The Seattle Storm continue to be their own worst enemy. All their positive efforts are the very thing that comes back to bite their hand. In fact, I’m certain if you read any Storm recap, it’ll have the same beats: strong opening from Seattle courtesy of the big 3 dominance (Bird, Loyd, Stewart) but also their two longest recurring criticisms: Lack of bench production (offensively and defensively) and lack of rebounding. And last night’s battle with the Dallas Wings was no different.
Just a few days earlier, the Storm scraped by a slightly depleted Atlanta Dream (no Sancho Lyttle or Tiffany Hayes). As such, there was a little concern regarding how the Storm would fair against a full strength Dallas Wings. Surprisingly, Seattle did a great job of controlling the floor for the entire first half working off nice roll off screens. Alysha Clark and Jewell Loyd took the charge this period shooting at 50% from the field, mostly from within the paint. But Dallas stuck to their usual plan of attack, raining down shots from the perimeter. Skylar Diggins had a particular off night shooting only 1-8 (12.5%) and even more shocking had 5 turnover, mostly coming off the dribble. Although the Storm closed the first half leading by 5, that all changed at the start of the third.
Seattle entered the second half flat allowing the Wings to grab their first lead of the game late into the 3rd. The tide of the game shifted to the Wings’ favor. The Wings bench put up 45% of the total points for the Wings, with Aerial Powers (19 points, 70% FG and 6 rebounds) with Glory Johnson (short of a double double with 11 points & 9 rebounds) and Odyssey Sims in the rear. But a special kudos to Aerial Powers, I’m sure she’s fueled on nothing but hell-fire and sass. Powers’ sharpshooting ability was the largest factor in the Wings’ win, most notably her critical 3 pointer at late in the 4th (0:54) which placed Dallas in the lead. But it was the two ensuing fouls by the Storm that dashed any chance of a Storm win.
And this also highlights the flaws facing the Storm, namely their bench. 8 points, that’s the amount of points yielded. Furthermore, Seattle was yet again out-rebounded, 28-38 (only 4 from Seattle’s bench against 17 from the Wings’ bench). I realize the addition of Krystal Thomas and Noelle Quinn would miraculously fix all the Storm’s shortcomings; but the Storm can’t keep playing in this fashion. The starting five are burning themselves out game after game and it’s starting to take a toll. Case in point, the Storms FG % has the tendency to drop in the second half of their games. Shots are prone to not dropping or poor finishes in the lane. And I’m certain some of this due to how worn down the big 3 are. The Storm have the tools to be a good team, and quite frankly, they are given their flaws. But these late game breakdowns are not helping their chances for the playoffs.
This games closed off another home series for the Storm. Starting next Tuesday (July 5th), Seattle kicks off another stretch on the road with a rematch against the Atlanta Dream.
If I were a betting man, my money would’ve been on the Atlanta Dream to win handily over the Storm. As of late, the Storm have been fairly up and down regarding their offensive prowess. This is mostly due in part to the lack of production coming of then bench. And while that narrative didn’t change going against the Dream, the Storm did find a way to prevail and secure a win.
The Storm did a pretty impressive job of controlling the pace of the game coming out the gate. Surprising a majority of the Storm scoring came from the interior, taking advantage of Atlanta with quick high-low post play and drawing fouls after the shot. This was a big credit to the Crystal Langhourne’s big night who went for 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 1 assist. It is worth noting that Atlanta were without Tiffany Hayes and Sancho Lyttle (due to injury). And based on the past few weeks, the Dream struggle on the defensive side when Lyttle is not in the mix. On a smaller note, Markeisha Gatling (former center for the Seattle Storm) was also inactive. But based on her recent track record, I doubt she would’ve been as effective.
Going into the half, the Storm had a comfortable 10 point lead. But that slightly change at the start of the third quarter. The Storm were a bit flat, not displaying the same spark from earlier. And the Dream finally made defensive adjustments by closing out driving lanes. Furthermore, Angel McCougthry suddenly went into heat-check mode nailing 60% of her shots from the field at 9/15 (along with 7 rebounds and 3 assists). Elizabeth Williams (21/8/0) and Bria Holmes (15/3/2) were also key figures in the Dream’s effort to rally back. Williams, in particular, really displayed impressive finesse working in the paint taking advantage of the rookie Stewart. It was Williams who clinched the shot well into the fourth that gave Atlanta it’s first lead by 1, and eventually by 4 with less than a minute and a half left in the game. Enter the inscrutable Sue Bird. With the final 9 seconds on the clock, Bird hit the game winning dagger clinching the victory for the Storm, 84-81. Even in her 15th year, Sue Bird continue to demonstrate when she is one of the best to play the game.
