Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Monday, October 31, 2005

NBA Season Preview: Seattle SuperSonics

It's time. Even if it's going to be a month before I care, even if I think I'm going to be getting buzzed with some businessmen from Philadelphia during our season opener, even if it's hard, here is the Crushed Optimists season preview for the Seattle SuperSonics.

I think the motto of this team should go something like, "We're back... no, seriously, we're really back. Remember us? Hey! YOU OVER THERE!! REMEMBER US??!?!". Man, I'm getting tired of writing about being underrated. First there was an entire offseason of pundits jumping off the Seahawks bandwagon. Now it's the Sonics (and the Huskies). At least I can take solace in knowing that I was right about the Seahawks. Colin and I were even pretty close to right about the Mariners, if you look at the Pythagorean win-loss. That's a pretty weak pat on the back, but frankly, if you take our word as gospel you haven't read this site very much.

Back to the Sonics. For some reason the media has virtually deified the following:
Nate McMillan - Hallowed coach who managed through strength of personality to shape our team with his mighty will into a team of misfits gloriously shooting their way through the heavens. Without his firm hand to guide them, we will fall apart.
Antonio Daniels - Hallowed backup point guard who provided incredible toughness, desire, and simply a will to win that cannot be replaced.
Jerome James - I can't go through with this. Anyone who believes this is a huge loss is a moron. There, I said it. He's the THIRD string center on the Knicks. Come on. We're losing 10 minutes of watching a fat guy huff and puff down the court.

Looking at the above, it doesn't really seem like our losses should equal the dramatic loss in hype we are getting, essentially being put below the Lakers and the Bucks. Let's get this straight... Phil Jackson and Kwame Brown at the expense of Caron Butler now make the Lakers better than the Soncis? In what universe? The Sonics were the ONLY team in last year's playoffs to really make San Antonio work. We frustrated them, took them out of their game, and basically were only worn down through injury. You'd think you'd get more respect for that.

We are a darn good basketball team. One of the youngest teams in the NBA last year should see improvement as our youth continues to define themselves. Let's start with the... starters (at least who were going to be the starters, I'm not confident that Johan Petro will be the steady starter, he is a rookie after all, and a rookie who can't really run the pick-and-roll).

PG - Luke Ridnour (2005 stats: 10.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.15 steals, 5.9 assists, 1.8 turnovers)
Luke was actually a fairly steady contributor last year, although he benefited greatly from having Antonio Daniels around. His small frame can't necessarily take more than 30-35 minutes per game (he averaged 31.4 last year) but he provided a great deal of backcourt defensive intensity and was getting much better at looking for his own shot by the end of the year (as Game 2 or 5, can't remember, against the Kings demonstrated). He will be asked to improve on all categories, and most point guards really turn it on in their third year. Luke is able to find open shooters effectively and looks like a very capable quarterback for our motion offense.

SG - Ray Allen (2005 stats: 23.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.08 steals, 3.7 assists, 2.2 turnovers)
As John Hollinger of ESPN.com pointed out, Ray Allen didn't exactly have a career year last year. In fact, he finished right around the same as his normal averages. I think this bodes well for us, because it means we shouldn't expect a substantial dropoff from our superstar (and we shouldn't for the next three or four years before the age really starts to hit). Make no doubt about it, Ray Allen is one of the top five players in the NBA. He can create his own shot, took it to the hole with authority, and has that pretty step back 10 foot jumper he can drain any night. He is not a tremendous defender, but good enough to not look completely incapable, and plays good team defense. He even has a good propensity to distribute the ball, as his assist average demonstrates. He is everything a team could want in its superstar and we are excited to have him around for a few more years.

SF - Rashard Lewis (2005 stats: 20.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.06 steals)
Rashard Lewis finally stepped out into his own last year, and this more than anything was probably why we had a surprising year. He was a consistent scorer and earned his All-Star berth. If we had a healthy Rashard against San Antonio we might have beaten them... disagree with that and you weren't watching that series. His deep jumper might even be prettier than Ray's, and frankly I have more confidence whenever he lets one fly than anyone else. I would like to see him average closer to 7 rebounds a game, but 5.5 is acceptable. His defense again improved, and since we've finally added more bodies, Rashard isn't being asked to defend power forwards consistently, which his body just doesn't let him do.

PF - Reggie Evans (2005 stats: 4.9 points, 9.3 rebounds)
I'm not that pleased that Reggie has been penciled in here, as I'd much rather have Nick Collison (and in fact think that Nick will find himself as the starter if he's improved as much as I think he will), but we do know what we get with Reggie. He will rebound with authority. He will defend with authority. He will get into opposing big men's heads, especially Brad Miller. He won't be capable of getting his own shot, and he can't put back his offensive rebounds over taller defenders. He can't hit free throws, and is generally an offensive liability. He also needs another center on the court to take up rebounding position. I like what Reggie brings, but think Nick might be able to bring the same and score.

