Guest contributor Ben Dobbs chimes in with some thoughts on Sonics guard Earl Watson.
I don't think you fully know what you've got with Watson until you give him a starting job with 35 minutes a game.
Now notice how Chauncey Billups didn't have more than 6 assists until just last season, age 29? Didn't have his "breakout season" with Detroit until he was 26 and further continued to improve in Detroit with increasing minutes each year, especially this past year.
This is a guy who was considered an All-Star candidate and Watson's A/TO ratio in 03/04 and 04/05 along with his scoring ability when joining the Sonics this past season compares quite favorably with Billups.
Could it be possible if you give Watson 35 minutes a game, you could get 16 PPG, 8 assists per game on 3-3.5 TOs with great defense? Perhaps the Billups example is at least a reasoning for why one would at least consider giving Watson more minutes to see how he handles it in the coming season as an alternative to a future with Ridnour starting.
A 3-guard rotation consisting exclusively of Watson, Ridnour and Allen may be something to consider for this season, Allen getting 35, Watson 35 and Ridnour with 26. Ridnour's capability to create shots for others better than Watson is off-set by Watson's ability to play solid defense and hit outside shots along with a better ability to score in general.
Watson's effect can best be seen by stats on 82games.com
Of Sonics regulars, he's 2nd only to Ray Allen in Roland Rating, he holds his opponents to less than he scores and his plus/minus from when he's on the court and off is +8.8. Watson's plus/minus stats are consistent across the 3 teams he's played for the past two seasons. For Memphis, Watson had a +3.5 on/off court effect. For Denver Watson had a +5.6 on/off court effect.
To compare Ridnour and Watson based on playing with the same teammates and potential starting lineups, let's compare them having played with Allen, Lewis, Wilcox and Swift/Petro:
Ridnour played 222 minutes with Allen, Lewis, Wilcox and Petro only to be out-scored by 72 points.
Watson with that same group played only 41 minutes, yet they outscored opponents by 20 points.
Ridnour with Swift in place of Petro? 83 minutes and out-scored by 8. Watson with Swift? 41 minutes and out-scored opponents by 16 points.
These are obviously small sample sizes with regards to Watson on the Sonics, but the fact is that Watson has shown consistent success on all three teams in the past two seasons. However, by expanding Watson's minutes, the Sonics may be able to increase their win totals beyond expectations.