Seattle Sonics 2003 Season - Payton Era Ends
Key personnel losses: Gary Payton, Desmond Mason, Vinnie Baker
Key personnel gains: Ray Allen, Kenny Anderson, Vitaly Potapenko
I. Season Overview
The Seattle Super Sonics 2002-2003 season had two defining moments; the trading of 1) Vinnie Baker and 2) Gary Payton. Kinda sad when the defining moments had nothing to do with what actually happened on the basketball court huh? But both trades enabled the Sonics to escape years of salary purgatory. For Boston to take on Vinnie's big contract and his bizarre situation was amazing. My belief is that the majority of Seattle fans would have taken nothing (yes, zippo) just to be rid of Vinnie's cancerous attitude. In hindsight acquiring Ray Allen and Milwaukee's 2003 #1 for Payton and Desmond Mason was a decent deal (thou I was hoping for a shot at signing Jason Kidd this off-season).
II. Draft History
Year Pick Name
2001 12 Vladimir Radmanovic
2000 17 Desmond Mason
1999 13 Corey Maggette
1998 27 Vladimir Stepania
1997 23 Bobby Jackson
1995 26 Sherell Ford
1994 11 Carlos Rodgers
1993 23 Ervin Johnson
1992 17 Doug Christie
III. Management and Coaching
Nate McMillan - Seems to have been hired for his abilities to deal with players more than for his basketball smarts. Nate is a career Sonic who had about a good as chance as anyone to 'communicate' with Gary Payton. Seems to have been in on-the-job training these past few years. Not sure how good of an x-and-o guy he is. I suspect the highly thought of assistant Dwayne Casey plays a big part in the offensive and defensive schemes. Casey is rumored to be under consideration for the Toronto head-coaching job.
Calvin Booth - Had off-season knee surgery so maybe that was what bothered him last season (but doubtful). Considered a defensive force (shot-blocker). Not much to offer offensively. The best the Sonics have to offer at the center position, which is not good. Signed a fat, long-term contract 2 years ago and has produced little. Seems to be one of those big signing mistakes that the Sonics are prone to (Jim McIlivaine, Jim McDaniels). Rumor had the Sonics attempting to dump him this off-season until the surgery further eroded his value.
Vitaly Potapenko - European big-bodied. Decent reserve.
Jerome James - Tall, wide space-eater. Enough talent to keep management hoping but odds are he'll never produce anything more than 2nd string numbers.
Predrag Drobnjak - European big-bodied. Decent reserve. Might not be offered a contract by Seattle.
Rashard Lewis - Sonics placed themselves at risk by signing Rashard to a near-max, long-term contract in 2002. Looks to me to be a 3rd tier star at best. Talented, silky smooth small-forward. Nice shooter, decent rebounder and defender. Sneaky on the glass. Seems to lack fire and disappears during portions of games. Do not consider him a go-to guy in the clutch or the 'Team Leader'. Sonic 2nd rounder in 1998 as a Texan High Schooler.
Vladimir Radmanovic - A small forward miscast at the 4 position. Much like Rashard Lewis in his game, outside jumpers and sneaks in for a few rebounds. Last off-season I thought the Sonics were going to let Lewis go via free agency last year and have Radmanovic take over the 3 spot. Being last year was Vlady's rookie season guess the Sonics considered it was too risky. Timing is everything; Seattle is now locked in with Lewis meaning Vladimir is destined to play out of position for quite sometime. Seems the '6th man' role will be his role.
Reggie Evans - Started as a rookie last year, which is very unusual for Seattle. Undersized power-forward who plays with tons of heart and desire. Good rebounder (led the Sonics) and defender. Very barbaric offensively but the kind of reserve that winning ball clubs have.
Ray Allen - Did a fantastic job last season in a Sonic uniform. Was surprised at his numbers, 25ppg, 6 rebounds, 6 assists per game. Seems to be 'The Man' in Seattle. A class act. Not to be considered Gary Payton's replacement thou. Ray is an off-guard not a point-guard. Only concern about Ray is his physical health (knees?). Considered to be one of the better jump-shooters in basketball.
Brent Barry - Like a fine wine, gets better as he matures. Smart, heady ball-player. Good shooter with a flair for one or two wild, crazy lay-ups per game. Considered the Sonics point guard after the Payton trade last year. I think between Ray Allen and Brent the Sonics can get by without a true point guard this year.
Kevin Ollie - Veteran point guard with little to offer as a starter. A 10-11 sub off the bench.
V. Team Needs and Possible Off-Season Moves
Seattle has the off-guard (Allen, Barry) and small-forward (Lewis, Radmanovic) positions covered but lacks for big men and a classic NBA point guard. Prior to the Payton-Allen trade there was rumor that Seattle would dump contracts to sign Jason Kidd this off-season (Allen's contract squelched that possibility). Everyone thinks the Sonics will draft a PG and a big-man (PF) with their 2 first-round picks (12 and 14) and signs one mid-level free agent (either a point guard or power forward). My gut call is that the Sonics surprise everyone and do not select a PG with there 1st round picks. This inclination is partially due to GM-Rick Sund's comment that he does not believe the team's need for a 'classic point guard' (i.e. < 6'2, with super quickness).
VI. My Selections
Mike Sweetney; PF Georgetown - One of the more mature, ready to play guys in the draft. Supposed to be a true in the paint, muscle guy that the Sonics need badly. Lists at 6'8", which is rather small for NBA power forwards but has a long wingspan (over 7'0), which enables Mike to play taller. I hear he still carries some excess weight, which might not be bad.
VII. Other Players Considered
Luke Ridnour; PG Oregon - What a nice story it would make for the Sonics to draft Ridnour who is a local product. Game is patterned after Pete Maravich. I did not select Luke due to the number of 'white' point guards that do not succeed in the NBA. History shows for every Steve Nash there are 2 to 3 Steve Alford, Bobby Hurley types in each year's draft.
Reece Gaines; SG/PG Louisville - Can he handle the point guard position? Highly suspicious of that. Seems he would need to play with a 2-guard with good ball-handling abilities to make that happen. Reece may be a guy caught between positions (not a true #1 or #2 guard).
Leandrinho Barbosa; PG Brazil - Write-ups on this guy make him out to be the next Payton. Time will tell. My call; let someone else develop him.
Boris Diaw; PG/SG France - What I read about Boris has perked my interest. A 6'8 point guard! Can he really play the point? If so, would take Boris over Badiane but since I have no idea if he can play the point I passed.
Sofoklis Schortsanitis; PF/C Greece - Who are these guys? All the overseas players that I have no idea about. Nicknamed 'Baby Shack' for good reason. Photos of him reflect a man-child.
VII. Likely Sonic Selections
With Podkolzin dropping out of the draft I think Sweetney is gone by 12. Crystal ball: Sonics at 12 take Nick Collison; at 14 take Luke Ridnour.