ISAIAH THOMAS is listed at 5-9 and may be even smaller. He’s an adequate shooter with adequate range and an adequate passer. He lacks sufficient presence on offense and gets taken into the low post by virtually every opponent. Jackson has always liked big, long-limbed point guards. So for a variety of reasons, Thomas would be an inadequate fit in the triangle.
JIMMER FREDETTE is a terrific one-on-none shooter. But he’s small, slow and defenseless. Could he become a future incarnation of John Paxson or Steve Kerr? This is highly unlikely because both those players were much quicker than Fredette. Another useless, ersatz point guard.
Indeed, finding a suitable trigger-man would be Jackson’s first priority.
TYREKE EVANS lacks reliable 3-point range, but he can score. Not pass, or defend, but ring up the points. His right-to-left crossover is exceptional and he has the strength to avoid being derailed by assault-minded bigs in the shadow of the hoop. With some discipline on offense, and removing his head from the swivel on defense, Evans just might be a plus.
JOHN SALMONS plays smart, aggressive defense but at 33 he has lost at least a step. Used to be, he could zip his way into the paint. Nowadays, he’s either a spot-up or pull-up shooter who has a hard time creating his own looks. However, he Could serve as a savvy backup at the big guard spot as well as an emergency point guard.
JASON THOMPSON is a banger and a good one. Offensive rebounding is his forte, and he has strong hands and admirable hops. He can post some, scoring with either hand, but lacks explosiveness and is no threat to do anything useful outside the paint. Active on defense, Thompson could be a valuable frontcourt sub.
MARCUS THORNTON can’t (or won’t) pass and routinely turns his head on defense, but he can put points on the board from near and far. He’s also an ornery competitor. Definitely a keeper.
DeMARCUS COUSINS is by far the team’s best player. He looks to make (and often completes) meaningful passes, is basically unselfish, has good (if not extended) range, will go the floor to rescue loose balls, can run the court, is a legitimate three-space rebounder, has an adequate low post game (highlighted by dribbling left and then spinning right) and is a genuine powerhouse force.
On the debit side, his feet are slow, he’s a slow jumper, he is too often late in making defensive rotations, he tends to settle for jumpers on wing isolations, and he tries to do things he shouldn’t do (like going with a behind-the-back dribble on a 3-on-1 fast break). And most significantly, his general immaturity manifests as a tendency to lose his focus on bad calls or when he misses easy shots.
But he’s only 22, and Jackson’s touch with bigs coupled with Cousins’ mass, unselfishness and skill set could easily turn the young man into the kind of dreadnaught center who could be the focus of the triangle. Could be that the opportunity to develop Cousins would play a big part in his if/when decision to take over the team.
The realistic prospects?
Cousins and Evans have the potential to be the anchors of a championship contender. Expect, too, that star power players who yearn for a ring would be eager to sign up for PJ’s program. And if the new owners would be willing to dig deeply into their pockets and (like Mark Cuban) disregard the salary cap restrictions, don’t be surprised if the SuperSonics are competing for the championship in three to four years.
But as Fats Waller, the great stride piano player, joyful singer and glorious jazzbo of days past used to say, “One never knows, do one?”
The newest addition to the SheridanHoops columnist staff, Charley Rosen is an American author and former basketball coach. From 1983–1986, he was an assistant to Phil Jackson with the Albany Patroons of the Continental Basketball Association. He also served as head coach of the Patroons, as well as the CBA’s Rockford Lightning, Oklahoma City Cavalry and Savannah Spirits. A native of The Bronx, N.Y., the 71-year-old Rosen is the author of 16 books about basketball. He is known for his in-depth analysis and caustic views.