Updated: Oct. 27, 2006, 11:53 AM ET

SPECIAL PREVIEW EDITION
Last days for Sonics in Seattle?

Sonics

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | Hollinger Stats

Where will the Seattle SuperSonics finish in the Northwest Division and the Western Conference? Get 10 takes from ESPN's NBA experts.

ANALYST COMMENT
Marc
Stein
ESPN.com
If Chris Wilcox can sustain his big finish for a whole season, if Rashard Lewis adds rebounding to his scoring and if Luke Ridnour and Nick Collison play above themselves, Seattle sneaks into the No. 8 spot. Maybe.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 13
Chris
Sheridan

ESPN.com
We'll make two predictions: Mickael Gelabale will make first-team All-Hair, and Sonics owner Clay Bennett will drive for such a sweet deal in trying to get a new arena that he won't get one -- which is probably exactly what he wants.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 13
Jim
O'Brien

ESPN.com
Earl Watson and Chris Wilcox will help the Sonics' porous defense, but only a strong commitment and leadership from Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis at the defensive end will help them approach playoff contention.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 14
Tim
Legler

ESPN.com
I am probably not giving the Sonics enough credit, but they just don't instill fear in anyone.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 13
Scoop Jackson
ESPN.com
I'm still trying to figure out what happened. How can a franchise go from potential to pathetic so quickly? No D, that's how. It's sad to see Ray Allen have to go out like this. He's too good to go out obscurely.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 14
John
Hollinger

ESPN.com
The Sonics are a very good offensive team and a tremendously bad defensive one. There's opportunity there -- if coach Bob Hill can just fix the defense, they'll be good, but he showed no signs of being able to do that last year.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 13
Chad
Ford

ESPN.com
If the Sonics ever decide to play some defense, we might see them back in the playoffs. More likely, the lack of defense and inexperience in the frontcourt will push the Sonics back into the lottery.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 13
Ric
Bucher

ESPN Mag
How well can a team play when it's checking Oklahoma City real-estate ads between film sessions? My guess: not all that well. Biggest loss for Needle City: not seeing MickaŽl Gelabale, who has a chance to be special down the line.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 14
Chris
Broussard

ESPN Mag
The trio of Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis and Chris Wilcox isn't bad, but somebody has to lose. Unless that trio of 7-footers --Robert Swift, Johan Petro and Mouhamed Sene -- are ready to become imposing, it'll be the Sonics.
DIVISION RANK: 4 | CONFERENCE RANK: 14
Greg
Anthony

ESPN.com
It's hard to imagine that a team with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis could be out of the playoffs two years in a row, but the West is so deep. This team hasn't answered its frontline issues.
DIVISION RANK: 3 | CONFERENCE RANK: 13
 
Average ranks

DIVISION: 3.9 | Standings
CONFERENCE: 13.4 | Standings



The Power Of Three
Allen
Jeff Reinking/NBAE via Getty Images
Ray Allen not only sank a career-high 269 3-pointers last year but also drained them at 41.2 percent, his best rate in a Sonics uni.


Lineup Breakdown

STARTERS ANALYSIS
Luke Ridnour
Point Guard
6-2 | 175
If Hill is serious about D, pass-master could lose job to Earl Watson.
Ray Allen
Shooting Guard
6-5 | 205
Quietly keeps improving (career-high 25.1 ppg). His offense, at least.
Rashard Lewis
Small Forward
6-10 | 215
Improved handle should expand rangy shooter's repertoire.
Chris Wilcox
Power Forward
6-10 | 235
14.1 ppg with Sonics more than doubled career average with Clips.
Johan Petro
Center
7-0 | 247
Part of three-headed monster ... a happy, friendly monster.
Bench: Lots of first-round bigs (Nick Collison, Robert Swift, Mouhamed Sene) without first-round game. Rook wing MickaŽl Gelabale had strong camp.

ESPN The Magazine's NBA Preview hits newsstands October 25.



Hollinger's Player Spotlight
Damien Wilkins
Player Efficiency Rating
Projected: 13.16
vs. NBA Avg.: -1.84
Sonics profiles
Scouting report: One of Seattle's most athletic players, he was one of the few Sonics whose defense wasn't horrendously awful. At 6-6, Wilkins can defend both wing positions fairly well and should only get better as he adds experience. He also has a good nose for the ball, averaging about a steal every 20 minutes. However, he's a subpar rebounder, ranking 52nd among small forwards in Rebound Rate.

