For the start of the 2005-06 season, our esteemed blog authors got
together for a roundtable discussion of the upcoming season. We focused on several different questions, resulting in a discussion of considerable length. This is the first part.
What will the Sonics win/loss record be in 2005? What are
your predictions for divisional and conference rankings?
SonicsMan: Denver is poised to have a great year. I think the
Grizzlies fall out of playoff contention and the Lakers capture one
of the last spots. I see Houston and Sacramento being similar to last year. Seattle will finish with a solid 50 win season and start the playoffs with home court advantage. This team should not have a significant dropoff this year if they are well coached and stay reasonably healthy.
Brian Robinson: The Sonics will finish 50-32, first in the Northwest division and second in the Western Conference. I had a tough time ranking a team first in their division and second in the conference with only 50 wins, but in the end that's what I came up with. I tried to justify putting Denver ahead of Seattle but believe that their lack of outside shooting is going to haunt them unless they make some type of trade. While last year's record was no fluke a lot of things went very right to get there. While I expect the Sonics talent level to be higher than last season due primarily to the emergence of Ridnour and Collison, that won't translate to more wins just due to the competition being a little tougher. I see the Western Conference as being very tight in the standings with only San Antonio standing above the pack. It would not surprise me at all to see Seattle, Houston, Phoenix, Dallas, Memphis, Sacramento, and even the Warriors within 5 games of each other to end the season.
John: 47 wins.
Steve Stearns: I don't see us duplicating the number of wins from last year since, as Brian pointed out, it was a down year for the T-Wolves and Lakers.
In addition, we don't have the quality depth at guard we had last year and I believe that will come back to bite us at some point during the season. The good news is that we are still a damn good team, so the dropoff shouldn't be that severe. Nevertheless I say this year's team wins 44 games and finishes behind
Denver in the Northwest division.
Jon Sunvold: Our record last year was tied to that extraordinary
start, where we lost only two games and won a bunch. This team won't have that kind of opening. The conference will be tougher; Denver, Houston and Golden State should be more ready early on. Portland is the only team that really nose dives from last year. I'll say 45 wins.
Big Chris: Seattle will finish slightly behind last year at 47-35,
with the extra losses being the result of Utah, Minnesota, Golden
State, and the Lakers having become stronger during the offseason.
Scott: Last year's team went way beyond my expectations; my sincere
hope is that will be the case this year. Coach Bob Weiss has
consistently spoken about our need to get better on defense. I
believe this is a possibility, but not overly likely. I see us
winning 48 games, being second in our division behind Denver and
fifth in the conference.
What is your projected 9-10 man rotation?
Scott: I think Weiss will start with Vitaly, Evans, Lewis, Ridnour
and Allen. the first three reserves will be Flip Murray, Collison and
Radmanovic, but this is where things get a bit tricky. Fortson played
a big role early last season and Bob has said he wants to play him
with Collison. Petro is our best defensive center, but where do we
find minutes for him? Damien Wilkins was given a 5-year contract, but
if we give 40 minutes to Vitaly and Evans up front, and another 30
per night to Nick, that leaves 26 minutes available in the four and
five slots. If Lewis plays 38 minutes, that leaves only 10 at backup
for a backup 3; and unless Vladi doesn't play at all Damien's role is
SonicsMan: I expect Luke, Ray, Rashard, and Reggie to all return as
starters. While I would prefer that Collison start, I can understand
going with Reggie in the starting lineup to try and maximize both his
and Fortson's minutes on the court. We have the ability to match up
against most front lines. Moore, Potapenko, Swift, Petro, Collison
and Fortson will all see some time and while none of those players
are going to be great, they provide the coaching staff with options
and versatility. Clearly there is a concern about Flip playing point
guard and that's why the team brought in Brunson. Brunson isn't
spectacular, but he played well enough last year on the Clipps that
we can count on him for a limited role if Flip fails.
John: Vladi will be first off the bench, Nick next, and Murray
after that. I predict Wilkins will be playing more into Murray's
minutes by December, and I'm going way out on a limb for me and
predicting the Sonics make a trade for another guard sometime during
Steve Stearns: I think this year's projected starting lineup of Luke, Ray,
Shard, Reggie and Petro is similar to last year's with the same
liabilities. I believe the Sonics will continue to fall behind early
and often, only to come storming back behind Vladi's outside shooting
or Nick's heady play. The bench will continue to be a strength of
this team, but the Sonics will miss the versatility that Antonio
Big Chris: Ridnour, Allen, Lewis, Evans, and Petro will start the first few weeks of the season. First off the bench will be Radmanovic or 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 palying time, depending on the matchups. I don 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 opposing second team center. When Vitaly is healthy, I expect him to start, at least early in the season. I don't see Wilkins getting a whole lot of minutes this season.
What will the effect of the new coaching staff be? How will
this affect the overall performance of the team?
Big Chris: 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 Wilkins.
Brian Robinson: After watching practice, I have little concern for the team as
far as coaching goes. They have loaded the staff with veteran coaches
such as Brendan Malone and Bob Hill so there is no shortage of
knowledge out there for the players to tap into. In addition, this is
a squad that coaches themselves. The players are smart and self-
directing. Ray Allen in particular is just such a professional leader
on the floor. He is constantly pointing out where guys need to be,
how they need to execute, etc. In addition, I don't think the coaches' commitment to defense is just lip service. To a man, every player I have interviewed points out that the team has spent much more time and emphasis on defense than they did a year ago. Brendan Malone is often singled out as a guy who is just very talented at teaching defense on a fundamental level.
Scott: I think the big changes will be noted because of the additions of Bob Hill and Brendan Malone to the coaching staff. Gone should be all of Nate's trapping D that got us burned up
until last year. On offense, I think we'll play a bit faster using
the 'get it early or get it late' strategy from last year. I'm not a
huge fan of playing more uptempo and would prefer that we play slow
down, possession basketball and pound the offensive glass.
John: I think McMillan had a career year last year, rather than a
coach all of a sudden getting it. I like the staff Weiss has put
Steve Stearns: The team will play more uptempo and emphasize early offense on
the fast break. The trap D will be gone, but I think we're going to
see a lot of porous defense in an effort to keep the best offensive
players on the floor at the cost of the better defenders.
Jon Sunvold: On offense we'll see a style of play that places a lot
of responsibility and trust in Ridnour. On defense, I don't know yet.
I like what I'm hearing, but I have to see it.