Selections of Durant, Green Herald New Era for Sonics
Kevin Pelton, SUPERSONICS.COM
| June 28, 2007
If there was any question entering Thursday that the 2007 NBA Draft was the dawn of a new era in Seattle SuperSonics history, it was removed when the Sonics followed the selection of Texas forward Kevin Durant No. 2 overall with a blockbuster trade. The Sonics dealt All-Star guard Ray Allen to Boston in exchange for the rights to No. 5 pick Jeff Green, guard Delonte West and forward Wally Szczerbiak in a trade that also saw the teams swap second-round picks.
With Durant and Green, the Sonics became the second team since 1983 to get two of the top five picks in the Draft (Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry went to Chicago in 2001) and instantly made over the team in the style envisioned by new General Manager Sam Presti.
"Our staff felt like Jeff would be a tremendous complement to Kevin," said Presti. "He's a player that doesn't need the ball to be effective. He's a tremendous facilitator and passer. He's got a great acumen for the game and playing in the system that he has, I think, has probably contained him a little bit. Those that have seen him play in venues other than the Georgetown system have a better understanding of what it is this guy brings to the table. His IQ and facilitation on the floor, as well as this is an impeccable young man, and everybody here will learn that over time. That is another big thing."
In a Draft considered one of the strongest in recent history, the Sonics got a pair of top prospects. The only drama with Durant was whether he or Ohio State center Greg Oden, the consensus top two players available, would be taken first overall by the Portland Trail Blazers. When the Blazers ended more than a month of speculation by selecting Oden, the choice was clear for the Sonics.
"Kevin Durant is a player that makes the job of everybody on the team easier," said Presti. "He's a guy that comes to work every day to get better. His background and how he's developed his game over time can be seen so clearly over time. This is not a young man that has developed his game by running up and down the floor in unorganized settings. This is a man that has drilled and his game is built on repetition and hard work. Those are things that we are going to value in this organization."
After taking Durant, the Sonics were nowhere close to done. Negotiations with the Celtics revealed a strong desire on their part to bring Allen to Boston and pair him with All-Star swingman Paul Pierce. Dangling the fifth pick in the Draft and veteran players, the Celtics convinced the Sonics to deal their star guard.
"You don't wake up one day and say that you're going to look to move a player like a Ray Allen," explained Presti. "Someone has to get them, and Boston did that here. What started as a smaller conversation began to build and their pursuit was impeccable."
In Green, the Sonics get a player widely considered the top small forward available in the Draft. Green's stock rose during the season as he helped lead Georgetown to the Final Four for the first time since 1985. Green led the Hoyas in scoring and was second in rebounding and assists, evidence of a versatility that is attractive to the Sonics front office.
"What we see in these players is tremendous versatility," said Presti, referring to Durant, Green and free-agent forward Rashard Lewis. "We see guys that are skilled with the ball and have a great size-to-skill ratio. We see players that can play real length defense and, when you put them in a system defensively, are going to be able to cover a tremendous amount of ground.
"With the direction of the league and the way teams are playing in terms of playing smaller and different matchups, this is a tremendous versatile lineup that defensively can be capable of a number of different schemes and actions."
Durant, like Green (and West) a native of the Washington D.C. area, was excited to hear about the deal. He and Green had played for the same AAU team, but at different times.
"To play with him is like a dream come true," said Durant.
West, a combo guard who has started and come off the bench in Boston, averaged 12.2 points and 4.4 assists per game last season. The lefty has the ability to shoot the basketball with three-point range and has a strong combination of size and ballhandling ability. Szczerbiak, an All-Star in 2002 with Minnesota, has averaged 15.6 points per game in his career.
Presti called the duo, "hard-nosed competitors in that fit the direction that we are heading in."
The price the Sonics paid was high.
"Making the decision to move a player and a person like Ray Allen was tremendously difficult," said Presti. "I want to stress to everybody that what Ray Allen has done for this organization and the NBA can't be underestimated. He is a total pro."
After coming to the Sonics in the February 2003 trade that sent Gary Payton to Milwaukee, Allen spent four-plus seasons in Seattle. Voted a member of the Sonics 40th Anniversary Team last fall, Allen averaged 24.6 points per game in a Sonics uniform, second only to Spencer Haywood (24.9) in franchise history. He ranks 11th in Sonics history in career scoring (7,273) and third in three-pointers (869).
Allen earned Western Conference All-Star honors all four full seasons he played in Seattle and was named to the All-NBA Second Team in 2004-05. His career-high 54 points last season against Utah rank him second on the Sonics all-time single-game scoring list.
For four-plus years, Allen was the face of the Sonics. Today, however, that face has changed. A new era has begun in Seattle, and it is symbolized by the versatility, character and the potential of Kevin Durant and Jeff Green.