Usually in these crunch time situation, the Storm typically lose composure and fall apart, but not tonight. Sue Bird aside, the real star of the night was Storm leading scorer and hands down rookie of the year, Breanna Stewart. This was a career night for Stewie putting up a season high of 38 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists. that’s roughly 45% of all the Storm’s point! Not only that, Stewart also put in more work down low in the paint, which accounted for half of those point, which is a great improvement for Stewie. The Storm should thank their lucky stars to have such a generational talent. Other items of note: the newly acquire Noelle Quinn clocked in a handful of minutes but was largely ineffective. The same effect could also be said for the returning Krystal Thomas. I wouldn’t be too worried about this as both were acquired over the weekend. It’ll take time for them to find their footing in this Storm offense.
Quick side note: Monica Wright did not see any playing time. But honestly, bringing on Wright never sense in the beginning with her declining production. And she’s been pretty irrelevant to the Storm this seasons as well.
Both of these teams have become enigma of sorts. The Dream started out great but have eaten quite of few loses recently. And the Storm are starting to win games despite their glaring flaws. This was a fascinating game between two mid-tier teams. Going forward, I still believe have a better shot of securing a low seed in the playoffs. But the Storm could be right up there as well, especially if they can keep up this momentum and quality of play. Up next, the Storm take on a Dallas Wings team who are starting to find their groove with the newly improved Skylar Diggins and the 2-way terror that is Glory Johnson. But if last night’s game is any indication of where this Storm is head, the Wings are in for quite the clash.
Weeks 6 was host to quite a few shake-ups and shockers on and off the court. With the midpoint of the season approaching as well as the Rio Olympics, teams are having to face some hard truths. Truths such as: Do we really have a chance to compete this season? If so, what can we do to get there? If not, who do we want to be going forward?
The theme of this week is buyer’s beware. Don’t be deceived for there are a few impostors afoot. From a game perspective, there were many teams who clearly weren’t themselves. Either some were not engaged and, obviously, played poorly. While some others, played slightly better than the sum of their parts. And from an organizational perspective, there were a handful of trade moves highlighting some team’s sense of urgency or desperation. Whatever the case may be, changes are coming.
Grade the Trade
- Phoenix Mercury / Connecticut Sun / Grade: B+
Connecticut Sun trade Kelsey Bone (G) to the Phoenix Mercury for rookie Courtney Williams, Jillian Alleyne draft rights, and a 2017 second round pick.
This is quite the haul for Bone coming in at a commendable 10-5-1. But I like this move for the Mercury actually. Given my limited time watching Bone. She does seem to have the ability to be a good two way player helping out both Griner and Taurasi. Bone actually played a few minutes versus the Liberty with some soft results. While this helps the Mercury’s depth, I still believe they have some chemistry issues that need addressing.
The Sun are most likely going for the long game acquiring more young players, more talented young players. Morgan Tuck (averaging 8-1-3), Banham, & Jones have proven to be a solid contributors. And they’re starting to play at a click where they’re making some teams truly sweat it out.
- Seattle Storm / Grade: B-
On its surface, this looks as though the Storm are trimming the dead-weight off their roster. In my opinion, Gatling was always a liability given her lack size and moreover, lack of production. She wasn’t able to get rebounds or yield any sort of authority down low. Blake was an unfortunate given her lack of playing time. But when you’re in the same rookie class and team of the god-send that is Breanna Stewart. One can begin to understand how it’d be difficult to stand out.
Bringing Thomas back into the mix gives the Storm at least some semblance of size in the post. And Quinn should add some back court relief ideally so the big 3 don’t have to keep their current average of 33-36 minutes per game. Looking at Quinn’s and Thomas’ splits, both have traveled a fair amount and have terribly inconsistent. I’m not sold on either filling the gaps plaguing this Storm team. But it’s a start.
Atlanta Dream / Grade: C-
The Atlanta Dream claim center Markeisha Gatling off waivers and sign her to a contract. The Dream also waive forward Cierra Burdick to finalize the roster move.
I’ve put the screws to Gatling since week 1 due to her lack of production. I realize this isn’t completely fair since I’ve never seen her play in previous years. So I admit, I’m working with an information deficit. Another way to look at it is, maybe Gatling just wasn’t a good fit for the Storm style of play. I don’t necessarily buy that, but maybe. Having said that, I fail to see what value, if any, Gatling can bring the Dream. With Sancho Lyttle is back, her and Elizabeth Williams have that interior under control. But maybe this change of scenery is what Gatling needs to start producing. Only time will tell. As for Burdick, I swear I’ve watched every Dream game to date and honestly have no idea of seeing her ever touch the floor.
Game of the Week: Minnesota Lynx (76) vs L.A. Sparks (94) – The Rematch!
The first match up between these two titan was more of an appetizer. Jump a few days later and we finally got the main feast. This was a massively improvement over the first game, probably too good. In the case of the Lynx, there were too many situations where they tried to force the ball to the basket instead of opting for the bank shot. That would usually work against lesser teams, but the Sparks were happy to accept the ensuing turnover. Furthermore, the Sparks came out with a more patient approach. They weren’t as sporadic and really dictated the flow of the game by how much they passed the ball. Shout out to Nneka Ogwumike (just shy of hitting her normal double double at 20 -9-3) and Kristi Toliver who rained daggers non-stop (88% FG%, 15 of 17 from the field).
