The tide of uncertainty at the top of an NBA draft with a distinct Northwest feel is sure to ripple through the selection order and impact Seattle's decision with the No. 10 choice.
For the past few days, Toronto has shopped the No. 1 pick with seemingly little luck in enticing a team in the top five to surrender its pick and a veteran guard.
On Tuesday, ESPN.com reported the Raptors are considering taking Connecticut's Rudy Gay. Several league sources, however, believe it's a ploy and that they covet Italian forward Andrea Bargnani but are unwilling to use the top pick on a virtually unknown prospect.
In a draft where Gonzaga's Adam Morrison and Washington's Brandon Roy are expected to be among the top six picks, the Sonics are closely monitoring the situation because it will affect what they do.
On the surface, it doesn't seem as if they're doing back flips inside Seattle's war room about the prospects of drafting Memphis forward Rodney Carney, Duke guard J.J. Redick or Bradley center Patrick O'Bryant.
After getting a close look at Carney, North Carolina State's Cedric Simmons and Hilton Armstrong of Connecticut last Friday at the Furtado Center, the workout that really had the Sonics salivating took place hours earlier.
Who others say the Sonics will draft:
Chad Ford, ESPN.com: Hilton Armstrong
Tony Mejia, CBSsportsline: Randy Foye
Chris Ekstrand, Sports Illustrated: J.J. Redick
Frank Burlison, Scout.com: Andrea Bargnani
DIME Magazine: Cedric Simmons
NBAdraft.net: Patrick O'Bryant
Hoopshype.com: Shelden Williams
Realgm.com: Shelden Williams
Bodog.com: Rodney Carney
Before the draft's top prospects took the court, veterans Luke Ridnour, Nick Collison, Robert Swift and Johan Petro raced through an intense practice that reminded the Seattle's decision-makers to temper their expectations for the No. 10 pick.
"We're excited about the 10th pick and I think we're going to be able to get a really good player," said Dave Pendergraft, director of basketball operations. "Can he break that rotation? I doubt it. The improvement on our team is going to be the guys we had in the gym this morning — Petro, Swift, Collison and Ridnour. That's the improvement on our team. That was the best workout of the day and they've been here every single day the last two weeks."
"Although I love the 10th pick and I think we'll be able to get somebody there where you can say he's going to be a future starter in the NBA. But to think he can come start for us next year or get in the rotation if this team is intact, no. Maybe after Christmas, he's going to get some minutes."
That type of thinking fosters the belief that Seattle is actively trying to trade out of the draft or down in order to collect an extra pick next year.
Most NBA scouts agree that next year's draft crop — which may include Ohio State freshman Greg Oden, Florida sophomore Joakim Noah, Duke sophomore Josh McRoberts, Arizona sophomore Marcus Williams and Washington freshman Spencer Hawes — will be the most talented since Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and John Stockton entered the league in 1984.
"I've heard the term weak being used to describe this draft," scout Steve Rosenberry said. "Maybe so, if you're comparing it to what's about to come down the pike. If you're asking me is there an All-Star in this group, well, I don't know."
Barring a colossal roster shakeup such as the rumored Rashard Lewis-for-Shawn Marion deal earlier in the week, the Sonics' nine-man rotation is set going into the 2006-07 season.
Seattle expects to re-sign restricted free agent Chris Wilcox this summer, and he'll likely start alongside Ray Allen, Lewis, Ridnour and Petro.
If Earl Watson, Collison and Swift are unable to unseat the starters, then they'll receive major minutes as backups. Reserve Damien Wilkins rounds out the rotation.
Not since Gary Payton was taken No. 2 overall in 1990 has a Sonics rookie averaged more than 7.0 points.
Pendergraft acknowledges the Sonics would be pleased to pick up Carney at No. 10. "Can he come in and beat out those guys we mentioned? He's not," he continued. "And then coming off the bench we have Damien. Is Rodney going to beat out Damien? Well, that's tough."
Possible trade partners for Seattle include Portland, which has picks Nos. 4, 30 and 31; Denver, which doesn't have a first-round choice and seeks to unload Kenyon Martin and/or Nene, and the quick-dealing Raptors.
According to a Western Conference source, Seattle has entertained several offers, including the talks with Phoenix for its No. 21 pick and Marion.
Sonics officials were unavailable for comment Tuesday night. However, general manager Rick Sund said Friday the team planned to engage in trade discussions.
But if the draft gets a little whacky — and all indications are that it will, with six teams owning multiple picks in the first round, six teams without a first-round selection and the vast number of trade scenarios being bandied about — then the Sonics may want to suspend talks of trading their pick.
There's a chance Seattle could land Villanova guard Randy Foye, who Pendergraft described as "the player in five years you'd hate to say that you didn't take."
Another potential scenario has Toronto taking Morrison or Texas forward LaMarcus Aldridge with the top pick, while Bargnani falls to the Sonics at No. 10.
When told of that possibility on Friday, a wide grin overtook Pendergraft's face.
"A million and one things can happen," he said. "But it starts with Toronto. Once they make a move, then like a domino, everything else falls into place."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org