C - Vitaly Potapenko (2005 stats: 3.5 points, 2.4 rebounds)
Those stats are from sitting at the end of our bench for much of last season, so they don't quite tell the whole story. Vitaly is an enormous improvement over Jerome James. He is more consistent offensively, enjoys banging around for rebounds and defensive position, and is much less prone to foul problems. His greatest strength in our offense is his ability to run the high pick-and-roll, because his outside shooting ability will force opposing centers to run out on him, letting Ray/Rashard/Luke run free. He is the first in a wave of big bodies we can throw at any team that doesn't have Shaquille O'Neal.

Bench:
F/PF/C - Vlad Radmanovic: This is the year for Vlade. We need him to be our third scorer. If he shows up, he gets paid. If he sulks about not starting, no one pays him. It's all up to him. I like the motivation. His versatility constantly gives opposing teams problems, but his ineffectiveness defending anyone is frustrating to watch.

PF - Danny Fortson: I love watching Fortson, and hope that the refs cut out their agenda against him. He hits free throws, he rebounds without abandon, and he make grown men cry. What's not to love?

PF - Nick Collison: This is the year Nick steps up. He had last year as essentially his rookie season, and by the end was perhaps our fifth best player. If he can regain his touch at the foul line he should supplant Reggie as our starting power forward. His defense on Tim Duncan was a major factor in our near-miss in the playoffs. Not much to not like about him. He'll get more calls his way this year.

PG/SG - Ronald Murray: We have to watch this guy again? I like that we have good scoring insurance should Ray Allen go down, but Murray is completely ineffective in the situation we will place him in. He cannot score consistently at all, and is more likely to go 1-14 one game and 10-14 the next, and in both games not defend worth anything. Not a huge fan.

PG - Rick Brunson: We needed a veteran point guard and Brunson is effective. He makes good decisions, plays okay defense, and is exactly what we need backing up Ridnour. I saw him a few times on the Clippers last year and he wasn't bad at all.

SG/SF - Damien Wilkins: I'm hoping we give Wilkins enough minutes to showcase the type of improvement I think we're going to get. He is our best defensive player hands down, and had an effective three point shot. He needs to improve on his moves to the basket, as he can be easily trapped and isolated with the ball.

C - Robert Swift: A bit of a disappointment this preseason, Jack Sikma's prodigy needs to step up, although I'm still not expecting anything out of him for two more years.

C - Johan Petro: The preseason stud might actually be our starting center, because he can defend and run the floor. The problem is that he can't shoot, and I just don't see us being able to consistently win games with only three perimeter scorers in our starting lineup. Doesn't make a lot of sense.

PG - Mateen Cleaves: He can smile and cheer.

PF/C - Mikki Moore: Another big body that we can throw in there regularly. Not great, not bad.

Major Strengths:
We have the deepest team in the league. We are again the most dynamic team in the league, able to adapt on a nightly basis. This probably gives us an advantage in back-to-back games. Our team rebounding, especially with taking Jerome James out, should improve, with the return of Danny Evans, that beast.

Major Weakness:
We have the deepest team in the league. Good if we have injuries. Bad if we don't. Bob Weiss is going to have to earn his money finding minutes for everyone. We also still don't have a consistent deep scoring threat.

Fun Questions:
Where are 100 points a game coming from?
We need three scorers, and hope that Vlade Radmanovic will become that, because Luke needs to think most about distributing the ball, not getting his shot. If Ray and Rashard average 20, that leaves 60 to go. If Vlade comes through, that's 15 to him. Luke should average 10 (that's with no improvement from last year). Now we're at 35 points left. 8 to Danny Evans. 6 to Damien Wilkins. 6 to Nick Collison. Now we're at 15 points left. 5 to Vitaly. 5 to Flip Murray/Rick Brunson. That leaves 5 to someone random, I hope it goes to Luke and Nick's improvements. What we see here is that we are deep enough that we should score fairly consistently... IF Vlade comes through. I think he is the biggest key.

When should I care?
Whenever the Seahawks are done, my friend. Whenever the Seahawks are done. Hopefully that's February.

Why do people have the Denver Nuggets picked above us?
Because people have fallen in love with George Karl's winning personality and Carmelo Anthony's teeth. They've forgotten that the Nuggets have no outside shooters and depend on aging interior players.

How far do you think the Sonics are going to go in the playoffs?
I will go so far today as to say that we will win our division and on Friday predicted we would be the #2 seed in the playoffs (because of Phoenix's Amare-less collapse). You'll have to tune in tomorrow for my predictions.

Go Sonics?
GO SONICS!

posted by Gavin @ 3:39 PM  0 comments

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