Offseason to-do list: Sonics reposted

Throughout the next week or so, we will be putting up posts for what teams need to do to get better. It will be in a very random order as we have writers working on different teams and getting their work in at different times. As you have probably figured out, we will start with the Sonics.

I guess the first thing the Sonics need to do is to sort out this mess about their arena. When Howard Schultz bought the team he was seen as one of the premier owners in the league. After he sold the team to Clay Bennett of Oklahoma City, it has become a disaster for the city of Seattle as well as Oklahoma City. With the move to Oklahoma City the Sonics have ceased to exist and will need new colors as well as a new team name. It is sad for a team like the Sonics to just be a part of history without any new updates, but this sort of moving used to happen all the time before the CBA and ABA merger.

Now to the players.

The Sonics have drafted extremely well the last 2 years. They have a young team with an average age of 24.5. Kevin Durant is clearly one of the brightest young stars in the league today. People outside of the Seattle market rarely get to see him play, but if you saw him last summer holding his own during the USA Team scrimmage it was pretty impressive. He is clearly one of the best talents in the league that is seldom talked about because of the success, or lackthereof, of his team. Besides Durant, the Sonics picked up a solid player in Jeff Green that logged a 10.5 ppg and 5 rebs average this season. By rookie standards, not great, but not bad. I think as a complementary player to Durant he will be fine, and that is what Seattle needs him to be. He is a fairly aggressive player that needs to improve on defense. Both Durant and Green are the only Sonic players on the roster pre-2008 draft that have contracts till the summer of 2012.

A lot of people think that taking Westbrook was a surprising pick at #4. I was a little surprised that they didn't go for size, but Westbrook is one of the best players in this year's draft class. He is a little shaky offensively, but with Durant as the focal point of the offense he doesn't need to be a tremendous scorer. He is an amazing lockdown defender and is very intelligent with the ball. He could be one of the best point guards in the league someday if he lives up to his potential. He was the third UCLA point guard taken in the last three years, and Darren Collison coming out next year, so UCLA has to be doing something right with their point guards. The issue with the Sonics back court right now is that they have 3 point guards after drafting Westbrook. With Watson and Ridnour scheduled to make 13.1 million in 08-09, and the expected rookie max contract of about 4.5 million for Westbrook, that is over 17.5 million just on the back court. That is a steep price to be spending on 3 players all playing one position. This could be the Sonics setting up some sort of trade in the future.

As for the Sonics other picks, Ibake, White, and Hardin, respectively, I don't think any of them are going to make an impact on the Sonics immediately. P.J Carlesimo has great experience dealing with young teams so he will be able to handle their development effectively. A note on Devon Hardin: Here is a player who was projected to go mid to late first round last year but decided to stay an extra year and dropped into the mid second round. There are several other players that happened to this year, and it is no wonder the majority of players leave earlier rather than later when their stock is highest for that guaranteed money, and lots of it. I just wish college fans who don't watch the NBA would understand that.

The front court for the Sonics is incredibly weak with Collison and Petro at the 4 and 5 spots, respectively. It is the reason why many people thought the Sonics were going to go for size with their #4 pick and possibly why they kept the pick instead of trading it to the Clippers. I think that ultimately the Sonics will be dominated in the Western Conference with a weak front line like this. The players that they should look to get in a trade are defensive shot blockers and rebounders.

The Sonics clearly want to add a heavier defensive presence because it is clearly proven that defense is the deciding factor among teams in the league, especially in the Western Conference. They do accomplish defense, but only occasionally. The Sonics score in bursts, but the problem is that they can seldom play defense during these scoring bursts. Chances are, the other team will be able to get stops during stretches of just trading baskets. The Sonics biggest challenge will be to add a strong collective defensive presence and hit shots more consistently. It is a common problem for young teams like the Sonics to go on large droughts of scoring and scoring runs. They are also the type of team that feeds off of the other end of the floor. That is, what they do on one end has a direct impact on the other side. Good defense leads to good offense, bad defense leads to bad offense, and vice versa. They let their opponents shoot 50.6% from the field while they are shooting 46% which isn't terrible, but their numbers suggest it is due to defense. The Sonics averages clearly indicate they can score, but the lack of defense is a problem that most likely won't be fixed this year and amidst all of the arena controversy they will be a team that will be in a rebuilding stage for a few more years to come.

This has nothing to do with the Sonics, but I couldnt resist putting this up even though I am a Wake student and Josh Howard supporter. It is for charity though...

Picture Source: faniq.com (top), pictopia.com (middle), sports.espn.com (bottom)


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