Raptors The 13th pick pick belongs to the Seattle Sonics, in the lottery for the first time in quite some time.   The Sonics Net  GM is Brian Harper who selects

William Avery, PG, 6'2", Duke

I. Team History/Needs

The Sonics missed the playoffs this season for the first time in 9 years. They made sweeping personnel changes (Gone were coach George Karl, Sam Perkins, Nate McMillan, Jerome Kersey, Greg Anthony, Jim McIlvaine and David Wingate, replaced by Paul Westphal, Olden Polynice, Billy Owens, Don MacLean, Jelani McCoy, Vladimir Stepania, Rashard Lewis, and three different backup point guards). But while the number of changes, the move from aged veterans to raw rookies, and the short training camp hurt the Sonics, their hopes this season were really sunk by the disappearing act that Vin Baker pulled. He came into camp horribly out of shape, began the season with a record-setting streak of missed free-throws, and then hurt himself. Without his post presence, the Sonics struggled mightily all season, and despite a career year for Gary Payton and Detlef Schrempf rebounding from a slow start to have another strong season, the Sonics came up a win short of the playoffs and found themselves in the lottery. As if to put an exclamation point on their bad fortunes, the Hornets, the only team in the draft with a worse chance of winning a top-3 pick, leapfrogged to the #3 spot and left the Sonics with the last lottery pick.


Point Guard

Payton isn't going anywhere. Rumors swirled after Payton lashed out at management and the press, but Gary has made it pretty clear that he hasn't demanded a trade, though another season like 99 and he might do so next Summer. For the time being, the Sonics are set with arguably the best point in the game. GP is the complete package - he can beat you defensively, take you off the dribble, or set up a teammate. Payton posted a career-high in assists per game this year despite his teammates' poor shooting. He has four years left on his current contract, and is in the prime of his career. But Gary needs a better backup. The Sonics lost Greg Anthony because they couldn't afford to pay him as much as Portland offered, and they weren't able to successfully replace him. They tried Moochie Norris out of the CBA, Drew Barry, and John Crotty at the position. Crotty was acceptable, but nothing to get excited about. While Gary isn't interested in moving to shooting guard full time (nor would that be a good idea), he does play some minutes at that position, making backup point even more important.

Shooting Guard

This has actually become the Sonics most glaring weakness. Hersey Hawkins and Dale Ellis both suffered drop-offs in their shooting and scoring this season, and given their ages, it's unlikely they'll be able to rebound. Hawkins brings much more than scoring to the table, as he's an excellent defender, a quiet leader, and a competent ball-handler and passer. Ellis brings nothing but shooting, and while he still has a sweet stroke, his already-limited defense is only going to worsen as he reaches the big 4-0. James Cotton will be back next season, but as he's failed to crack the rotation in either of his first two years in the league, it's unlikely he'll make any real contribution next season.

Small Forward

Detlef Schrempf had an awful start to last season, but he really stepped up after Vin Baker was lost to injury. He ended up having a great year for any small forward, let alone one who is 34. Detlef is a free-agent, though, and given his age and salary, he could be a casualty of the Sonics' desire to bring in a younger free-agent. If Detlef does return, he'll likely have to take a bit less money (at least temporarily) to do so. Billy Owens was a major disappointment this season, spending most of it on the IR, and never finding a niche on the team when he was playing. Coming into camp out of shape didn't help. Owens could find himself part of a trade this Summer. He certainly doesn't appear to be a solid replacement for Schrempf. The only other true small forward for the Sonics is young Rashard Lewis, drafted out of high school last year. Westphal is high on Lewis, and he showed hints of great potential during a few games. He may win a spot on the bench as the 10th man in the rotation, but it's more likely he'll have another year of playing spot minutes and garbage time.

Power Forward

It's rare that a star of Vin Baker's magnitude falls as far and as fast as Vin did this season. He was selected to the All-NBA 2nd Team for 97-98, and in 99 he probably wouldn't have made the 22nd team if there was one. There's reason for hope that he'll return to form, though. For one, he won't be anywhere near as out of shape in October as he was in February. Aside from knowing that there will indeed be a season, he'll have the Olympic qualifying tournament this Summer, plenty of motivation, and a full training camp. And Vin has been pretty healthy for most of his career until this season, so his injuries aren't likely to be a recurring problem. Vin did look like he was back in the 20 point, 8 rebound form he showed last season after he returned from his first injury, but it was only a few games before he was back on the IR for most of the remainder of the season. When he's on his game, Vin is one of the best power forwards in the league. While he's not as aggressive and strong on the boards as one would wish, he is one of the best low-post scorers in the game, and is a fine defender as well. On the bench the Sonics currently have Don Maclean, who came on strong in the last month of the season and showed the league that he could still fill it up when he's healthy. MacLean is likely to be traded, if possible, as there's no real need for him on this team when Vin is healthy, and he's a poor defender with a history of injury problems.


