Can the Sonics make the Playoffs in the brutal West? In short, the answer would appear to be ?No?. Or in the more optimistic sense ?Not likely?. They?ve drafted two guys that have the critics salivating: a big, supposedly unathletic white guy who could be the next Chris Mihm, and a small white point guard who can?t defend his own dog and could be the next Dan Dickau. Their major free agent activity involved signing Antonio Daniels, a journeyman point guard who has the tools, but has never been able to put it all together nearly enough to justify being a top four pick. The well-publicized problems at centre still remain, and it looks like another season starting a rookie at power forward in the west, albeit a lottery pick this time around, unless the talented but perimeter orientated Vladimir Radmanovic develops an inside game. However all is not lost for Supes fans, despite the obvious strengthening of the West this offseason. All that is needed is optimism, and maybe a bit of luck? New Players: Depending on what outlook you take, Seattle have had either an underrated or unsuccessful recruiting period. I choose to take the optimists view, the road less travelled perhaps?! The draft was solid, if not more. Nick Collison has had to listen to all the critics who compare him to white stiffs from the past, saying he?s not athletic enough to play power forward, especially in the west. The bottom line however is Collison is a proven, four year college player. The kid?s a member of the USA team, and has put up a 30/20 game in a national title game! He even arguably outplayed Carmelo Anthony in the NCAA title game with 19 and 22, but because he?s not super athletic and dripping with the dreaded ?U? word, upside, he?s not given time of day. Fact is Collison has a superb work ethic and will likely develop into a solid 15 and 10 player, something along the lines of Troy Murphy, and this is exactly what the Sonics need. Luke Ridnour is another to come under the critics radar. He was somewhat harshly labeled on draft night as someone who ?couldn?t defend the chair he?s sitting on?. Whilst Ridnour may not be the world?s best defender, he?ll leave opposition defenders sitting when running a Sonics high tempo offense. Ridnour will likely be brought along slowly this season, but his strengths are superb passing skills and court vision, effortless ball handling and blistering speed and agility which should see him excel in Seattle?s high octane offense. And as for his defense? Well there can?t be any better to learn under than Nate McMillan, one of the best defensive point guards to play. Finally, not mentioning Paccelis Morlendes who will likely play another season in France to further develop, the Sonics picked up a free agent steal in Antonio Daniels, on the cheap. Whilst Daniels has not fulfilled his potential coming out of college, he has established himself as a valuable reserve, one who is able to play both guard positions with a unique combination of athleticism and ability. Daniels has also proven to be a more than capable perimeter defender, and will likely see 20-25 minutes a game backing up both decisions, more if Brent Barry?s knees don?t hold up. Existing Members: Seattle?s roster boasts a lot of youth, and if Seattle hopes to take the 7th or 8th spot in the west then this youth needs to stand up. Starting with much maligned number seven Rashard Lewis. Lewis has been labelled soft and not aggressive enough, and these would seem fair labels. However the fact remains Lewis is blessed with supreme offensive talent, and this is the season he needs to stamp his authority on the league. After the pressures of playing alongside Gary Payton were released last season, Lewis played like a new man, showing aggression and intensity not seen before in the young man hailing from Houston. He?s a co-captain, has been in the league 5 years and now it is time for him to put together a season that many know he is capable of. Ray Allen is another who has come under scrutiny as a one-dimensional player, someone in the Allan Houston mould who can shoot and not much else. What many fail to see is Allen was put in a situation in Milwaukee where he was effectively a shooter, playing with Sam Cassell who is a guard that will handle the ball for the majority of an offense. Once in Seattle, Allen was given a much larger role in the offense, and showed that he is more than just a shooter. He registered a near triple double on debut, following it with a triple double and averaging over 24, 6 and 5 in the 30 games he played in Seattle. Whether he can do it for a whole season is another question, but one that he is more than capable of answering. If these two are the star pieces of the franchise, then Brent Barry is the glue that holds it together. Forever underrated, Barry will continue to provide his role of mentor to younger players, and veteran leadership on the court. Barry will likely start at point guard, and give Seattle a long range threat and a capable ball handler in the half court game. Other players Seattle will look to get a contribution from are Vladimir Radmanovic, a sweet shooting power forward in a small forward?s body who will have to be content with coming off the bench again unless he shows a willingness to bang inside, Reggie Evans (as yet unsigned but likely to re-up), an offensive non-factor but a beat on the boards, Jerome James and Calvin Booth, both very good interior defenders but foul prone and underachieving, and Ronald Murray, a combo guard who has set the summer leagues alight with explosive scoring and ball handling. Verdict: As always, the team?s fortunes appear to come down to Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. If Allen can put together a whole season of his play in Seattle last year and Lewis can finally fulfil his potential as an all star calibre player then Seattle will have a very good foundation. Seattle will hope for either Radmanovic or Collison to develop quickly at the ?4? and put up around 15 and 8, pray that Brent Barry?s knees hold up and hope Daniels has brought his game to Seattle, which he left in San Antonio upon moving to Portland. If Ridnour develops quickly it will give Seattle one of the deepest backcourts in the league, and if all things go to plan then Seattle will be deep in the mix for a playoff berth once more.