Friday, February 21, 2003

Zero Base Basketball?

Living here in the Seattle Metro Area with two small boys who love and play basketball, this household has been profoundly affected by the Gary Payton trade. My eldest son has asked me to apply some zero base thinking to the trade since he, and most other Seattle Sonics fans, are despondent over the trade. The result of my analysis is that the team and Gary are winners. The other team, the Milwaukee Bucks, are winners also. Only the fans seem to have lost, and that loss will be short lived, as the next few years will reveal.

Gary Payton is in his free-agent year. This means that, at the end of the year, he will be able to offer his services to the highest bidding team. Since he has been having a career year (surprise, surprise) he will be able to command a huge amount of money, an amount that the Sonics would be hard pressed to meet. Chances are, the Sonics would have lost him at the end of the season anyway,as they would have been presented with a huge (blackmail) offer sheet that they may have been unable or unwilling to match. Instead of taking the chance of losing him for no compensation, the Sonics traded him at about the last day before the trading deadline. They received Ray Allen, a 27 year old future superstar, and Elden Campbell, a seven foot center that they sorely need, plus a first round draft pick. For the team, this trade gives them a great shot of building a much better team for subsequent years, and remember that this year is shot for them anyway. Win for Sonics.

Milwaukee is a playoff team with good chances of advancing. A super star like Payton as point guard, with his presence and experience will be a great lift for any team in their situation. The competitive pressure will motivate Sam Cassell to higher heights as well. Win for Bucks.

Gary Payton is a great player who has played for the Sonics for twelve years. Great players want nothing more than a championship ring. He has no chance of getting one in Seattle this year or next. In Milwaukee, especially with his help, he has a much better chance of realizing this goal. He also will have, if anything, an even better chance of signing a record breaking contract, since he will have more playoff experience and opportunity to showcase his skills for any team considering making a bid for his services. After he gets over the emotional feelings of betrayal, he will realize that the trade was the best thing that could have happened to him. Win for Payton.

Payton is, without doubt, the best, most exciting player the Sonics have (had). He has single-handedly won more than a few games for them. He will be missed. But after the fans get over it, they will see that, with Allen and Campbell, and a rookie that the first round draft pick will bring, the Sonics will get better. Brent Barry will have the chance to rise in the NBA ranks and perhaps attain some of the greatness that is surely in his blood (NBA legend Rick Barry is his father). Add in the effects of entropy on the other powers in the West, and it is easy to forsee a much more powerful Sonics team over the next few years. Win for the fans (eventually).

It is difficult to admit defeat and go into rebuilding mode, but the time has come for the Sonics to do just that. In two or three years they might just become a power in a new West. In light of that, this trade is the best thing that could have happened. Honest. You'll see.