Gone from the Sonics are Ray Allen (26.4 ppg last season) and Rashard Lewis (22.4 ppg last season). These 2 players accounted for 52% of Seattle’s offense. Only the Trailblazers are a younger team than the Sonics. This year will be about finding their identity and finding out if they will remain in Seattle.
The Sonics are full of young raw talent that should improve all season long. Kevin Durant, the 18-year old phenom, leads the youth movement and had a decent performance in his debut. Durant had a rough first half going 3 for 14 for 9 points. But, his first basket showed his promise as he made a baseline lay-up in triple coverage. Durant had a better second half shooting 4 for 8 and wound up with 18 points and 5 rebounds. Durant looks like a puppy with big paws. He still needs to grow into that body to become a great NBA player. The skills are all there. He was able to drive to the basket, hit a couple 3-pointers, and with his wingspan should also become a good defender. But, the Sonics trainers better be force-feeding him Wendy’s Baconator’s all day long.
Chris Wilcox will be a big force in the middle for the Sonics. He looked great in the first half against the Nuggets going 6 for 14 for 12 points, but was held to just 2 points in the second half. Wilcox wound up with 14 points and 8 rebounds. He will need to be a bigger presence for the Sonics if they are to be successful. Wilcox has the potential to be one of those rare players that average 20 points and 10 rebounds and do it on very few shots.
Damien Wilkins led the Sonics with 21 points, but like Wilcox was slowed down in the second half. Wilkins, son of Gerald and nephew of Dominique, had 19 points on just 10 shots in the first half. He was 4 for 6 from 3-point range and also added 8 rebounds. But, Wilkins was also held to just 2 points in the second half.
Delonte West will soon be the starting point guard over Earl Watson. West shot 8 for 13 for 19 points and had 5 assists. He also had 5 turnovers, but you can chalk that up to unbelievable defense by AI. West, actually looks a lot like Iverson. They are both undersized, but very quick and aren’t afraid of contact. West should have his best statistical season and could really help getting this young team going if he can penetrate and distribute.
The Nuggets have high expectations this season. This will be the first full year with Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, and JR Smith playing together. Also, Kenyon Martin is back from microfracture surgery and Marcus Camby was able to play a full season last year. If this team remains healthy they are definitely a darkhorse to come out of the Western Conference.
Carmelo Anthony continued his dominance from his performance this summer on Team USA. Anthony hit his first 5 shots and finished with 32 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds. Carmelo Anthony is probably the only player that can give Kobe Bryant a run at the scoring title. The Nuggets will average over 100 points this season and Anthony should average over 30 points per game.
What can you say about Allen Iverson? He looked amazing last night. Last night’s performance is why Carmelo Anthony was so excited about AI coming to Denver and it also shows that the perception that Iverson is selfish is completely unfounded. Iverson had 25 points, 14 assists, 5 rebounds, and 7 steals. Iverson is still one of the most exciting players to watch and this Nuggets team is right up there with the Suns for most frenetic pace.