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Imagining Basketball in Seattle: The Return of the Sonics

In 2008, the Seattle SuperSonics were relocated to Oklahoma City and became the franchise we all know as the Oklahoma City Thunder. Over the past few years, there has been a lot of re-branding in the NBA. It started in 2012 when the New Jersey Nets moved to Brooklyn and traded in the red white and blue for black and white. In 2013 the New Orleans Hornets new ownership announced its intentions to become the New Orleans Pelicans and as a result Michael Jordan took the rights to the Hornets’ name, announcing that the Charlotte Bobcats would become the Charlotte Hornets in 2014. And while all of this movement was happening, an ownership group in Seattle was plotting to bring the Sacramento Kings to Seattle and re-brand them as the Seattle SuperSonics, in hopes of bringing their beloved franchise home. Obviously their 2013 vote to relocate the team failed after a 22-8 vote against relocation kept the Kings in Sacramento. However, all hope isn’t lost in Seattle. If one were to run through all of the teams in the NBA, there isn’t one team that should be relocated, but there is another route that the NBA should explore: Expansion. Seattle is a great sports city and could bring in a lot of revenue for the NBA. I’m not a math guy, so I won’t break down the financial aspect of it all, but in this article we will dive into how it could happen and what an expansion roster would look like.Image result for seattle sonics
First and foremost, Seattle would need public support, which includes fan support as well as endorsements from people around the league, or any other form of support for the idea of basketball in Seattle. There’s no doubt the fans want the team back or else they would’ve never gotten close relocating the Kings in the first place. In addition,  Seattle also have the support of some of the NBA’s most respected and accomplished players. Jamal Crawford stands out as someone who has spoken out about his desire to see NBA basketball in Seattle. Another athlete involved in bringing basketball back to Seattle is Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. The former Super Bowl champion joined a group dedicated to bringing professional basketball back to Seattle.

The next thing Seattle would need is a venue, which is where the help of the NHL comes in. In October of 2017, the NHL expanded their league by adding the Vegas Golden Knights. The Golden Knights, who are in their inaugural season, are enjoying a tremendous season on the ice and some may argue the expansion helped pave the way for the Raiders to be approved to relocate to Las Vegas as well. With the addition of the Golden Knights, the NHL now stands at 31 teams and are still exploring cities to expand into to even out the league at 32 teams. The clear front-runner for the 32nd team is… Seattle. There are currently 10 venues that are home to both NBA and NHL teams, but given the timing of the expansion, it seems logical that Seattle could build a stadium that can cater to the needs of both the NBA and the NHL.

Image result for seattle sonicsSo in a perfect world, Seattle now has the support of the public and celebrity endorsements, they have a motivated ownership group and another team to help build and finance the construction of an arena.  The final step is an expansion draft. There can’t be a team without players and even though Seattle could attract some premier free agents and the team would land a high draft pick, the expansion draft is where the bulk of the inaugural season’s roster would come from. We will use the same expansion draft rules that applied to the Charlotte Bobcats when they participated in an expansion draft in 2004. Here are the key rules:

  • Seattle will select a minimum of 14 players who are under contract or restricted free agents for the upcoming season
  • Seattle is not permitted to select more than one player from each team
  • Seattle can only draft players that are unprotected by NBA teams
  • Each of the 30 NBA teams may protect a maximum of eight players on its roster who are under contract or are restricted free agents at the conclusion of the season
  • Each of the 30 NBA teams will designate the players on its roster who are eligible for selection by Seattle
  • Each of the 30 NBA teams must designate at least one player on its roster to be eligible for selection by Seattle
  • Any player under contract selected by Seattle will immediately be placed on the their roster
  • Any eligible restricted free agent selected by Seattle will become an unrestricted free agent
  • Unrestricted free agents are not eligible to be protected nor are they eligible to be selected by Seattle
  • Teams will be permitted to enter into pre-Expansion Draft trades involving players or draft picks in which Seattle agrees to select or not select certain unprotected players in return
  • A team will not be permitted to reacquire a player that it loses in the Expansion Draft prior to the expiration of one year from the date of the Expansion Draft, unless the player is waived and not claimed by any other team

We conducted a mock expansion draft to give Seattle its inaugural roster.

*Drafted the minimum requirement of 14 picks to create a roster spot for the 15th man on the roster, Seattle’s first round pick.)

Round 1: Terry Rozier, PG, Boston Celtics (Signed through 2019-2020)

Round 2: Brandon Knight, PG, Phoenix Suns (Signed through 2019-2020)

Round 3: Jeremy Lamb, SG, Charlotte Hornets (Signed through 2018-2019)

Round 4: Trey Lyles, PF, Denver Nuggets (Signed through 2019-2020)

Round 5: Jamal Crawford, SG, Minnesota Timberwolves (Signed through 2018-2019)

Round 6: Bojan Bogdanovic, SG/SF, Indiana Pacers (Signed through 2018-2019)

Round 7: Robin Lopez, C, Chicago Bulls (Signed through 2018-2019)

Round 8: Jake Layman, SF, Portland Trail Blazers [RFA] (Signed through 2019-2020)

Round 9: John Henson, PF, Milwaukee Bucks (Signed through 2019-2020)

Round 10: Thomas Bryant, C, Los Angeles Lakers [RFA] (Signed through 2019-2020)

Round 11: Bryn Forbes, PG, San Antonio Spurs (Signed through 2018-2019)

Round 12: Dwight Powell, PF, Dallas Mavericks (Signed through (2019-2020)

Round 13: Tyler Dorsey, SG, Atlanta Hawks (Signed through 2019-2020)

Round 14: Kyle Singler, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder (Signed through 2019-2020)

After performing a simulation, Seattle would land the 3rd overall pick in the 2018 draft.

With the 3rd overall pick the Seattle SuperSonics select: Marvin Bagley III, SF/PF, Duke

Projected Starters:

PG: Terry Rozier

SG: Jeremy Lamb

SF: Bojan Bogdanovic

PF: Marvin Bagley III

C: Robin Lopez


PG: Brandon Knight, Bryn Forbes

SG: Tyler Dorsey, Jamal Crawford

SF: Kyle Singler, Jake Layman

PF: Trey Lyles, John Henson, Dwight Powell

C: Thomas Bryant

It’s far from a guarantee that basketball will ever return to Seattle, but no city deserves a team more. Given the current landscape of the league, it seems highly unlikely that a franchise would be approved to relocate, which may be a sign that the NBA should look into expansion. If the league ever does look into it, teaming up with the NHL to bring two professional teams to Seattle would be exciting for the people of Seattle and sports fans everywhere.





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