The second in an ongoing series of Sonic Predictions:
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Denver implodes as George Karl finally wears out his welcome (shocking!), Minnesota continues to struggle to build a team around KG post-Sprewell and –Cassell, Kirilenko gets hurt ... again, the Blazers fully commit to the Greg Oden Sweepstakes, and the Sonics muddle through to 47 wins and the NW Division Crown (which ranks somewhere between Best Foreign Language Screenplay in a Short Film and a kick in the groin as far as career accomplishments go). They lose in the first round to just about whomever they play.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: The Sonics make it through November and December in decent shape, pulling into 2007 a hair below .500. In January the wheels come off, the Sonics stagger into the All-Star Break mired in an eight-game losing skid, after a dispute over injury status/playing time/foul prone-ness (take your pick) Danny Fortson gets into a fight with Bob Hill in the locker room, and, finally, the new owners point to the sagging attendance figures and call a press conference.
BEST REASON TO BE EXCITED ABOUT THE SEASON: Mouhamed Saer Sene, aka the Senegalese Assassin. Sene will get bluffed into jumping early more frequently than you’d care to see, but his fantastic leaping skills and highlight-reel abilities will provide a few opportunities for Sonic fans to go nuts this year.
BEST ROAD TRIP: Let’s pray the Sonics are still in the hunt come early March when they travel to play – in succession – the Knicks, Sixers, Boston, and Toronto. That’s about as easy as it gets for an East Coast swing.
BREAKOUT NW DIVISION STAR: Carmelo Anthony should get the nod here, but he’s already so well known he doesn’t really fit (that said, I wouldn’t pass on Melo if I was picking a fantasy team). No, the real breakout guy should be Deron Williams of the Jazz, who’s already putting up solid numbers in the pre-season. If AK-47 is healthy, and Jerry Sloan doesn’t kill someone on the sidelines, the Jazz could be pretty tough this year.
WHY CHRIS WILCOX IS WORTH THE MONEY: Power Forwards who can run and hit baseline Js do not grow on trees, and Wilcox has value in the NBA as a big man who can score and rebound, albeit inconsistently. Of note, Wilcox scored 20+ on six occasions for the Sonics after the trade with the Clippers. The Sonics went 5-1 in those six games, with the only loss coming against Orlando when half the team had the flu/food poisoning.
WHY CHRIS WILCOX IS NOT WORTH THE MONEY: If you read the above paragraph, you know the Sonics went 5-1 when Wilcox went for 20 points. Read between the lines, though, and you’ll notice that Wilcox played 29 games for the Sonics, which leaves 23 other games when he didn’t score 20. Did I mention he scored in single digits nine times, or half again as many times as he scored 20? Or that he finished the year by scoring 8, 7, 9, 6, and 10 points? It’s all well and good that Wilcox is capable of averaging a double-double, but, as the man says, you can hope in one hand and crap in the other – guess which one will fill up first.
BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT THE SONICS: That going 14-12 to end the season means anything. After studying dozens of teams in similar situations to the Sonics in the last couple of years, it became obvious that a team’s record in the final two months of a mean-nothing season has about as much relevance to their performance the following season as the weather on Opening Night. It’s fine and dandy that the Sonics played decent ball the last spring, but it doesn’t mean jack this fall. If you don’t believe me, try this on for size: The Rockets and Warriors finished the ’04-’05 season with a combined 39-11 record. Last year? Both were home for the playoffs.