The future of the Nuggets is now the future of the Utah Jazz.

Many NBA executives had believed Derrick Favors would end up in Denver. Instead, the New Jersey Nets rookie, the No. 3 pick in last summer's draft, was traded to Utah, where he will now battle the Nuggets in the Northwest Division for years.

Of course, Denver made out in the Melo trade about as well as any team that has ever traded its top two players, midseason. But for much of the Melodrama (I promised to never type that word again, and there that thing is again), it appeared that Favors would be giving the Rocky Mountains some company.

"Glad he didn't," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said with a chuckle. "He's been a dream, man - a 19-year-old kid with a 25-year-old body. He's really raw, but he's open to learning, loves to work and he's pretty sharp at picking things up for a young kid in this league. He's worked his butt off. Trying to listen and learn. I think his upside is really good."

Favors' name showed up almost daily in this newspaper - many Nuggets fans (and coaches and scouts) followed his games. Favors fits that big-man role in the Utah offense, that post-up player who can also face the basket and, of course, set picks (and roll, roll, roll).

"Developing the offense through him at the high post will be something they'll have to work on, but I think what Utah's system does is it teaches the game of basketball well," Karl said three days ago from Utah, where his Nuggets beat the Jazz. "His betterment will be sped up. . . . He's only 19 years old. Any guy with that at 19 will be, at minimum, a double-double guy. How skilled and polished he gets is to be determined in a few years. But he's going to get stronger, he's going to get better and is probably going to get bigger."

Favors fouls a lot. Defensive discipline will be something that he'll need to develop, while his game develops too. But it appears that Favors (6.4 points and 5.2 rebounds this season) will remain in the lives of Nuggets fans for years - but now as a division rival.

"He's got a good upside to be a great power forward or even a center in this league," Corbin said. "He can play both spots because the way he can run, his athleticism on the perimeter, and then his bulk and toughness and quickness inside will let him play the five.