It's become common knowledge that every year in the NFL, one team will come from nowhere to make the playoffs. A team everyone expected to go 5-11 will run off a couple of shocking wins, vaulting them into double-digit win territory.
With that in mind, who can we expect on the Sonics this season to make a leap? I would exclude Kevin Durant and Jeff Green from the equation, since they're both rookies, but those two aside, who are you looking at that would answer the question at the end of the season: Wow, did you see that coming?
There are a couple of possibilities. Right off the bat is Robert Swift, a 7' center who has done nothing in the NBA other than tantalize, but who has hit the weights hard during his rehabilitation period. It's certainly possible that Swift could register a 10-10 season this year, and it's equally likely he could put up a 5-3 year as well. Considering what I've read about other players recovering from his type of injury, I think for this year at least, we're looking at the latter more than the former.
Another option would be Earl Watson or Luke Ridnour. I believe that one of these guys will earn the reigns to this squad in 2007/08, and will get the minutes that go along with it. If you give Frodo 33 minutes a night, he'll definitely post at least 11-12 ppg and 6 to 8 assists. Likewise with Watson. Coming off disappointing years for both of them, it's possible that Earl or Luke could be the answer.
Or, perhaps Chris Wilcox. Wilcox has the physical ability, will likely get the minutes required, and it's not entirely unrealistic to expect him to average 15-16 points and 8 boards a game. However, it's more likely he'll finish with his usual 13-7.
That's why I think the one guy who could surprise everyone this year is ... Wally Szczerbiak. Call me crazy, but if Wally gets 30 minutes a night, doesn't get hurt, and gets the touches you would expect a starting shooting guard to get, he could average upwards up 17 points a game.
What's that you say? That your humble narrator skewered the Sonics for acquiring this oft-injured marshmallow of a guard not three months ago? Touche, I confess to the earlier insults. But if you look at Wally's numbers, you have to assume that last year's 41% mark from the field is an aberration; other than his dismal 06/07 campaign, the guy routinely shot 48 to 50% from the floor, and that's not Jerome James-type shots, either. I think alot of Wally's problems last year came from lauching too many outside shots (he averaged nearly 5 3FGA per 40 minutes which is nearly double his career average). If he can be mobile enough to get off some inside shots, it's not crazy to think he might hit on 45% to 49% of his attempts, which makes averaging 16 or 17 ppg not so off the charts.
So there you go. Wally Szczerbiak is my nominee for Most Surprising Player for the 2007/08 season (and, yes, I'm fully aware that he might be dealt in February, but what can I do?). Feel free to submit your own nominees in the comments section.