Back in the 1980s, when the Seahawks were the kings of Seattle, I remember a reporter asking Chuck Knox, why there were so few good tight ends in the NFL. The coach’s response was classic Knox – terse, and to the point: “They’re all power forwards in the NBA.”
The taciturn one made a good point, in that power forwards and tight ends are very similar physically – tall, strong, fast, powerful. Heck, if you fit all those qualifications, would you rather average 20 points a game in a “non-contact” sport, or catch 3 balls a week while being besieged by maniacal linebackers? Not exactly a tough call, there.
Anyways, to my point, in a way Sonic power forward Chris Wilcox has some similarities to former Seahawk tight end Jerramy Stevens. I don’t mean off the field, that would be an insult to Wilcox, but rather on the field. Both are immensely gifted physically, both were picked in the first round because of their potential, both attended successful big-time college programs ... and both have been disappointments in their pro careers.
Last season, though, Wilcox demonstrated that his stellar stint the previous spring was not a mirage as he averaged career highs in points, rebounds, and assists. Of course, it helps when you average a career-high in minutes, but even his per 40 minute numbers were pretty much at or above his career numbers.
So what’s going to happen to the former Terrapin this season? (Speaking of which, Wilcox makes it four Sonics with ties to Maryland, joining Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Delonte West. Odd.). Well, after five seasons in the league, I think it’s safe to say that we know what we’re getting with Chris Wilcox. Other than a fluky two-month span in Seattle in 2006, Wilcox has shot between 51.4% and 52.9% from the field, made 6.7 field goals per 40 minutes, averaged about 7 defensive boards per 40, 1.5 assists, a steal, .75 blocks, a couple of turnovers, and a few fantastic dunks.
There are a few mitigating factors for his production this year, however.
1) Minutes. With Durant and Green on board, and with Robert Swift taking some center minutes away from Nick Collison, Wilcox will likely see his minutes decline from 31.5 to around 28 or 29.
2) Shot attempts. It’s possible that Wilcox will get more attempts this year, as Allen and Lewis won’t be around to hog the ... err, lead the offense. There are about 35 shots a night missing from the lineup this season with Allen/Lewis gone, and even if Durant takes 20 a night, that still leaves plenty for everyone else to divvy up. Figure that Wilcox’ drop in minutes will be matched by an increase in looks. At the very least, he won’t have to stand around waiting for Allen to come off of screens 4 trips out of 5.
3) Free throws. Wilcox boosted his FTA/48 quite a bit last season, and hopefully that’s a trend that continues into the coming season.
That’s about it for analysis. Wilcox – for as frustrating as he’s been as a pro – has actually been pretty consistent, so it’s not difficult to guess what he’s going to do this season, assuming Sam Presti doesn’t deal him away mid-season. Where does it all leave us? Here’s how I figure it, on a per-game basis.
29 minutes, 13 points, 6.5 rebounds
And that’s Chris Wilcox, a 25-year-old power forward who will throw up the odd 25/15 to get you excited, then follow it up with a week’s worth of 11/4s to drench you in the cold water of reality. And considering his lack of interest in playing defense, and the Sonics’ revived interest in same, this season may be our last chance to see him in action.