Sonics and Timberwolves

SEATTLE SUPERSONICS

Record:  35-47, 3rd in Northwest Division, 11th in Western Conference

Statistical Comparison:

Noteable:

2nd in the league in scoring (102.6ppg)
30th in opponent scoring (105.6ppg)
25th (tie) in ppg differential (-3.0)
29th in opponent field goal %
25th (tie) in rebounding

Others:

9th in field goal %
10th in three-point %
15th in assists
6th in steals
25th in blocks
20th (tie) in turnovers
14th (tie) in opponent turnovers

Additions:  
Mouhamed Sene (R), Mickael Gelabale (R)

Subtractions:  
Mikki Moore, Mateen Cleaves, Mike Wilks

Key Players

PG:  Luke Ridnour, Earl Watson
SG:  Ray Allen, Damien Wilkins
SF:   Rashard Lewis, Mickael Gelabale, Noel Felix
PF:   Chris Wilcox, Nick Collison, Danny Fortson
C:   Johan Petro, Robert Swift, Mouhamed Sene

Comments:  How to ruin your team in two easy steps:  1.  Run that new-fangled Phoenix system.  2.  Ignore defense and athleticism completely. Done and done...it's Miller time. Ray Allen is the best quick shooter in the game and a nice piece to start with.  Neither he nor Luke Ridnour play a shred of defense though, and therein lies the root of the defensive problem.  If the Sonics hope to win more, Ridnour needs to add more scoring to his passing ability, probably by shooting more than 42% from the floor and 29% from the arc.  Chris Wilcox is a guy I love and his rebounding ability and down-in play will be a keystone for the team.  Rashard Lewis has blossomed into the player everyone hoped he would be.  Though he's still shy of being a superstar by a couple rebounds, his free throw attempts continue to rise, a sure sign of aggressive offense and league-wide respect.  The center position and bench are hodge-podge.  Their performance may make the difference between low 30's and mid 40's.  Mouhamed Sene looks like he might be a nice pick-up.  Nick Collison is solid, Earl Watson is experienced (but doesn't help the backcourt defensive woes), and they really like Damien Wilkins' athleticism.  The gaps are too big to say that this team will be good, but they could be decent.  If I were they, I'd call up Indiana and inquire about trading some lesser pieces for disenchanted point guard Jamaal Tinsley, probably to use in a strong backup role.  A little less offense and a little more defense would sure help.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Record:  33-49, 4th in Northwest Division, 14th in Western Conference

Statistical Comparisons:

Noteable:

28th in the league in scoring (91.7ppg)
29th in three-point %
27th in rebounding
5th (tie) in blocks

Others:

8th in opponent scoring (93.6ppg)
21st in ppg differential (-1.9ppg)
11th in field goal %
9th in opponent field goal %
12th (tie) in assists
19th (tie) in steals
15th (tie) in turnovers
23rd in opponent turnovers

Additions:  
Mike James, Randy Foye (R)

Subtractions:  
Marcus Banks, Anthony Carter, Ronald Dupree

Key Players

PG:  Mike James, Marko Jaric, Troy Hudson
SG:  Rickey Davis, Rashad McCants, Randy Foye, Bracey Wright
SF:  Trenton Hassell, Justin Reed  
PF:  Kevin Garnett, Eddie Griffin, Craig Smith
C:  Mark Blount, Mark Madsen

Comments:  Minnesota's biggest problem last season was scoring.  Never ones to beat around the bush, they went out and got two potential high-volume guys in Mike James and top draft pick Randy Foye.  On the surface James looks like the answer to their prayers.  Last year he averaged 20 ppg, 6 assists, 47% shooting, and 44% from the arc.  All of those were stratosphere-level career highs though, and all came in a contract year.  Also Minnesota will be James' sixth team in five years.  Best guesses as to why:  attitude and defense.  In the immortal words of Mr. Mike Brady, "Caveat Emptor, son."  Given sufficient playing time and license to shoot, Foye should contend for the rookie scoring title.  What that development would mean for last year's young hope Rashad McCants is anybody's guess.  Ricky Davis is listed as a guard, but don't be surprised to see him play small forward to create a scoring-heavy lineup flush with head cases.  That's OK, though, because Kevin Garnett is known for practice punch-outs of guys who get too far out of line.  I hope he brought his knuckle guards.  The center position is impoverished but that will be camoflaged somewhat by Garnett's stellar all-around play. They did not get him any help at all rebounding though, which was another major problem last year.  The bench is competent and experienced, if a little mismatched, at the small positions but non-existent at the big spots.  (Blazer fans might anticipate ongoing trade rumors given our surplus of big guys.  If you wanted Hudson, McCants, Hassell, or Wright you might be able to get them.) The 'Wolves get props for doing the obvious thing to address two of their three main problems but the job is far from complete.  It also remains to be seen whether these guys will fit together at all, or even if they care to.  Any team with Kevin Garnett on it is unlikely to fall to the cellar (barring him quitting in protest) but it would surprise me to see this group return to the playoffs without more big man help and defensive prowess.  What are the odds of Dwayne Casey returning to Nate McMillan's staff after this season?

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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