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Chris' 2005 Sonics Draft Analysis

Big time Sonics fan and NBA draft info-gathering maestro Chris Hafner offered his thoughts on the latest Sonics draft. This was such a well written piece that it is being offered in its entirety.

Overall, I think it was a good draft for the Sonics - but only if one buys into the supposition that despite this past year's success, the Sonics' years of true contention with this core are still in the next two to five years.

As expected, some intriguing players were still available when the Sonics picked - solid college bigs who could possibly help immediately, such as Simien, Taft, Turiaf, Gomes, Bass, and Maxiell; talented big men a few years away from contributing, such as Petro and Andriuskevicius; and guards of varying readiness in Stoudamire, Ukic, Ewing, Miles, Diener, Ellis, Thompson, and Gelabale.

You can't ask for much more at the No. 25 spot.

Those who think the Sonics should build on this year's success by signing as many of the free agents as possible and go all-out for immediate contention without an eye to the future are likely frustrated the Sonics didn't go with Simien, Turiaf, Stoudamire, or the like. That's definitely the mindset reflected by the KJR callers today. It's a mindset I can appreciate, and I wouldn't have hated those picks - this year it's possible to get a solid rotation guy at No. 25, and many of those guys have the potential to be pretty good players. Simien in particular, IMO, could be very good in the NBA.

However, that's not my mindset. Yes, the Sonics took the eventual champions to six games in the second round of the playoffs - but that's a long ways away from being champions. Re-signing all of the Sonics' free agents for market value would likely also be a mistake - particularly James and Daniels, if their market value is as high as expected. Perhaps with Radmanovic as well. This team had career seasons from several players this year - it still needs a talent upgrade to be a consistently elite team, especially if several free agents leave. The Sonics chose to roll the dice at No. 25 for the greatest possible return - a large, athletic player who is already a decent defender and has a nascent but emerging offensive game, who has at least a *chance* at being an upper-echelon center. If he develops nicely - of which there is no guarantee - Petro could represent a key member of a future championship team or a valuable trading commodity.

In any event, you don't draft to fill current holes. Firstly, you're unlikely to be able to do so at No. 25. Secondly, rosters change rapidly enough in the NBA that holes have a tendency to appear and disappear rapidly. If the player pans out, a team has at least a reasonable chance to hold onto them for a significant portion of their career - why not maximize that return from both a talent and trade value perspective? Free agency is vastly better-suited for filling in the holes around your key guys. The draft is a valuable tool for creating the most talented core possible - an area in which the Sonics have thrived over the last few years.

Drafting Petro is definitely a gamble. I think Simien, for example, will be a decent backup immediately and has a chance to be solid starter-quality down the road. Taft (my pre-draft favorite) has amazing physical gifts, and it's possible that the professional ranks will help him harness more of those gifts.

However, I find it hard to fault grabbing an athletic, talented seven-footer at No. 25, especially with the option of leaving him in Europe, stashing him in the NBDL, or working him with Jack Sikma as Robert Swift has. With Petro and Swift, the Sonics now have two potential-laden seven-foot center prospects, both still teenagers and yet with professional experience. If even one of them pans out over the next several years, the last two drafts look awfully good - and the Sonics have a building block for the next decade. Even if both prove to be just decent, decent seven-footers tend to be overpaid on the open market. The Sonics have bought low with these two players.

I would have thought Martynas would've been the guy the Sonics liked at the position if they were looking for a young, talented Euro big man with large question marks. However, the Sonics did a great job of concealing their true intentions - Petro didn't even appear on any of Dave Pendergraft's pre-draft lists. Andriuskevicius, on the other hand, was mentioned several times as somebody the Sonics really liked.

Petro was ranked higher than No. 25 on many mock drafts, so it's at least apparent that the Sonics didn't reach for him.

The pick of Gelabale is more of a no-brainer. He's reportedly terrifically athletic, a decent defender, and maturing offensively - one of the top prospects in Europe, and slated in many mocks to go in the late first round. As a decent defender at the wing and a no-mistakes player, he sounds like a perfect fit for a Nate McMillan team when he arrives in the 2006-2007 after finishing out his contractual obligations in Europe. He actually sounds a bit like a French Damien Wilkins.

While Roberts was a nice snag at No. 55, trading one second-rounder for two in upcoming drafts is a nice move - the Sonics may be better-positioned at those points to add more young players. As it is, the Sonics are already a young team.

The Sonics have a terrific opportunity to evaluate undrafted free agents this summer - an area in which they succeeded with Reggie Evans. Angelo Gigli was one fairly high-rated prospect who wasn't drafted; others include Randolph Morris, Sean Banks, and Kennedy Winston. Will Conroy and Tre Simmons have reportedly already been offered spots on the Sonics summer league roster - I wouldn't be surprised if they were there and, possibly, in camp. I'm no fan of overrating local prospects, but Conroy was effective in the pre-draft camps and in might be a nice player to have on the roster for his playmaking ability and four-year college experience.

With Swift, Petro, Gelabale, and Morlende, the Sonics also have some intriguing pieces waiting in the wings to augment their young core of Lewis/Collison/Ridnour, which, depending, on the vagaries of free agency could also include Allen/Radmanovic/Murray.

Overall, I love where the Sonics are at - regardless of what happens with the various free agents. With Allen, Radmanovic, Evans, and one of Daniels/James/Potapenko, the Sonics are well-placed to make another strong playoff run - with an improving young core and a bunch of potential additions already under contract for a potential talent infusion down the road. If the Sonics do not retain their big free agents, they will be like any other young team in the NBA - but already with some success under their belt, a lot of players with potential, and a ton of cap space.

Either way, it's not too bad - and with a bright future.

Cheers,
Chris