Prior to the trade deadline, the Sonics were dying on the vine due to their inability to play defense. Most people felt that the problem was the personnel on the team and coaching. It seemed like this team was really missing Antonio Daniels, and to a lesser degree Jerome James. Seattle was not a defensive powerhouse statistically last year, but they did get key stops in games. Pre trade this year, the Sonics were the worst defensive team in history statistically. The coach of the first 30 games this year is gone, and so are some of the alleged perpetrators of poor defense. This begs the question: Are the Sonics better on Defense since the trades?
With the big win the other night against the World Champion Spurs, we have completed 12 games with Earl Watson and Chris Wilcox in the lineup; just about a monthâ€™s worth of games (nine of these without Nick Collison unfortunately). A cursory look at the numbers would suggest that there is indeed improvement.
While we still lead the league in Pts./game allowed, in these last twelve games, the Sonics have allowed an average of 103.9 pts./game. This represents an improvement over any month of the season so far. In November we allowed 104.5 pts./game; in December we allowed 105.1 pts./game; in January a whopping 110.1 pts./game, and in February we allowed 107.1. More importantly we have won 7 of these last 12 games.
There is no doubt that Earl Watson knows how to play defense, and plays it night in and night out. He is a huge defensive upgrade over Flip Murray as a defender, and a ball handler. Taking away Mike Wilks from the equation, Earl Watson has the 2nd best Roland rating on the team. It seems like his defensive tenacity may have rubbed off a bit on his teammates. I have never seen Ray play defense like he did against Kobe a few weeks ago. I hope to see Luke make the connection that his playing time may rest on his ability to play both sides of the ball; and that he has a perfect defensive role model in Earl.
Chris Wilcox is also a better defender than Vladimir Radmanovic. Just the fact that Wilcox is willing to stay home and help clog the middle is a huge step forward. It is a shame that because of Nickâ€™s injury we couldnâ€™t get a more complete look at the combination of the two.
It seems that this team is improving defensively. My hope is that with a training camp and summer programs, that this team can get to a point where we are quite respectable on defense.