Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Suped up in Seattle
By Zach

So it's that time of year again. My favorite time of year. The beginning of the NBA season. Everyone's tied for first (except the Hornets, natch), and nobody knows who's going to emerge from the grueling, eight-month long NBA playoffs to claim the Larry O'Brien Trophy (ok, I lied. Everyone thinks it'll be the Spurs again). Yesterday, Ben previewed his Nets, today you get to read about the Sonics, though not for the last time. Oh no, certainly not.

Seattle Supersonics:

Last season: 52-30, NW Division Champs. Lost to Spurs in 2nd round.
Additions: Head coach Bob Weiss (former assistant), C Mikki Moore, G Rick Brunson
Losses: Head coach Nate McMillan, G Antonio Daniels, C Jerome "The Waste of Space" James
Drafted: C Johan Petro, G/F Mickaƫl Gelabale (will play overseas this year)

Most important addition: I suppose as far as players go it looks like it will be Petro. The 19-year-old Frenchman has been the biggest surprise of the preseason for the Sonics and will get the start tomorrow. Of course, that's in part because Vitaly Potapenko, the presumtive starting center, missed almost all of the preseason with a hamstring injury. While the Potato provides some strength, size, and experience, Petro provides youth, athleticism, and better defense. If he can fill Jerome James' role (but not his XXXXXXXXXXXL shorts) the Sonics will be fine.

Most devestating loss: Not the coach, though Mr. Sonic will be missed as a Seattle institution. No, it's backup point guard Antonio Daniels. AD was a breakout player for the Sonics last year and a significant reason they played as well as they did. He provided solid defense and explosive scoring off the bench, and he was the guy Nate trusted to finish games. Still, he was a backup. There was no way he was going to be content to stay in that role even if the Sonics had offered him as much money as the Wizards did, and the continued improvement of starting PG Luke Ridnour made a highly-paid backup less necessary.

The Starters:

PG - Luke Ridnour: Now in his third year, the Disciple, or Frodo, has a chance to be a breakout player. He averaged 5.9 assists, and a sparkling 3.24 assist/turnover ratio last year, and should increase those numbers with more playing time. If he can do a few of the things Daniels did offensively (getting to the basket and drawing fouls, primarily) the Sonics will have another offensive weapon on their hands. Furthermore, he bulked up some in the offseason which may help not only his offense, but his defense. He's got very quick hands and can give smaller guards trouble, though he'll struggle with bigger point guards.

SG - Ray Allen: After a bit of speculation, he resigned with the Sonics for 5 years, $80 million over the offseason. He averaged 23.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game last year and was the unquestioned leader of the team. Plus, he proved time and time again that he can make big shots under pressure. While he seems poised for another great season, questions about his defense remain. He's at best a mediocre defender and, like many other scorers, tends to conserve his energy for the offensive end. After a hot start, his 3pt FG% tailed off drastically (37.6%), and it would be nice if he could improve on it.

SF - Rashard Lewis: The improved play of Sweet Lew was the biggest reason the Sonics overachieved last year. He went from solid contributor to All-Star, averaging 20.5 PPG while shooting 40% from three-point land. He proved to be a nightmare matchup for most teams, coupling great outside shooting with effective post play. At 6'11", he's too tall for most SF in the league to guard in the post, while with his athleticism he's too quick for larger players to guard on the perimeter. If he can improve certain areas of his game (rebounding, penetration, defense), he can take another step. Even if he doesn't, he gives the Sonics their first tandem of All-Stars since Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp.

PF - Reggie Evans: For now, the Collector holds this position down. Still, I wouldn't be surprised to see Nick Collison or Vladimir Radmanovic starting later in the year. Reggie is a rebounding machine, grabbing 9.3 RPG in just 24 MPG, but not much else. He still struggles to finish shots around the basket, a shame because he's a great offensive rebounder. His shot is hideous, and for some reason he tries to post up two or three times a game. Still, he's a tenacious defender and hustles as much as anyone in the league. With the perimeter scoring options this team has, they can afford to start him/

C - Vitaly Potapenko: While Petro may start early on, the Ukraine Train will probably get the majority of the starts this season. He's a wide body with a deceptive solid mid range shot and the ability to score in the post. He's not much of a shotblocker but plays solid post defense and rebounds better than his predecessor, Jerome James. He'll provide 20 minutes and 6 fouls a night as the Sonics will look to batter opposing front lines.

Key Bench Players:

F - Vladimir Radmanovic: After failing in his bid to get a long-term deal from another team, he returned on a one-year deal. He's got unlimited range and solid ball-handling ability, but too much of his game has levelled off. He's still a horribly inconsistant player offensively, capable of 20 or 1 any night out. He still has no post game to speak of which makes him incapable of punishing smaller defenders. His defense is atrocious, as are his decision-making skills. He's a good role player for this team because he allows them to spread the floor, but his deficencies, and his poor attitude, probably mean this is his last year in green and gold.

PF/C - Nick Collison: After being drafted in the 2003 draft, he sat out that entire year after undergoing surgery on both shoulders, making 2004-2005 his rookie year. A personal favorite, Collison emerged as perhaps the Sonics' top frontcourt player last year. A heady player, he showed surprising ability to score from the post, as well as great rebounding ability and solid defense. As a coach's son, he has a fundamental understanding of the game which many players lack. He's worked on adding a mid-range shot to his game and may find his way into the starting rotation later in the year. Either way he'll play a key role for the Sonics.

