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State of the Cap: Seattle Supersonics

Wed, 06/20/2007 - 1:37pm

By Josh Redetzke
6/20/07

2007/08 Seattle Supersonics Payroll: $50 million
2007/08 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $55 million
Roughly: $5 million under cap

[img_assist|nid=3813|title=Kevin Durant|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=320|height=345]The Good: Needing a lot of buzz to save the team from moving out of Seattle, the Sonics got a very big bee courtesy of the draft lottery. Adding instant superstar Kevin Durant to their lineup will greatly increase fan interest and could generate enough support to keep the team in town. Durant might not be a great player right away, but he is the kind of talent that the Sonics can build their team around, wherever they end up. Not a bad consolation prize if you ask me.

Seattle has a trio of young complimentary players in place to help Durant win some ball games and all three are signed to moderate, worthy contracts for what they produce. Point guard Luke Ridnour averaged 11 points and 5.2 assists per game while improving his shooting percentage slightly to 43.3%. Ridnour will get $6.5 million a year for the next three years. I’d like to see a few more assists than what he had this season (and a more accurate shot), but Ridnour is a true point and gives decent value for his contract.

The other two complimentary players are forwards Chris Wilcox and Nick Collison. Wilcox will receive $6.5 and $6.75 million the next two years and has emerged as the Sonics’ best frontline player. He averaged 13.5 points and 7.7 rebounds on 52.9% shooting, proving that he could sustain the numbers he put up after being traded to Seattle the previous season. Meanwhile, Nick Collison really improved his rebounding this year, leading the team with 8.1 boards per game. He also averaged a respectable 9.6 points on 50% shooting. Collison will start a four year, $25 million deal next season. With a slight improvement to his scoring average, Collison will easily earn his money. The forward position in Seattle is in good hands with these two.

Danny Fortson comes off the books this summer, saving the team $6.6 million in cap space. The troublesome, often-injured Fortson won’t be missed.

The Bad: Earl Watson did lead the team in assists with 5.7 per game but he was also the worst shooting regular player, hitting just 38.3% of his shots. Watson will make nearly the same amount of money as Luke Ridnour the next three seasons. Will he be able to get enough minutes to earn his contract once Ridnour takes over more of the point guard duties? At least Watson makes a nice insurance policy in case Ridnour goes down due to injury or poor play.

Rashard Lewis has created a very sticky situation for the Sonics. Lewis opted to test the free agent market this off-season. The team would like to re-sign him since Lewis is a good scorer (22.4) who rebounds (6.6) and shoots well from the three point line (39%). However, they are already paying superstar money to Ray Allen and their cap would be stuffed if they did the same for Lewis. Plus, Kevin Durant plays basically the same position as Lewis, so why would they lock him up long-term? Conversely, if Lewis signs with another team, Seattle gets nothing in return and won’t have the cap space necessary to replace his talent level. Their only hope is to work out a sign-n-trade, and even then it might not work out in Seattle’s favor. The whole situation has become quite a mess and it could hurt the team in the long run.

The Future: The arrival of Kevin Durant really changes everything for this franchise. They were trying to build the team around Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen, but now it appears that Lewis wants out of town and Allen is coming off a season where he missed 27 games due to injury and is now 32 years old. Allen is still playing excellent basketball at this point in his career. However, is he really a part of the team’s future if they want to build around the extremely young Durant? Allen will probably be ready to retire by the time Durant gets enough experience to be a force. With the sweet-shooting Allen still commanding a high value, shouldn’t Seattle trade him and make the youth movement complete?

With one star leaving, another one arriving, and the whole franchise on the verge of moving, perhaps another major change would be too much for one off-season. I would give Allen and Durant at least one year to see how they play together (and to gauge how Durant makes the transition to the pros). After that, Seattle will be in better shape to determine their next move. A nice supporting cast is in place, the talent is there, and the Sonics have options for the future. Unfortunately, that future might not include lattes on a rainy Seattle afternoon.

Free Throw: Who is going to play center for this team? Their last three drafts landed them Saer Sene, Johan Petro, and Robert Swift, all centers. Sene is a major work in progress who spent his entire season in the D-League. Petro was so-so last season and only averaged 18 minutes a game. And after a promising second year, Swift tore an ACL and missed the entire season. He has only appeared in 63 games for his career. Perhaps a Rashard Lewis trade can net them a competent, and healthy, big man.

Grade:B-

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