Perhaps no player is tied more closely to the fortunes of the Sonics this season than Chris Wilcox. He is the barometer (or, as Kramer would say, “thermometer”) of this team. Ray Allen will get 24 points, Rashard Lewis will get 20, Ridnour/Watson will combine for 12 points and 10 assists, and the youngsters will give absolutely nothing, so it remains for the Sonics to 1) incorporate Wilcox into their offense and 2) for Wilcox to demonstrate an ability to be a consistent producer – a mighty task indeed.
Let’s take a gander, then, at what we can expect out of Chris Wilcox this season, beginning with how he played for Seattle in the spring this year, the greatest contract drive since Calvin Booth’s 2000-01 playoff performance (wince).
After scoring in double-figures five times in the first four months of the season, Wilcox scored 10+ 20 times in the final 2 ¼ months – a prodigious rate for a previously frustrating player. What, beyond the simple reason of more minutes, caused this to happen? In what other areas was Wilcox above-career? (For explanations of some of the more obscure stats, look here.)
Career: 52 Sonics: 59 Pre-Season (PS): 50
Career: 68 Sonics: 79 PS: 61
True Shooting %
Career: 56 Sonics: 63 PS: 55
Turnovers per 40
Career: 3 Sonics: 1.8 PS: 2.9
Points per 40
Career: 16.3 Sonics: 18.7 PS: 10.1
FTA per 40
Career: 4.9 Sonics: 4.3 PS: 5.2
Career: 13.7 Sonics: 10.1 PS: 22.7 (!)
Career: 13.55 (estimate) Sonics: 16.4 PS: 19.9
Phew. That’s alot of numbers to crunch in one sitting, I know, but I think it illustrates pretty well that Wilcox’ success was not solely attributable to increased minutes – it was more like (Increased Minutes + Improved Play) * What the Hell Happened to This Guy in Seattle? Oh, and that he’s stunk the joint up in the pre-season, causing Rick Sund to switch to a higher-potency brand of sleeping pills.
Let’s be realistic and assume Wilcox drops to somewhere above his Clippers’ numbers, below his springtime Sonics’ numbers, and better than his pre-season pre-season numbers (got all that?). What kind of player will we get this season?
Start with how many minutes he’ll play. There are 96 minutes for the PF and C. Say Swifty gets 20, Petro 15, Sene 3, Collison 20, and Fortson (!) 5, adding up to 63; leaving 33 for Wilcox, which I think is what the Sonics would expect from him, given the amount of money they’re paying him.
At 33 minutes, I expect Wilcox to get 10 shots and 5 FTs. At his career averages, he would make 5.5 shots and hit 3.5 FTs, give or take, for about 14 points a game. His rebounding numbers were actually improved in LA before the trade, so it’s reasonable to think he’ll maintain that production, putting him at about 8 boards a game.
Now, on the surface those numbers are good, not great, but good. I think most of us would take a 14/8 from the 4 any night of the week, especially when you add in a couple of monster dunks for good measure. Of course, we shouldn’t neglect the likely 2.5 turnovers per game Wilcox will commit, a whole extra TO per contest more than last season. Or the fact that he averaged 5 fouls per 40 minutes in 3 ½ years in LA before posting 3.8 per 40 in Seattle (backed up by his 4.9 fouls/40 in the pre-season).
On the whole, Wilcox should be a plus for the Sonics this season. I expect him to commit too many fouls, enabling Collison to get more PT (fine with me), to be occasionally frustrated with his role in the offense, to put up as many 25/15s as he does 8/6s, and to be generally acceptable as the team’s starting power forward.
Is he worth $28 million over 3 season in today’s NBA? If you held a gun to my head, I’d say no, but he’s not a colossal free agent money pit along the lines of Jerome James or Nene, either. At least not yet.