Wilkins is a poor outside shooter, hitting 26.1 percent for his career on 3-pointers, and that allows defenders to lay off him and play for the drive. That probably explains why his turnover ratio was so high, because he constantly had to navigate through crowds. He'd be better off in an open-court system where he could break free for dunks and layups, but the Sonics play mostly station-to-station.

2006-07 outlook: Wilkins will face some competition for his minutes from rookie Mickael Gelabale, who does a lot of the same things he does. On the other hand, he'll get a big opportunity to step up if the Sonics trade Rashard Lewis at midseason. He's 26 years old and we've probably seen most of the improvement that he's going to make, but he should be able to play at this level for quite a few years. As a result, the five-year, $15 million offer from Minnesota that the Sonics matched in the summer of 2005 is increasingly seeming like money well spent.


Rashard And The Rock
Swift
Sam Forencich/Getty Images
The Sonics would love to see more points in the paint from Rashard Lewis.


SportsNation Speaks
Defensive indifference was the name of the Sonics' game. SportsNation is drilling for Earl Watson to find an answer to this problem.

The Sonics had what some called the ''worst defense ever.'' What's the answer?
33.1% No answer -- same ol' problems
26.7% Better effort from the veterans
17.8% A full year under Bob Hill
13.4% More minutes for Earl Watson
9.0% Putting Mouhamed Sene in the middle

Vote: Sonics in 2006-07



Ask A Blogger
Sonics

What would it take for you to get a tattoo of the Sonics' logo on your chest?

First, I would have to shave the five pounds of fur that currently covers my chest. Then, I would have to get the "Olden Polynice: Greatest Draft Pick Ever" tattoo surgically removed (I've been meaning to do that for a while).

Other than that, having an owner who doesn't desperately want to move the Sonics to Okie-ville would be a nice way to get people motivated to root for this team. Telling fans they need to pay for a brand new stadium or you'll steal their team is not the best way to sweet talk this blogger under the needle.

Paul Merrill | SuperSonicSoul



Coach's Corner

BOB HILL COACHING FILE
Experience: 8 years
Record: 279-242
Playoffs: 17-20
NBA titles: 0
Coach's profile

Many coaches are burdened with overinflated expectations as the season begins, but Bob Hill has almost the opposite problem: expectations that are nonexistent.

Hill must grab the attention of his team from opening night and demand excellence, and to do this he'll need to do a great sales job of convincing them that the playoffs are possible.

Management will also expect him to spend time developing twin projects Mouhamed Sene and Robert Swift along with Johan Petro -- all three could be key players for the Sonics when they do finally become a playoff team.

David Thorpe



Hollinger's Team Strength
Shooting. Seattle was one of the league's best-shooting teams a year ago, and might be even better this season. Get ready for a bombs-away offense -- Allen, Lewis and Watson all hit 38 percent or better on 3-pointers as Sonics last season while averaging over four attempts a game.

Newcomer Gelabale also has a nice stroke, although he might need a year to adjust to the longer 3-point line, while Ridnour figures to rebound strongly from last year's disappointing 28.9 percent mark on 3s. The additions of Watson and Gelabale also could mean more small-ball alignments with four shooters around the perimeter, accentuating Seattle's strength.

What's especially nice about this group is that they all thrive from different spots on the floor. Allen is awesome from anywhere, obviously, but he's at his best from the left wing. According to NBA.com, he took 281 3-pointers from that spot and made 43.4 percent. Lewis is the corner specialist, hitting 43.3 percent from the left and right corners on 104 attempts; he was even more deadly the year before. And Watson is the straight-on guy -- he made 21-of-46 from the top of the circle.

More Hollinger Sonics analysis Insider



Fantasy Fix
Wilcox
Wilcox

Sleeper: Will Chris Wilcox pick up where he left off last season? After being given his first chance to start full-time, albeit for just two months with his new team, Wilcox was impressive, particularly on the glass, and he shot 59 percent from the floor. He should continue to be a force, since the team will need him to be. He'll have to prove that he can do it for an entire season.

Bust: Does the presence of Earl Watson mean Luke Ridnour will get fewer minutes? Watson played very well off the bench after being acquired late last season, and although coach Bob Hill has publicly stated his preference for Ridnour to start, he didn't say who will finish games. Despite Ridnour's fine ability to distribute, he shot poorly last season. Pay close attention to this situation in the early going.

Keith Lipscomb | Fantasy Hoops Index

 

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