Updated: Oct. 27, 2005, 7:27 AM ET

Sonics' perch precarious


Team Page | Schedule | Roster | Hollinger Stats

Where will the Seattle SuperSonics finish in the Northwest Division and the Western Conference? Get 12 different takes from ESPN's NBA experts.


Chris Broussard ESPN Mag

With Nate and his focus on defense gone, Sonics won't guard/stop anyone.
Ric Bucher ESPN Mag
As easy as it was to bag on the departed Jerome James, he provided vital shot-blocking and rebounding and a post presence. Their host of role players and Ray Allen's leadership won't let them fall too far, but they've taken a step back.
John Carroll Scouts Inc.
2004-05's most surprising team will be 2005-06's most disappointing team. Gone is Nate McMillan, whose discipline put this team in the playoffs. It is difficult to repeat year after year unless you have great talent. This team does not.
Chad Ford ESPN Insider
The losses of Antonio Daniels and Nate McMillan will really hurt. And who's going to play center? Still playing in a weak division will help them squeak into the playoffs.

John Hollinger ESPN Insider
Could be in a for a fall unless Bob Weiss markedly improves the defense. With the loss of Antonio Daniels, and Ray Allen getting paid, the offense could take a hit.

Scoop Jackson ESPN.com Page 2

Agree with SI: League's top scoring team, yet will win fewer games than last year. Why? Nate McMillan.

Tim Legler ESPN Insider

See Item 7 for Legler's analysis of the Seattle SuperSonics.

Eric Neel ESPN
Page 2

They'll be better than people think. Ridnour, Evans and Collison won't let them be flat, and Ray and Rashard will keep filling it up.
Jim O'Brien ESPN Insider
A high-octane offensive attack will still be there under Bob Weiss. They must improve their No. 25-ranked field-goal defense of a year ago to approach the 52 wins they had last season.
Will Perdue ESPN Insider
New coach Bob Weiss is keeping his fingers crossed that the younger players will continue to progress this year. If so, they should challenge Denver in the Northwest Division.
Chris Sheridan ESPN.com Insider
Poor Bob Weiss has no chance to coax another 52-win season out of the Sonics. Antonio Daniels and Jerome James were underrated. Radmanovic is an unhappy camper. Early pick for most improved is Damien Wilkins.
Marc Stein ESPN.com
Tough to see these Sonics finishing higher than 2nd in the Northwest. They've lost two vets (Daniels, James) and two coaches (Nate, Casey) and lack last season's frontcourt harmony (Fortson, Radmanovic).

Collison Course
Jeff Reinking/NBAE via Getty Images
Nick Collison brings a lunch-pail ethic to the team (um, make that plastic-bag ethic).

Lineup Breakdown
ESPN The Magazine sizes up the Sonics roster:

Starters: They can shoot well, but No. 25 in FG% D speaks loudly.
Should be coming off the bench. Actually, he will be.
First time All-Star (20.5 ppg) has to stay healthy.
285 pounds of pure backup center.
Puts the 3 (2.7 made treys per game) in Three-attle.
When Rick Brunson is a backup, you've got problems.
Bench: Nick Collison and Danny Fortson give frontcourt muscle, Vladimir Radmanovic finesse. Brunson and Flip Murray give the backcourt, well, a breather.



ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands Oct. 26.

Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Ray Allen
Player Efficiency Rating
vs. NBA Avg: +5.9

One of 2004-05's most durable myths was the idea that Ray Allen was having a career year. Allen got off to a scorching start, hitting 45.3 percent on 3-pointers in November, and so did the Sonics. As a result, people connected the dots and said Allen's big year was propelling Seattle forward. That became less true as the year went on, but people kept on saying it. Allen's final numbers were perfectly consistent with his previous two seasons, and in fact his PER was slightly worse. But because Seattle was a surprise team and commentators were searching for a player who was the difference, they settled on Allen.

The more interesting question for the Sonics is what Allen's future holds. They just gave him a five-year, $80 million deal, which means they'll need him to perform at a high level until age 34. Guards don't tend to age as well as big people, so this is something of a risk on the Sonics' part, especially since Allen isn't a superstar to begin with. Nonetheless, jump-shooting guards tend to last better than players who rely on quickness, and Allen's shot is as pure as any in the game. He may not be worth $16 million a year in 2009-10, but he should retain some of his value. Did the Sonics overpay? Probably. Was it as bad as the deal Jerome James signed with the Knicks? Not even close.

