Like many other NBA blogs, we here at Sonicscentral.com made some preseason predictions concerning the 06-07 season.
Let me be the first to say we were all overly optimistic. I entered the season thinking Robert Swift would help shore up our defense, erasing some of our wing defenders liabilities and mistakes. That all came to a screeching halt with a preseason "POP". The loss of Swift was only the beginning of where my vision for this team was taken off track.
I fully expected more out of Luke Ridnour than we got. I expected him to continue to progress, and to get some nice stat lines in the shadows of Ray and Rashard. Between injuries, looking over his shoulder and whatever else it was that got into Luke's head, he seriously underperformed on my expectations. There were some glimpses of some really good stuff from time to time, but they were far to infrequent.
I also expected more out of coach Bob Hill. I thought he was going to find a way to motivate this team, and to make solid rotational decisions. To give him some credit, his team was decimated by injuries most of the season. In spite of those injuries, he still seemed inconsistent in his logic at various stages of the season in his game flow rotations. I honestly would be happier if he had spent more of the late season developing things for next year. The last 30 games, when it was clear we weren't really going anywhere this season, were pretty much wasted. I didn't see anything that would lead me to believe he was building a foundation for next year, regardless of whether he will be the coach or not.
Chris Wilcox and Nick Collison were our two-headed inconsistency. Both guys had some really big games, and Nick in particular had a really spectacular stretch of games a while back. Neither of them could really find that sweet spot though, where day in and day out they were able to give consistently. And what is worse, they rarely were able to both be hot at the same time. If they are both to remain as part of the team, they have to find ways to play off of each other, and to both thrive simultaneously for this team to succeed in the future. They are different enough in their styles of play that I believe this is possible.
Johan Petro was a disappointment. He did little this season to show he had progressed from last year. In the absence of Robert Swift, and the disappearance of Danny Fortson, Petro was in a prime position to step into the spotlight. If you look at his averages, he increased his scoring by 1 point over last year, but dropped in both rebounds and blocks. His play didn't warrant additional playing time. Granted, he is still young and raw in many ways, but rare is the opportunity he had to step up and command playing time. That knock was opportunity. We'll have to see if it knocks again.
Rashard Lewis had a great season, in spite of an interruption by his injury. Down the stretch he carried the team in the absence of Ray Allen. He had a career year in scoring, and at times showed a new found dribbling ability that we will hopefully see more of in the future. His rebounding went back up over the two previous season, though is still lower than what many fans would like to see. I really saw a lot of professionalism out of Rashard this year, perhaps a positive impact from his time with Ray Allen, or just a sign that he is really developing into more of a leader of this team.
Mike Wilks had a great run at the end of the season. For a guy who barely saw playing time all year, he really made the most of his opportunities.
Andre Brown showed he is an NBA quality talent. He made some key plays in a few games, and showed he belongs at this level.
Mickael Gelabale had a solid season. I really had little knowledge of him before the season, and therefor had few expectations. While his stat lines were regularly unimpressive, he was regularly impressing me by making good basketball plays. He does the little things well, and that is important for a rookie. I think he has a lot more that we have yet to see, and I look forward to seeing his development in the coming years.
Ray Allen had an up and down season. There was a period earlier in the year where his shot was off. In spite of that, he still hit some big shots during that period to win games or to keep the team in it late in games. When his shot is on, he is still one of the most lethal weapons in the NBA. A silky smooth shot with an assassin's accuracy. The looming question though is how much more does he have in his tank? Next year with repaired and healed ankles will be interesting to see. I hope they find a way to reduce his overall minutes, as playing nearly 40 per night is going to catch up with him.
Damien Wilkins fell short of my expectations this season. He had a good opportunity to develop as a leader of our second string of players, but never stepped into that role. He certainly had some very nice games here and there, but they were few and far between. To his credit though, he increased his points, rebounds, steals and assists per game. He also dramatically improved his 3pt. shooting. Where I was hoping he could really have an impact was defensively, but that never really seemed to come to fruition.
Earl Watson provided much of what I expected from him. With Luke's down season, Earl got a lot more playing time than I expected. I had hoped for a bit more defensively from him, but he also (at times) provided some offense that was really needed. I can't say that I was either impressed or disappointed by his play. For the most part, he was what I expected. I will say his shooting percentage as well as his shot selection were not what I would like, especially not earlier in the season when he wasn't being looked at to provide offensive firepower.
Mo Sene showed he is raw, but has potential. Not much more to say there. It'll be interesting to see what an off season of direction and oversight by the Sonics will do for him and his skill development.