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05-06 Predictions: Big Chris

Some of the blog members had a meeting this past weekend and discussed how to get all of our voices out into one preseason
preview. Through the discussion the idea for a roundtablesque discussion came up where we all write up our thoughts to six
areas of the team and those are all brought into one major blog topic. I'll throw my thoughts out first and see what kind of heat they generate. More predictions to come.

The six questions that came up are as follows with my predictions:

1) Win/loss record with reasoning, plus the division and confrence rankings.

1 - San Antonio
2 - Denver
3 - Sacramento (though won't have the 3rd best record)
4 - Houston
5 - Seattle
6 - Dallas
7 - Phoenix
8 - Memphis

Seattle will finish slightly behind last year at 47-35. I think the
extra losses will be the result of Utah, Minnesota, Golden State, and
the Lakers having become stronger during the off season. Seattle will
finish second in their division behind Denver.

2) Rotation - give your projected 9-10 man rotation with roles for each player.

Starting the first few weeks of the season:
Luke Ridnour
Ray Allen
Rashard Lewis
Reggie Evans
Johan Petro

First off the bench will be Vlade Radmanovic or Danny Fortson as needed.

Luke and Ray will stay on the floor the longest in the first quarter.
We will see a lot of variety in playing time depending on match ups.
Nick Collison, Damien Wilkens, Ronald "Flip" Murray will then come in
as needed. That gives the 10 man rotation. With Vitaly Potapenko
nursing an injury, he will be brought back slowly. I do not expect to
see much of Robert Swift early in the season, but after Christmas he
may see some periods where he'll get 5+ minutes at a shot, especially
in games where he matches up well with the 2nd team center of the
opposing team. Cleaves will see very limited time, but will excel at
towel waving. Brunson will get his minutes when Flip and Damien are
not playing well/injured. Short of significant injuries, I don't see
Mikki Moore getting a whole lot of playing time, but if Fortson or
Evans goes out for an extended period he may get some run. I also
don't see Johan Petro playing a lot of minutes, but may get some early
starts.

When Vitaly is healthy, I expect him to start, at least early in the
season. Fortson will come in for Evans, Vlade will spell either Evans
or Lewis depending on matchups needs. Flip Murray will come in for
Luke or Ray at different times, and will initially be paired with
Damien Wilkens. We may see a "second line" of Flip, Wilkins, Vlade,
Fortson and Collison at times. I don't see Wilkins getting a whole
lot of minutes this season.

3) What will the effect of the new coaching staff be? How will this effect the overall outcomes of the team.

I think we will see fewer trapping defenses. I think we will do a
better job of creating spacing on offense leading to open shots. I
also expect more variety on offense than the last few years. I think
having Detlef around will help the development of Rashard, Vlade and
Damien Wilkens.

4) Pick three players for commentary.

Danny Fortson: If Fortson can keep his head on straight, he is a game
changing player. This is not because he is at the level of a Ray Allen
or Rashard Lewis, but because he bring a very unique blend of skills
when he is on the floor. He can collect rebounds and fouls at an
incredible pace, and this will be the key to his season. If he can
keep his head, and stay out of foul trouble, he will be a difference
maker. He hits his free throws, and draws fouls often enough to make
that a great tool.

Nick Collison: I think casual fans will be surprized by Nick this
season. Much of what Nick does is not always fully reflected in a
statistical category, but it makes a huge difference to the final
score. I think he will average 9 and 7, but his contributions will be
unmeasurable. I think Nick will get some of the toughest defensive
assignments all season long, doing things like hounding Tim Duncan and
pestering Brad Miller. And I love the fact that Nick knows he
belongs, but he's humble about it. He will be our blue collar star.

Luke Ridnour: Much of this season rides on the development and
ability of Luke Ridnour. He will need to pick up some of the scoring
that AD provided last year. I expect his minutes per game to
increase, and he will see increases in all statistical categories. I
would not be surprized to find him to be the third leading scorer at
the end of the season. I think he'll continue to improve in his
shooting, hitting the open shots, making more 3's than last year. I
think his biggest contribution (and improvement) will come in the flow
of the offense, directing traffic and finding the open man. I would
not be surprized to see 15 games of 10 or more assists for Luke this
season.

5) Team notes and wildcard predictions.

Ray and Rashard will be All-Stars again this year. I think the Sonics
will be part of a lot of Trade Deadline speculation.

6) League notes and predictions.

Miami, Indiana, Detroit and New Jersey will be the top 4 Eastern
teams. I expect Miami to take a while to mesh, but to be unstoppable
come playoffs. Miami in 6 over San Antonio. Vince Carter will put up
some numbers that will make people forget about his childish behavior
in Toronto. Latrell Sprewell will struggle to feed his family on the
much reduced salary he will have to take to make it on an NBA roster.
While Utah won't be in the playoffs, they will be one of the toughest
wins in the NBA, making every team earn it every night. I think
before Christmas KMart and Furious George will have drama. Ron Artest
will take out a year's worth of pent up frustration on whoever he
guards. Allen Iverson will "call out" David Stern after being fined
for violating the dress code. Shaq will laugh at AI, wear something
really silly, pay his fine and bask in the media attention. Andre
Kirilenko will win defensive player of the year.

Big Chris