Sometime today the Sonics will take the next step in defining the future of their franchise. Whether dramatic, a bit trade, or passive, the decision to stand pat, fans can only hope that the decision made is part of a well thought out plan to take the team back to competitiveness, and then into contention.
A great subject for discussion has always been the best path to follow to get to these levels. In the past I have had long, and often hostile conversations with people who advocate blowing up a franchise for draft picks, dumping salary for cap space, and trading all of a teamâ€™s veteran players for youth. My theory is a bit different than those.
In my humble opinion professional sports, and specifically the athletes involved are simply too fickle to plan around 100%. Building a great franchise is about 80% good planning but in almost all cases requires a stroke of luck, sometimes a couple. In the case of the LA Lakers luck comes in the form of geography that continually allows them to attract great players. The San Antonio Spurs of course wound up winning the lottery to land Tim Duncan, and the Dallas Mavericks were fortunate enough that Milwaukee coach George Karl(I can never resist a shot at George) coveted Robert â€œTractorâ€ Traylor enough to trade Dirk Nowitski for him. Should Houston ever make it to the next level people will point to their lottery day landing of Yao Ming as a stroke of brilliance with a lot of luck mingled in.
Many franchises get themselves into position for a great run, but simply never catch the break necessary to make it all work. Up until this point that would describe the Sonics who have never moved up in the draft lottery, and not caught many breaks in terms of trades or free agency since they were lucky enough to swindle Ray Allen for Gary Payton.
I believe that the best course of action for a team is to build a squad that is 1 or 2 players away, and then attempt to maximize their chances of a lucky strike by being active in trade talk and draft scouting. Try to land that one final piece while there is enough of a support structure in place for the team to have some success when they get there.
In many ways the Sonics have followed this path perfectly with the exception of last season. It may be that they never expected to be so good last season, that the success was the fluke and this yearâ€™s failure the plan. What we do know from last year however is that this team is 1 or 2 players and possibly a coach away from being not only OK, but very good. Chris Wilcox may be the first piece. The second piece may be acquired this afternoon or via Juneâ€™s draft, but as an optimist I have to look at this terrible season and think that maybe it is exactly what we need. To have a team this talented, simply go into a season long funk, and land us that top pick.
How do you believe that teams should approach rebuilding?
Some Random Thoughts:
It seems like Reggie Evans would be a great fit in either New Orleans or New Jersey, both of whom had news today that makes him more appealing. NO lost Jackson Vroman to a broken wrist and New Jersey is trading Marc Jackson to the Bobcats. Ether could acquire Evans straight out for a draft pick to bolster their playoff runs.
David Locke just deserves all the credit in the world for his updates. I don't know of any sports media member in ANY market who covers the NBA trade deadline and draft as well as he does.
While it sounds like the Earl Watson deal may be happening I am undecided about whether I like it. That contract is big. I look back at mid-level deals and I can only find a couple I like. The only one I think turned out really good is Bruce Bowen signing with San Antonio from Miami years ago. I said to myself "$5 million for a defensive role player?" Since then I've realized that guys who can play defense are invaluable and well worth the money over a middle of the road offensive player. That's probably the strongest argument I can make for bringing Watson here.