PF/C - Danny Fortson: Both a fan favorite and villain, DFort vexed both the Sonics and opponents with his performance, both on and off the court. A tenacious rebounder, Fortson has exceptionally soft hands. He gets to the ball on the offensive glass better than anyone in basketball, and has the ability to both finish around the rim (though with his lack of leaping ability we're talking layups) and make free throws, shooting 88% from the line, an exceptional mark for a big man. Still, he picks up a ton of fouls, most of them on stupid plays. Plus, his reputation as a dirty player (mostly deserved) means that he gets no leeway from officials. However, that being said, his ability to both dominate the boards and frustrate opponents with his physical play makes him a very valuable substitute for a Sonic team that is otherwise stocked with meeker players.

G - Ronald Murray: Flip found himself buried on the Sonics bench last year after having a breakout season in 2003. With AD gone, he'll be the primary backup for both Ridnour and Allen. A gifted scorer, he'll have to prove that he can serve as a playmaker and distributor as well. Flip is a guy who can get to the rim against anyone, but I have doubts that his mindset will mesh with the rest of the team. His play will be crucial for the Sonics so that they can limit Allen's minutes.

G/F - Damien Wilkens: With an established NBA pedigree, perhaps it shouldn't have been so surprising that the Omen emerged down the stretch last year. He provided Seattle with a tenacious perimeter defender, something they were sorely lacking, as well as a dynamic athletic talent. He still needs to improve his shooting ability and ballhandling, but has the potential to emerge as a Sixth Man candidate if he continues to progess.

C - Johan Petro: Seattle's first round pick, he's shown surprising defensive ability at such a young (19) age. He'll get chances to play right away, and could make an impact with his athleticism and shotblocking. As a rookie, it's probably too much to expect much of an offensive game, but word on the street is that he's got a nice-looking shot.

The Rest:

C - Mikki Moore: A pickup from the LA Clippers, Moore has been hurt almost the entire preseason. He was brought in for his shotblocking ability, but may not get much of a chance to show his stuff early in the season.

C - Robert Swith: The 12th pick in the 2004 draft, he's since been passed by this year's #1 pick Johan Petro. Still, everyone knew the big redhead would be a massive project, and little has changed. After playing just 76 minutes his rookie season, he'll probably see the court a little more this year. He's got some ability on the offensive end, but still needs to bulk up his 19-year-old frame.

G - Mateen Cleaves: Little more than a glorified cheerleader, he won't see the floor in a close game unless there are serious injury problems.

G - Rick Brunson: He has a chance to crack the rotation, especially if Murray can't handle the point guard duties. A servicable backup, he's a decent shooter and good ballhandler who will know his role.

Biggest concern: Will the offense be as efficient? The secret to last year's team was not that they played fast. In fact, they were one of the slowest-paced teams in the leauge. They scored high numbers because they were tremendously efficient on offense. They shot a high percentage from the field, especially when we talk about effective FG% (eFG%), the didn't turn the ball over much (12.6/game) and got tons of offensive rebounds. If that's a balance they can maintain, they'll once again be a very difficult team to defend.

Prediction: Ok, so you have to consider the source. That being said, I'm really not a believer in the rest of the Northwest Division. I see Denver as the only other contender, but to me the Nuggets have a ton of questions. First, will Carmelo Anthony improve? Second, who will hit outside shots for this team? Third, will they ever get any decent point guard play? Lastly, how soon until they're all sick of George Karl?

Beyond the Nuggets, the Jazz can't score, the Timberwolves have not talent outside of KG, and the Blazers are too young.

Thus, I think the Sonics go 55-27 and win the Northwest. 55 wins should be enough for the second seed, since I think the Pacific Division is going to be a mess.

NBA Predictions:


New Jersey (2)
Philadelphia (7)
New York


Miami (1)
Washington (8)


Indiana (3)
Detroit (4)
Cleveland (5)
Chicago (6)


San Antonio (1)
Houston (4)
Dallas (5)


Golden State (3)
Sacramento (7)
Phoenix (8)
Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Lakers


Seattle (2)
Denver (6)



(1) Miami over (8) Washington
(2) New Jersey over (7) Philadelphia
(3) Indiana over (6) Chicago
(4) Detroit over (5) Cleveland

(4) Detroit over (1) Miami
(3) New Jersey over (2) Indiana

(3) New Jersey over (4) Detroit


(1) San Antonio over (8) Phoenix
(2) Seattle over (7) Sacramento
(6) Denver over (3) Golden State
(4) Houston over (5) Dallas

(4) Houston over (1) San Antonio
(2) Seattle over (6) Denver

(2) Seattle over (4) Houston

NBA Finals:

Seattle over New Jersey, as Ben and I stop talking for two weeks.


Blogger booth52 said...

nice post zach... but 1st in NW? finals? champs? i commend you for indeed bleeding green and gold... but c'mon!!

oh well, here's to hoping your right. (holding my 40 in the air)

7:58 PM  
Blogger Zachary Geballe said...

Well clearly winning the NBA title is nothing more than a fantasy. I freely admit that. But I have to think the Sonics are the frontrunner for the NW Division, considering the fact that the best on-court reason people can find for us to slack is that we won't be able to replace Jerome James' production. Umm, ok. Denver's got some talent, but their roster has a lot more holes than ours, plus you know George is already getting on their nerves.

8:10 PM  

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