Thursday, a troubled chapter in Sonics history ended as Wally Walker announced he was stepping down from the team’s front office. With Walker’s departure in mind, I thought we should offer a post-mortem on Walker’s career in Seattle. Too often, emotion got in the way of evaluating Walker’s performance and with time as our ally, maybe we can more objectively judge whether his time in Seattle was positive or negative.
Okay, fine, I hated the guy for ending the glory days of the Sonics, for accepting credit for Bob Whitsitt’s work, and for trading away Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, and firing George Karl (and, yes, I know Sund traded Gary because Walker was the CEO, and the trade worked out great for the Sonics, but Walker’s fingerprints were definitely there and Gary was, well, Gary). Regardless, here’s a quick and dirty on Walker’s career:
5 BEST MOVES
1. 2001 Draft. I’m not sure if Walker gets credit for this, given the sale of the team in March of ’01, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. The Sonics – in one draft – selected Vladimir Radmanovic, Earl Watson, and Bobby Simmons, a fantastic haul, considering the highest pick (Radman) was the 12th overall.
2. 1998 Draft. Finding Rashard Lewis in the 2nd round is probably the greatest draft move in Sonics’ history.
3. Trading Kendall Gill for Hersey Hawkins and David Wingate. I’m not as big on this move as others, but it was a solid move that enabled the Sonics to get rid of a problem (Gill) and acquire two players who would help them challenge Chicago for the title.
4. Trading Hersey Hawkins for Brent Barry. Hawkins was done as a starter, and Barry contributed to the Sonics for quite a few years.
5. 1997 Draft. Walker found Bobby Jackson with a low first round pick, and while Jackson never got a chance in Seattle, he’s been a strong player in the league.
5 WORST MOVES
1. Jim McIlvaine. 7 years. ‘Nuff said.
2. 1996 Draft. Seattle picks Joseph Blair, Joe Vogel, Ron Riley, and Drew Barry. I know they were all 2nd round picks, but still.
3. Trading Shawn Kemp for Vin Baker. Of course, there was no way Walker could have known that Baker was going to spiral into oblivion, but anytime you trade the most exciting player in team history, you ought to get something better than a guy like Baker, right? Bonus points for creating the scenario that caused Kemp to have to be traded (See McIlvaine, Jim).
4. August 1999. Walker signed Vernon Maxwell and Ruben Patterson to 3-year deals, signed Jelani McCoy to a 2-year deal, signed Greg Foster for 3, and Vin Baker for 7. Wow.
5. Fired George Karl and replaced him with ... Paul Westphal.
6. Just because it’s such a lousy move, signing Calvin Booth.