nets for Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, and two first-round draft picks. Harris is since gone. Favors is a full-time starter. One of those two picks is full-time starter Enes Kanter, and the other was packaged in the 2013 draft in a deal that netted the Jazz seventh overall pick Trey Burke. Burke is also a full-time starter, but is out following surgery to repair a broken right index finger.

Williams has never beaten his former team, and the Nets haven't beaten the Jazz since January 19, 2011. But that fortune could change with the team's new additions: Kevin Garnett & Paul Pierce haven't lost to the Jazz since March 22, 2010, losing to a point guard who put up 22 points and 11 assists named... Deron Williams.

Watch: YES Network, 7:30 P.M. EST
Listen: CBS WFAN 660 AM, 101.9 FM

Discussing tonight's X-Factors:
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This isn't the first time I've seen this question and it isn't the first time I've thought about it. Ever since the Nets traded for Williams, I've hyperbolically thought about it every single day. And after all that thinking, I do in fact have a firm answer.

I like Derrick Favors. A lot. I was one of the few people who were staunchly against trading Favors for Carmelo Anthony, because I believed (and still believe) that Favors can grow into a high-impact player that affects the game more positively than Anthony does. I'm also a big fan of Kanter, and still think Billy King could've gotten that pick top-3 protected at least for a year.

But as a fan of this team for well over a decade, who's lived through four straight awful seasons, I can unequivocally say I'd rather have the Deron-Joe-Gerald Nets than the Favors-cap space Nets, and it isn't close.

I'm so sick of cap space. After three years of falling for it, I hate cap space now. Every time I look at a roster with cap space I feel bad for them. For three straight seasons, cap space has been either this team's best player or its most useful asset. It's all well and good if you're playing NBA 2K and you can hit a save point if you don't get to sign LeBron James in your association, but it's sickening to watch a team, game after game, year after year, actively tear it down so plainly that even the fans know they're watching a commodity more than a game.

I've said the Nets have half-assed a rebuild for the past three years, but the reality is that they just didn't get the talent. They didn't turn cap space into anything. Now, they have, and then some. I can't describe to you any more clearly how excited and happy I am that I get to watch a team that has a better chance of winning than losing most nights for the first time since I started applying to colleges. Anyone who's watched a bad team in a bad season knows the feeling of dread turning on the television to watch another inevitable 14-point loss. Even the wins feel insignificant. Now, they don't. That's an enormous change, one only possible with today's roster.

And no, they're not a championship team, and they don't have any space to wiggle into one. But the idea that the Nets somehow had a guaranteed future of prosperity with cap space is preposterous. In short, they chose "winning" over "losing in the hopes of winning." They chose to be very good. And, while it's highly unlikely and I'd never pick it, who's to say they can't win a championship? Dwyane Wade can decide to pursue a lifelong dream of pottery midseason. Dwight Howard might become an actor in L.A. and buy Jack Nicholson's courtside seat. Or, the Nets could suddenly get red-hot (or "come together" or whatever lazy people call it) in those glorious few weeks in May and June and confound the best teams in basketball out of nowhere. Results in the playoffs can confound the best of us; that just happened two years ago with the Mavericks. The Nets almost assuredly aren't going to do that, but they're definitely not doing it with cap space as their leading man.

Even in the likely event that they don't win a championship, they'll "win," solely by winning games. To extend that college/grading analogy, the Nets chose a B+ team with A- potential, as opposed to C team with A or A+ potential. After five years of bad grades, I'm not only content with that, I embrace it.