|Chris Mason is the GM for
the Seattle Sonics in this years draft.
With the 27th pick, Chris and the Sonics select:
Roshown McLeod, SF, 6-8, Duke
I. TEAM HISTORY:
The Sonics have been one of the best, and most underachieving, teams in the league for several years now. After overcoming 2 straight 1st round playoff losses, including being the first ever #1 seed to lose to a #8 (vs Denver, 1994), they reached the NBA Finals in the Spring of 1996. Unfortunately, the Bulls were there to meet them and the rest is 4 games to 2 history. Still, the Sonics had a core of players in their prime, led by Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. The team and its fans had good reasons to believe that they would be back in the Finals, soon and often. Could a championship be far off?
The 1996-97 season was, to say the least, disappointing. Ironically, the main problem was Shawn Kemp. After an incredible 1995-96 playoffs, during which he destroyed Hakeem Olajuwan and single-handedly won 1 of the team's 2 Finals victories, he disrupted the team with poor play and off-court problems. Then, after the season ended with a poor showing in the playoffs, came the demand to be traded. Exit Kemp, enter Vin Baker. While some people definitely questioned this move, I knew he was easily worth Kemp and hoped that he would be even more. The team rebounded in 1997-98, led by a determined and dominant Gary Payton and Baker, whose low post moves dazzled and clutch performances soon made many forget Shawn what's-his-name. They had the best record in the NBA for most of the season and, despite strong season from the Jazz, Lakers and Spurs, things looked good for the Sonics.
Unfortunately, the team's lack of rebounding and inconsistent play towards the end of the season cost them the home-court advantage. Then came the series against young Minnesota. It should have been a tune-up. Instead it went the distance, culminating in a must win game 5 in Seattle. Ghosts of 1994 and 1995 seemed to be rising, but the Sonics managed to take it. Only to run smack into the one man wrecking crew that was Shaquille O'neal. O'neal and the Lakers knocked the Sonics out of the playoffs in 5 games. This led to several questions: Where had Baker gone? Does Hawkins have enough left to still start? Why did GP look like he was the only Sonic that cared? How much longer would George Karl be around? So far the only answer has been to the question of Karl - not much longer.
II. Player Analysis
Jim McIlvaine - Well, he's here for a while so he might as well be used. He's good for some blocks, but too few rebounds and too many fouls. Offensively, he is...limited. On the other hand, the new coach (see below) has had experience with marginal centers, so maybe he can do something. Even with his contract numbers ($5 million per), I'd like to see him come off the bench. Of course, that means finding a starting center, which is what about 20 teams try to do each year.
Sam Perkins - Not really a center, but that's where he's been used in Seattle. His main strength has been forcing the opponent center to play him outside and the occasional 3. Also, he was able to lull the other team to sleep with his slow, mellow moves. All of this is probably moot, because he's a FA and it doesn't sound like he'll be resigned.
George Zidek - A mid-season FA pickup who didn't play. If he'll come back for the minimum, maybe we'll get a better look.
Aaron Williams - Played surprisingly well when he started, but I'd like to see him play the forward positions, because that's where he'll develop.
Vin Baker - He was everything I hoped for...until the playoffs. His low post moves can be unstoppable when he is playing aggressively. In addition, he is better than Shawn Kemp in every area except rebounding, particularly in terms of ball handling and clutch play. How many game winners did he hit this season. Definitely needs to work on his aggressiveness this summer (hard to do when you are on vacation) - he looked like he was scared to go up strong in the LA series. Detlef Schrempf - It has always been my opinion that the acquisition of Schrempf for Derrick McKey and some fluff was the move brought Seattle into the elite echelon of the NBA. His continued, valuable, all-around play is a reason they remain there. Does everything pretty well, and shoots the rock extremely well, if not quite at the level of a few seasons ago.
Aaron Williams - I like this guy. He has sound technically basketball skills including a nice mid range jumper. Moves a little stiffly, but can definitely leap. I see him developing into the primary backup for both starters.
Jerome Kersey - I was skeptical when this guy was signed, but he definitely made an impact this season. While not the athlete he was during the Trail Blazer's Finals years, he displayed a god amount of basketball intelligence and, most importantly, toughness. Can rebound and score inside. He's a free agent, and I'm torn on whether he should be resigned. As much as I'm afraid that this will be the year that his body gives out, I think he deserves another shot - at a reasonable price.
