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The Roster According to Ray

Fans are always enamored with new talent and potential. As the trade deadline draws near plenty of speculation will center on acquiring the next great player.

As the rumor mills swirl and names get leaked to the public fans everywhere present their case, arguing that draft choices Greg Oden and Kevin Durant are the next David Robinson and Kevin Garnett. Recent draft choices like Boston’s Al Jefferson and Gerald Green seem like locks to develop into the next Chris Webber and Tracy McGrady respectively.

For whatever reasons people are loath to point out that the success rate of these young players is a mixed bag at best. While Durant appears to be a “can’t miss” prospect he could in fact be the next Tim Thomas or Keon Clark just as easily as the next Garnett. Jefferson and Green certainly has not proven to be franchise changing players As demonstrated by their team’s abysmal 13-38 record.

While some fans, and possibly some general managers sit and mull over these and other young players Seattle’s Ray Allen has a different take on the situation. Seattle’s problem according to Allen is not a lack of talent, rather a lack of experience and leadership.

“You can’t just have young players around each other because they are not learning anything from each other.” Allen said when asked about the makeup of this current roster.

Currently the Sonics 9 man rotation features 7 players with 4 years or less NBA experience. Of that group 2, Mickael Gelabale and Andre Brown are true rookies while 2 others, Nick Collison and Damien Wilkens have 2 years apiece. Center Johan Petro features only a single year experience.

Worse yet, with the exception of 5 year vet Earl Watson there is not a single experienced voice off the bench. Journeyman Mike Wilkes has a spotty 4 years of traveling throughout the league and part time team member Mo Sene is a rookie when not designated to play in the developmental league. 9 year veteran Danny Fortson has been known to guide younger players individually but because he is currently at odds with coaches and management has been largely insulated from the squad.

In total the Sonics roster features a combined 50 years NBA experience with almost 20% of that number coming from Fortson’s contract. Additionally 5 members of the Sonics roster feature no collegiate experience. Compare that to the San Antonio Spurs who feature 102 years of NBA experience and along with a substantial amount of international play and you can start to see where the problem exists.

Allen understands all the discussion about a potential draft choice, but based on his comments he feels that in order to substantially improve the team needs to look towards established veterans if it wants to see it’s young players improve.

“You have to have a veteran somewhere on your roster.” He says, “I would say a veteran guard and a veteran big so that you can teach certain examples.”

Allen envisions this player providing as much or more in the way of leadership and mentoring as they do on the floor.

“Even if they’re not playing or even if that person’s playing 10 minutes a game (they can contribute). If me and Rashard are on the floor, and lets say you throw Earl on the floor also, there is not anyone on the bench to explain the game as it happens. There is always a lesson to be learned when you watch a game.”

Allen continued to explain that a great deal of learning occurs during game time when coaches are busy with strategy and game planning. It is at that time that veterans either on the bench or involved in the game can take younger players under their wings.

“There are times on the floor when you’re telling someone what to do. If you don’t have someone telling you first hand on the floor, pointing it out, or saying why he did this and why this happened, then it’s really hard.”

Allen credits his own personal development to a core of veteran players who surrounded him during his early years with the Milwaukee Bucks.

“I learned because I had a couple of guys around me that always made sure I got to where I needed to be on the floor.” he says “A lot of times I didn’t play in the fourth quarter. I wanted to play but I knew why I wasn’t playing. I sat and watched the guy in front of me.”

When pressed for names of these players Allen provides a list of solid and reliable players, none of whom were all-stars at the time they mentored him. Jonny Newman, Armand Gillaim, Elliot Perry, and Michael Curry are the types of names lacking from the current Sonics roster.

While he would love a veteran infusion Allen understands the current interest in the NBA draft, and with the Sonics potentially losing more games in order to improve their draft position. As a former top 5 pick he realizes that those players taken at the very top of the draft come in with more ability and more to prove.

“Those guys who get drafted in the top 5, they put pressure on themselves to outdo each other. When I got drafted number 5 overall I watched each of those guys who got drafted ahead of me to see what they were doing.” He stated, easily naming off Stephon Marbury, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Marcus, and Allan Iverson as the players taken ahead of him in the 1996 draft.

As for this year’s draft…

“There are some pretty talented guys there.” He states, “They are supposed to be great.”

Still, wouldn’t he prefer veteran additions to the roster?

“Yeah” he answered with a wry smile and a shrug to let you know that it is out of his hands.