Sonics have 4th draft pick on day trial ends Print
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Wednesday, 25 June 2008 10:41
NBA Headline News

 SEATTLE (AP) -As the squabbling, contentious trial that will ultimately determine where the Seattle SuperSonics play the 2008-09 season ends Thursday, Sonics general manager Sam Presti wouldn't mind a little attention paid to the basketball side of Seattle's operations.
Holding the No. 4 pick in Thursday night's NBA draft - among the Sonics' six total picks - is a good start. Making yet another dynamic draft night splash, much like last year, just might make Thursday's final day of testimony in the trial between the city of Seattle and the Sonics a footnote.
``We're human. It's not as if we don't know it's going on or pretend it's not going on,'' Presti said of the trial that will conclude closing arguments shortly before the Sonics make their first pick.
``We understand it's there but as professionals and as leaders, we have to be doing our job every day. We're here to improve and get better as a basketball team. That's really where our focus has been. If we allow it to come here and deter us that will put us behind from a competitive standpoint and we can't allow that to happen.''
This will be Presti's second draft in charge of the Sonics, and he holds a wealth of valuables in an attempt to resurrect a franchise that just concluded its worst season in team history, winning a mere 20 games.
Along with the No. 4 pick, Seattle also selects 24th in the first round. They hold a foursome of second-round selections as well and trade exceptions that give the Sonics ultimate flexibility.
As the draft approaches, the rumors of potential deals have increased. Last year, Presti didn't hesitate to show his willingness to make a blockbuster trade, sending franchise cornerstone Ray Allen to Boston for two players and the No. 5 overall pick that turned into all-rookie team performer Jeff Green.
This year, the most talked about rumors have Seattle potentially trying to move up to No. 2 for a shot at Kansas State forward Michael Beasley - a good friend of Sonics' rookie of the year Kevin Durant - or potentially moving down and acquiring another pick or a veteran player.
Presti, who speaks guardedly, said he's been taking a lot of calls, but that the Sonics are very comfortable if they stay at No. 4.
``We certainly have a direction we are leaning,'' Presti said. ``You always have to be ready for every scenario.''
Last year, Presti was thrown into the evaluation process just weeks before the draft when he was named Sonics' GM at age 30. From the outside, that situation appeared easy for Presti, when Seattle held the No. 2 pick and simply would take whomever Portland didn't - which ended up being Durant.
This year, because of the large number of freshman projected to be lottery picks, Presti and his staff have done more homework.
If Seattle keeps the fourth pick and Presti wants to improve the backcourt, the likely pick would be either Arizona's Jerryd Bayless, UCLA's Russell Westbrook or USC's O.J. Mayo, if he is still on the board.
Bayless showed his dynamic scoring ability in his one season in Tucson, averaging nearly 20 points, and became the first Arizona freshman named team MVP since Sean Elliott in 1986. Westbrook is less of a scorer, but is a tenacious defender with a long wingspan that could be key in improving a Sonics' defense that was fourth-worst in the NBA.
Mayo has impressed teams with his ability to play either guard position, his strength and scoring ability.
If Seattle chooses not to go with a guard at No. 4, then a center like Stanford's Brook Lopez or even forward Kevin Love from UCLA may be the choice.
Along with the 24th pick, Seattle has picks 32, 46, 50 and 56 in the second round, meaning a long, nonstop night of action for Presti.
``I use the word foundation a lot. Certainly with the picks that we have in this draft we feel like we'll be able to add to that,'' Presti said. ``Last year we were able to add a player like Kevin and that was tremendous for our franchise. This year we have to be realistic that what we're adding may not have the same kind of impact, but is going to be a very good player that we feel like can be a part of what we're doing moving forward.''

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