As far as 2004-05, Allen's year was so typical that there's not a lot to discuss. His field-goal percentage dipped slightly and took his True Shooting percentage down with it, but overall he provides the same deadly combination of shooting touch and shot-creating skill. He's especially tough shooting jumpers while dribbling to his left because his release is so quick. Allen also has a unique ability to jump off the wrong foot, fake like he's laying the ball up with his right hand, then pull the ball across his shoulders and lay it in with the left.

Defensively, Allen's not so hot. His Defensive PER wasn't as poor as some of his teammates', but his lateral movement is only average and he doesn't have the strength to keep big guards off the blocks. Overall he's a solid second-tier star, but he'll have to stay at that level for five more years for Seattle's $80 million investment to make sense.

-- Sonics player profiles from John Hollinger's "Pro Basketball Forecast: 2005-06," available at Amazon.com and Potomac Books.

Vlad Rad
Jeff Reinking/NBAE via Getty Images
Vladimir Radmanovic is back for another year in Seattle (and that's all, probably). And no, he's not wearing sandals.

SportsNation Speaks
With Antonio Daniels moving from Washington state to Washington, D.C., even more of the QB responsibilities fall on third-year point guard Luke Ridnour.

We asked SportsNation what area of his game Ridnour needed to focus on most:

Where does Ridnour most need improvement?
42.9% Defense
29.6% Game management and penetration
27.5% Shooting

Vote: Sonics in 2005-06 | Results

Tim's Time
Ray Allen

Legs on Sonics: The Sonics were one of the surprise stories of 2004-05 when they sprinted out of the gate and never looked back en route to the Northwest division title.

All of the main components (Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Vladimir Radmanovic, Luke Ridnour) and a couple of role players (Danny Fortson, Reggie Evans, Flip Murray) return. That alone will keep Seattle in the hunt.

Hunting and actually catching something are two different things. Nate McMillan's departure to Portland (replaced by Bob Weiss) will be a huge blow. Last year's team was a reflection of McMillan. He put every player in a position in which their weaknesses were never exposed and their strengths showcased. That type of chemistry between players and their coach can't be overlooked.

The Sonics will still be a solid team, but they will need some breaks to grab a playoff spot.

Tim Legler, ESPN Insider

Coach's Corner
Bob Weiss
Experience: 6 years
Reg. season record: 210-282
Playoff record: 2-9
Coach's profile

Experienced Bob Weiss was the right man for the job when Nate McMillan left. Did Seattle overachieve last year with 52 wins? It is up to Weiss to prove they did not.

Improvement of their No. 25-ranked field-goal defense is a good place to start, because they can score.

Jim O'Brien, ESPN.com Insider

Hollinger's Q & A
What of the frontcourt rotation?

Seattle reshaped its frontcourt in the offseason, leaving new coach Bob Weiss with several important decisions regarding his playing rotation.

Seattle's last two first-round picks, Robert Swift and Johan Petro, are centers and will be angling for some of Jerome James' minutes. Nick Collison, though naturally a power forward, also could start at center after playing well a year ago, and human wrecking ball Vitaly Potapenko should figure in the rotation as well.

A similar crowd remains at power forward. Sharpshooter Vladimir Radmanovic is openly campaigning for more minutes, but Reggie Evans, board beast Danny Fortson and free-agent addition Mikki Moore also are worthy of playing time.

The smart money says the two kids and Moore ride the pine while the other five split the minutes, but the eight players are close enough in ability that no outcome would be surprising.

More Hollinger Sonics analysis Insider

Fantasy Fix

Sleeper: Luke Ridnour enters his third season with high expectations. One thing fantasy owners didn't count on was for Ridnour's stats to drop after the All-Star break. We don't recommend you make Ridnour one of your top three guards, but the Sonics should run more, and he should score 12 points and get 6.5 assists.

Bust: Vladimir Radmanovic signed a one-year deal this offseason, rather than a long-term deal with Seattle. But Vlad's game is at small forward, where Rashard Lewis resides. Radmanovic can score a bit and hit two 3s per game, but big numbers aren't coming with this team. Don't make the annual mistake of taking him too early in fantasy

Eric Karabell | Fantasy Basketball Index



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