2008/09 Seattle Supersonics Payroll: $48.4 million
2008/09 Estimated Salary Cap: $58 million (estimate)
Roughly $9.6 million under cap
After a couple of major trades, the Sonics have set themselves up so that the highest paid player on their team next season will be Chris Wilcox at just $6.75 million. For comparison, the Knicks and Mavericks will each have six players earning more than Wilcox. Not surprisingly, Seattle will be comfortably under the salary cap. This is partially because of the franchise’s impending move to Oklahoma City, but it is also part of their rebuilding plan.
If there was any doubt about building the team around Kevin Durant, there isn’t any more. The NBA Rookie of the Year averaged 20.3 points per game and showed flashes of greatness. He scored a career high 42 points in a win on the last game of the season, which included 13 rebounds and 6 assists. Ten days before that, Durant poured in 37 points, 8 rebounds, and 9 assists in a win against Denver. Sure, there was the occasional 2 for 17 outing, his shooting percentages weren’t spectacular, and he should probably rebound a little better than 4.4 per game, but what more could you realistically expect from a 19-year-old rookie? The guy is going to be one scary player a few years from now. The folks in Oklahoma will love it.
Fellow All-Rookie teamer Jeff Green wasn’t half bad, either. He had his own shooting woes, just like Durant, but he did average a respectable 10.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. The forward from Georgetown has some versatility and should become an excellent complimentary player for Durant.
Another good complimentary player that is locked up for the next three years is Nick Collison. Roughly $6.4 million per year is a fair price for a player who nearly averaged a double-double this season (9.8 points and 9.4 rebounds). Collison is definitely part of the long-term future of this franchise.
With no high-priced contracts to speak of, it is difficult to find much fault in Seattle’s payroll. There are some red flags, however. Luke Ridnour severely regressed this season. It was partly due to injuries, but even when healthy Ridnour couldn’t beat out Earl Watson, an average point guard at best. Ridnour’s shooting percentage dipped to 40% and his three-point shooting dropped below 30%. Considering he is the second highest paid player on the team at $6.5 million each of the next two years, Ridnour will have to bounce back in a big way to earn his paycheck.
The Sonics were able to get rid of Wally Szczerbiak’s contract, which helped a lot, but they did have to take Donyell Marshall’s contract in return. It was a much smaller contract, but they’ll still have to pay the man nearly $6 million next year to basically do nothing. I would be very surprised to see Marshall in a Seattle (or Oklahoma City) uniform at the end of the season.
After using all their lotto luck last year, Seattle dropped two spots in the draft this time. They will have to settle for Jerryd Bayless or perhaps O.J. Mayo, which isn’t that bad. However, the Sonics were hoping to pair Durant with Derrick Rose for the next ten years. That duo would have been an incredible pair of building blocks.
For Seattle, there is no future. Not an immediate one, anyway. There isn’t even a future for the Sonics since Oklahoma City is going to choose a new mascot for the team. There are some legal issues to work through that could keep the team in Seattle until 2010, when its lease runs out with KeyArena. Any extra time would give more chances for a miracle to occur, but right now it doesn’t look too good.
The future for this franchise, however, is starting to look better. Durant appears to be the real deal. There are no terrible contracts to worry about. They just need to be patient and make the right moves on draft day and in other player acquisitions. It would probably be best for the team if they moved to Oklahoma City right away. A delay of two years might make ownership think twice about making key moves in free agency or in contract negotiations with current players. You can’t build a winner with so much uncertainty hovering around the team.
Before Kevin Durant, Seattle spent their picks on centers: Saer Sene, Johan Petro, and Robert Swift. None of them have panned out so far. With Rose out of the picture at pick four, do they try yet again for a center by picking Brook Lopez? I would stick to a point guard if I were them.