Stephen Howard - Has this guy even played? I've never seen him. He's an FA who was making the minimum. If there's cap room to bring him back after all other FA business has been seen to, then fine. Likely, he won't be back as the new coach will want to bring in his own projects.
Dale Ellis and David Wingate - These swing men each bring something valuable to the table, namely offense (Ellis) and defense (Wingate). Both are free agents, although the team has an option on another year for Dale Ellis. They should definitely take it. As for Wingate, I'd rate him a mid-level priority.
Gary Payton - The Man. He is the best PG in the league, period, and one of the top 5 players in the league. He can dominate the game with passing, scoring, defense or just plain will. I could say more, but I think you all know who he is.
Hersey Hawkins - I'm afraid that he is at the end of a very fine career. He is a smart veteran who can shoot and drive, plus he has the strength and a certain knack for grabbing key rebounds. I would like to see him start, but play limited minutes, while he mentors a young SG prospect.
Nate McMillan - A consummate gentleman player. I can't think of a player or coach who doesn't respect this man. Injury has vastly reduced his playing time over the last few seasons. The lack of cartilage in his knees has finally forced him to retire. I am sad that he never got his ring.
Greg Anthony - Another guy I was skeptical about signing. Unlike Kersey, however, he did not impress me. Nominally a PG, who backups up Gary and allows him some minutes at SG, he spent too much time heaving bad 3's. He's a FA and I would not be sad to see him go. He did play a lot of minutes, so Karl obviously liked something about him and he'd probably be back if Karl was. We'll have to see.
Dale Ellis and David Wingate - See above.
III. FRONT OFFICE:
George Karl should not have been fired! However, that's the past. The future is...Paul Westphal. This is a very "friendly" choice for the Sonics. He played on the same Sonics team that the GM who hired him did. He has a decent resume which includes a trip to the Finals in his first year coaching Phoenix. However, many people in Seattle consider that a gimme trip because the league needed the Charles Barkley-led Suns to meet Michael Jordan's Bulls. The Suns did have 65 free throws in one Western Finals game against the Sonics so there may be some validity to this. But for me, the jury is out. The main change that Westphal has spoken about so far, is to make traps and double teams a strategic choice instead of the default defense. I'd like to see Nate McMillan hired as an assistant.
Former player and color commentator, Wally Walker fired the wrong guy. Instead of blaming the coach, he should have fired the General Manager who signed McIlvaine. Of course that would be Walker himself.
The team has 7 free agents (not counting retired Nate McMillan) and only 5 guys under contract. I've stated that Kersey, Ellis and possibly Wingate should be resigned, with Anthony, Howard, Perkins and Zidek should be dumped (or signed for the league minimum). If this is done, the team will have about $9 million to spend. That should (new CBA pending) be able to grab a big time FA. If at all possible, they should sign C/F Jayson Williams. This guys rebounding and hustle would be the ideal fit for the Sonics. A starting line up of Williams, Baker and Schrempf backed up by McIlvaine and Aaron Williams would be very strong. Other possibilities are Brent Barry or Jim Jackson (to apprentice to Hersey). Mario Ellie would be a nice veteran addition too, and he would eliminate the need to resign Wingate.
IV. My Selection
My selection is...any one want to trade. Seriously, I've spent the last few days watching everyone I want get taken. I really, really wanted a SG to play with Hawkins or a big time rebounder. But it was not to be. So my pick is a last-minute "pickem" - SF Roshown McLeod, Duke. This pick is based on the fact that McLeod has a decent combination of experience (he's a senior), numbers (had some good numbers on a loaded team that played tough competition) and potential (might become an effective sixth man). The final piece for me is that he has played in a selfless, team-oriented style and I think this will help allow him to contribute what he can and what the team needs without ego problems.
V. Others Considered
I was hoping that Michael Dickerson would slip. If he didn't I had planned to take Miles Simon. Sadly, both moved up about 10 spots each. Bryce Drew, Ansu Sesay and Brian Skinner would have made me happy, but alas. Finally, when Keon Clark started to slide I figured I'd risk him at 27.
VI. WHO SEATTLE WILL PROBABLY TAKE:
This is a classic "best available athlete" pick. Maybe they'll get lucky and find that SG.
|Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner|