Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Hersey Hawkins, Detlef Schrempf: between 1992 and 1998, each of these players had several seasons that would have made them the most valuable player on most other team’s rosters. Seattle, though, in this era, had a dominant starting five–not just one star, but a unit of extremely productive, extremely valuable players at every position.
Payton and Kemp served as perfect complements to one another, both carrying some of the scoring load, one stationed at the perimeter, the other interior, while Hawkins and Schrempf (as indicated by their lighter, more pastel shades in the graphic) did a little bit of everything for the team. Even Kendall Gill and Nate McMillan brought multifaceted perimeter games to the table, while no major player specialized exclusively in scoring, making it difficult to shut down the team’s offense.
Even when Kemp left, Vin Baker stepped up to fill his role on the team, but in the strike-shortened 1999 season, Baker disappeared, and neither he nor the Sonics were able to recapture their former ability. The team of the 1990s, underappreciated because it failed to win the championship, gradually dismantled, and the Allen/Lewis combo was too scoring-focused to be the centerpiece of a very successful club.
Reviewing the history of this illustrious franchise just reemphasizes the disappointment many fans feel at the prospect of this team moving from Seattle. Kevin Durant, in his rookie year, lead the team in BoxScores, and despite a poor showing this year, the future looks bright for the Sonics–on the court.
I would be interested in hearing what true Sonics experts see in the BoxScores graphic: Was Payton truly the MVP of the team for all those seasons, or ought Kemp be at the top? How about some of the older teams? Seattle fielded some pretty good teams in the 80s, lead by Gus Williams (whose yellow color reflects his prototypical combo guard style) and Jack Sikma (the sweet shooting rebounding center (light blue))–do the colors and orderings mesh with your memories of those teams? What do you think?