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Rounding Out the Rotation

Damien Wilkens VS Mickael Gelabale

The battle for minutes between Damien Wilkens and Mickael Gelabale is perhaps the toughest rotation question to answer because Sonics fans have, for the most part, not been exposed to Gelabale. While early reviews of his international game are extremely positive there is always the question of whether those skills will translate to the NBA.

With little knowledge regarding Gelabale’s game this rotation matchup becomes something of a referendum on Damien Wilkens role and abilities. The Sonics must ask themselves if Wilkens has earned a role, which much be pried away by the rookie competitor, or if his spot in the rotation is up for grabs should Gelabale impress early on.

Two years ago Wilkens was an undrafted rookie and last minute roster addition. Given this situation he was granted a lot of leeway and fans were highly impressed by his effort and energy. He played sporadic minutes but shined both on offense and defense when given the opportunity.

This situation changed somewhat when the team decided to match a 5 year, $15 million contract offer made to Wilkens by the Minnesota Timberwolves. With a new contract came new expectations and many felt that Wilkens failed to live up to expectations. He seemed to struggle with establishing a role and was incapable of carrying the scoring load for a second unit that seemed offensively inept. In addition he did not provide the consistent high energy defense that the team relied on him for.

The coaches remain very high on Wilkens who, like many others on the team has a strong work ethic and extremely likable personality. In the days leading up to the draft Sonics Head Scout Steve Rosenberry indicated that the team felt Wilkens was as capable as any player available in the draft and his presence may have factored into their decision to draft Mo Sene over players like Arkansas’ Ronnie Brewer.

It is possible that Wilkens and Gelabale will split time backing up the SF and SG positions respectively. While both are considered swingmen there is an argument to be made that Wilkens is a more natural fit at the SF position.