Give Wally Walker credit for unloading Jim McIlvaine. He should never have signed him in the first place, but realizing his mistake and dumping that contract was a great move. Olden Polynice was signed to an NBA minimum contract to fill the void, and he actually did an admirable job. He rebounded like a mad man, played fine defense, and scored the odd point or two. Initially it seemed like his enthusiasm was a good thing, but it wasn't long before his gesticulations became simply antics, and the Sonics have made it pretty clear that he won't be back next year. In his place the Sonics will go with youth. Vladimir Stepania and Jelani McCoy, both drafted last year, showed wonderful promise this season, and they figure to share most of the minutes at center next season and hopefully long after that. McCoy is an incredible shot-blocker with great athleticism, energy, and a good nose for the ball. There were major questions about his character and his head at the time of the draft last year, but he didn't show a trace of being a problem in his rookie season. Stepania needs to bulk up a bit, and learn more of the NBA game, but he looks like he could blossom into a top-notch center or power forward. He has incredible foot-speed for a big man, and a beautiful touch with the ball. With the center talent in this year's draft being so thin, the Sonics are very fortunate to have two promising young big men on the roster.

Recent Draft History

  • 1998
    • 27. Vladimir Stepania
    • 32. Rashard Lewis
    • 33. Jelani McCoy
  • 1997
    • 23. Bobby Jackson (traded to Denver for Cotton and a 98 2nd-round pick)
    • 33. James Cotton
  • 1996
    • (3 2nd-round picks, none of whom have played in the NBA)
  • 1995
    • 26. Sherell Ford
    • 54. Zydrunas Ilguaskas (traded to Milwakuee with a 2nd-round pick for Eric Snow
  • 1994
    • 11. Carlos Rogers (traded to Golden State)
  • 1995
    • 23. Ervin Johnson

II. My Selection

William Avery, PG, Duke

The Sonics figure to improve at shooting guard, small forward, or both through free-agency and/or trades this Summer. But they can fill their need for a backup point guard in the draft. Avery is easily the best point guard remaining, and should be able to contribute 15 decent minutes a game in his rookie season. His perimeter shooting will be a great help, as the Sonics haven't had that aspect in a backup point guard since Nate McMillan was last healthy. Avery is also a competent distributor and his mix of passing and perimeter shooting skills are exactly what the Sonics need off the bench. Avery's weakness in driving and finishing should be minimized in the Sonic offense. And if he can learn from Gary Payton, Avery could well develop into a top-notch point guard who can either step into the starting role at some point in the future, or be traded for a player to fill a bigger need.

III. Other Players I Considered

If either Miller or Terry had fallen to #13, they would have been chosen ahead of Avery. Ron Artest is the kind of multi-talented player that could fit nicely into the backcourt with Payton, and I believe he's going to be a fine 6th-man in the NBA. I can't see him starting for the Sonics at any point, though, and when if the Sonics are going to draft somebody for the bench, they'll be better off taking a point guard. If Jumaine Jones had slipped to #13, I probably would have taken him, as he has better starting potential, and could be a replacement for Detlef Schrempf at small forward.

IV. Who the team will probably take

This year there seems to be more talk of trading draft picks than ever, and the Sonics stand as good a chance as any team of being involved in such a deal. In addition to players like Terry, Jones, Avery, and Artest that figure to be taken around Seattle's pick, the Sonics have worked out players that figure to go late in the first round, or in the 2nd, and have also worked out some top prospects like Steve Francis and Elton Brand. And it's entirely possible that they could deal the pick away entirely and not have a draft pick at all. The odds are still good that they will draft with their own pick, though, in which case they will likely take a point guard. William Avery is the logical choice. I've seen quite a few mock drafts that have Avery going to Seattle, and it almost seems like a done deal. If none of the good points are available, they will likely fall back to a "best player available" stance and take whoever slips, with Artest and Jones being the most likely candidates.

V. Other offseason moves

The Sonics are in a position of great flexibility this Summer. They have Vin Baker and Detlef Schrempf as key free-agents, and depending on what they do with them, they could have anywhere from 8 or 9 million dollars in cap room to no space at all. The odds are very good that they will re-sign Baker to a huge contract, despite his awful season. That will leave them with a decision between re-signing Detlef Schrempf, and having the 2-million and 1-million dollar exemptions to use, letting Schrempf walk and having somewhere around 3 million in cap room, or possibly trading Detlef in a sign-and-trade deal. They could free up a little more cap space if a team were willing to take MacLean or Owens in trade for a draft pick. The Hawks might be a good option there, as they have a trade exemption from the Laettner trade, and have a late first-round pick to spare. Most likely, the Sonics will seek to make a trade using a combination of Don MacLean, Billy Owens, Hersey Hawkins, and their draft pick, with the goal being to bring in a veteran shooting guard or swing-man. They also may go after an additional big man, and if they don't fill their backup point guard position through the draft, they'll try and pick one up through free-agency, possibly settling for bringing John Crotty back. It promises to be a very interesting Summer for the Sonics, who are trying to balance their need to get younger and find long-term replacements at two positions without completely giving up hope of winning a championship while Gary Payton is still in his prime. Seattle could be in a position to go after one of the bigger names available this Summer - Mitch Richmond is a close friend of Gary Payton's - or could just as easily have only the exemptions to use to patch holes.

Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner

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