Having just settled in with an enormous supply of potato chips and Sobe cranberry grapefruit beverage, I give you a synopsis of the 2006-07 SonicsCentral.com preseason roundtable, in which we give our predictions for the season ahead as well as our takes on the rotation, various players, and the team in general. Some names were changed to protect the innocent or the guilty as the case may be.
This year, your SC.com panellists are:
1. Brian Robinson - SC.com author, reporter, entreprenuer, king of diuretic beverages, sometime Danny Fortson lookalike ;
2. "Big" Chris Meirose - SC.com author, blogger, Midwesterner, all-around swell guy;
3. Scott - SC.com author, fantasy sport guru, owner of nifty NBA satellite package, setter of extremely hard picks;
4. Joe Newell - guest author, rare non-pot smoking Oregonian; keen Sonic observer and nifty party guest, and;
Okay fellas, let's start with your win-loss predictions out of the gate.
Brian: 45-37. First in the Northwest Division, 7th in the Western Conference.
The Northwest division will be pretty terrible. I did not like the moves made by either Denver or Minnesota and could see Seattle, the Nuggets, Timberwolves, and Jazz all finishing within 2 or 3 games of each other. The Sonics could easily be fourth of that bunch, but because I'm a homer I assume that things break well and that we wind up on top.
Joe: My impression is they have the potential to win 48 games if all goes well, and the team remains healthy. Few seasons come together magically, and we should probably expect some growing pains with the young guys and a new coaching staff, and maybe some games lost to injury. I would point my guess at 45 wins.
Scott: I felt the Sonics would be around 46 wins prior to the injury to Robert Swift. Unless either Petro or Sene step up, or somehow Danny Fortson learns how to not foul, that may slip closer to 41. Iâ€™ll put them at second in the division and eighth in the conference.
Chris: Like Brian, I'll say 45-37, 2nd in division, 6th in conference.
Steve: I'm going to be slightly more pessimistic. I'm going to say 42-42, second in the division and eighth in the conference. So far I think the predictions of 42-45 wins seem reasonable. They do seem closer to a .500 team than, say a 52 game winner, so we'll see.
What is your projected 9-10 man rotation?
Joe: A) Ray, Luke, Rashard, Wilcox, Sene, Earl, Damien, Gelabale, Nick, and Petro. I donâ€™t think Rush, Denham or Farmer will get any run unless Ray gets hurt or Gelabale or Wilkins stink up the gym. I would love to see them sign Derek Anderson who is a free agent.
Scott: Sene or Petro, Wilcox, Lewis, Allen and Ridnour. Watson, Collison and Wilkins should get a majority of the minutes off the bench. Spot minutes should be there for both Petro and Gelabale.
Chris: If the rotation goes 10 deep then Ray, Rashard, Luke, Chris, Nick, Earl, Johan, Damien, Galebale, Sene.
Steve: Robert Swift being out hurts them and puts the pressure on Petro and Sene to step up. I see Hill sticking with a full 10-man rotation most nights. Luke, Ray, Shard, Chris, and Sene will be the starting unit to start the season with Earl, Nick, Damien, Gelabale and Petro backing them up. If the pattern established in the last two games of slow starts continues I think Nick could supplant CW in the starting lineup as soon as the end of January. This team needs a quick start.
Brian: Cancel everything I wrote earlier about the rotation because Robert Swift is now out for the season. I expect Sene to retain the starting role throughout the year despite serious peaks and valleys. The team likes his defensive potential too much to back down now that they've made the move. Just because he starts does not mean that Sene will get huge minutes. 12-20 a night will be enough for him. Nick Collison will see major time alongside Chris Wilcox and the team will also play a lot of small-ball with a lineup of Earl Watson, Mike Gelabale, Damien Wilkens, Rashard Lewis, and Collison at the 5.
Bob Hill has indicated his desire to have a deep rotation and play intenste minutes. Especially early in the season when the team plays a ton of games and has to deal with serious travel burdens they will go deep with the starters of Ridnour, Allen, Lewis, Wilcox, and Sene being joined in the rotation by Collison, Watson, Wilkens, Gelabale, Petro, and Fortson in just about that order. An 11 man rotation is deeper than most coaches like to go bu I've asked Hill about it specifically and he indicates that he is not averse to using his entire roster to keep the energy level where he wants it.
Lastly for today, what do you think the effect of the new coaching staff will be?
Brian: This coaching staff has an emphasis on the details and an aversion to sloppy play that was lacking last season. I think that repeatedly the team will be described as "crisply executing their offensive or defensive sets" and that fans will be happy with the results. I think that the coaching staff's new attitude is worth 5 games improvement over last season.
Chris: Hill will be better than the previous Bob. Gordy C. is a fantastic add. I think the defense will be improved (even without Swift).
Scott: Cheisaâ€™s defensive principles will help this team in a huge way. Heâ€™s spent years with Jerry Sloan in Utah who teaches solid, tough defense. I donâ€™t think theyâ€™ll ever be a top defensive team, but if they can get from the worst, to the middle third, the teams overall record will go through the roof.
Joe: I think the players know Hill, and understand him, and to a lesser extent, the same for the assistants. What really matters here is a fast start. If after 10-15 games this team is below .500, you could see a lot of grumbling about the coach, the system etc. But, winning cures all; if they are at .500 or above, I think the team will keep working, and Hill will keep them motivated.
Steve: Scott's point is sound. They don't have to improve from last to top 10 defense in one year, but if they can just improve enough to be in the middle defensively this will be a tough team. I think the addition of Chiesa is welcome one and it's nice for the first time in a decade to have a new staff that doesn't have the shadow of George Karl hanging over it. Ordinarily I think that continuity in organizations is a good thing but in this case the Sonics had gone as far as the old coaching staff was capable of taking them.
Tomorrow, Chris Wilcox, Earl vs. Luke, and more!