Even with these deadly sharpshooters, the Lynx kept themselves in the game within 2-4 points. But it wasn’t until the 5 minute mark of the 4th, the game started to pull away. The Lynx weren’t able to finish in the lane, shooting at 66%. And quite simply calls weren’t going their way. Maya Moore maintained her pace as being a solid contender for this year’s MVP entering an impressive 23-3-4.
The Box Score is a LIE!
If someone were to rank these teams solely based on the box score of the past few weeks. I’m certain the ranks would be all out of whack. Hell, it has already started with some of the wild statements I’m seeing on various social media platforms. Even with my wet-nose, rookie insight into the WNBA, I still feel a need to throw a little course correction to some of these platitudes. Mainly…
- Phoenix is back!
Stop it, people! The start of the week, Phoenix ate an overtime lose to the Dallas Wings. The game versus the Mystics was a good showing by the Mercury. Regardless, they still displayed the same signs of not being in sync in both game. But given their depth of talent, they easily prevailed over a slightly overachieving Mystics team. The follow-up game versus the Liberty was a pure mix of getting good calls. The Liberty had the Mercury dead to rights the entire game until Taurasi sold that 3 point flopper in the last 03 seconds of the fourth quarter going into overtime. Even overtime was dominated by the Liberty until a handful of bad calls ultimately leading to Kiah Stokes fouling out which gift-wrapped a win for Phoenix. Even with the new team assets, this is still a team that needs to establish some sort of baseline with each other before I buy into them being true contenders again.
- The Lynx are breaking down
Again, pipe down. The lose to the Washington Mystics stirred a bit of commotion. There were a few factors at play here. I do think Minnesota severely under-estimated the Mystics. And after being punched in the mouth by the Sparks, I’m sure their egos were a bit deflated as well. But kudos to Emma Meesseman & Tayler Hill, both came out like gangbusters and gave the Lynx the business. The Lynx are still arguably the best team in the league; I have no doubt about it. Sometimes, good teams just lose.
- Becky Hammon Jersey Retirement: I never how much of an accomplished player Becky Hammon was: 8th all-time in points scored, 4th all-time in assists, 3rd all-time in made 3 pointers, 89.7% from the line (best in Stars history). What am Quiet honestly, I only knew her in relation to being one of the assistant coaches for the San Antonio Spurs. But outpouring of love from the around the league was touching.
- WNBA Top 20 at 20: Recognizing the great one of this game. Surprisingly, this list skews more on the young side since most of the selection are active players. But this is still awesome none the less. Kudos to you all.
- Rebecca Allen: Coming back from a season-ending knee injury last year, Allen has demonstrated she’s going to be a capable role player in that Liberty lineup. I expect her playing time to increase slowly while monitoring her knee rehab. Keep an eye out for her.
- Pat Summit Passing: And sadly, Coach Pat Summit has passed away at 64. Coach Summit’s accomplishments and impact was recognized throughout the sports world as a whole. And she was a truly beloved figures for many players, fans, and countless others. Condolences and best thoughts go out to Coach Summit’s family and loved ones.
Week 6 WNBA Power Ranking:
1. L.A. Sparks: I still feel the Lynx are a better team. But the Sparks record speaks for itself
2. Minnesota Lynx: back-to-back loses is no reason to hit the panic button just yet
3. New York Liberty: See Quick Takes
4. Washington Mystics: They’ve been punching above their weight. I get the feeling they’re on a bit of a hot streak right now. Let’s see how long they can ride it out. I hesitated moving them up this high
5. Chicago Sky: EDD and Cappie Pondexter continue to drive this team into competitive games. They just need to hold on to leads
6. Dallas Wings: This team is still finding its feet. If they keep winning, I can see them jumping into top 4-5 fairly soon
7. Atlanta Dream: This teams frustrates me on so many levels, mainly because I don’t know if they’re bad or just lucky
8. Indiana Fever: Much like their record, this team has one foot out the door. I’m not sure if this team knows who they want to be (or can be) post Stephanie White
9. Phoenix Mercury: See above points. They’re not back quite yet
10. Seattle Storm: Tough to say how this Storm team will complete coming off a win. Let’s see how it plays out these next weeks
11. San Antonio Stars: The trio of Hamby, K-Mac, and Currie are starting to yield some wins
12. Connecticut Sun: Too young for any sort of discussion right now
As we close week 5, the theme of the week is finding an identity. I’ve danced around this issue before with certain teams creating some form team chemistry. Some teams like the Lynx and Sparks have it. Others such as the Mystics and Liberty are slowly, but surely, crafting something that should eventually yield success. And then you have teams that don’t even know who they want to be at all or if they even want to bother with the idea. Case in point….
Seattle Storm (70) vs San Antonio Stars (77)
I know I’ve knocked the Storm for their glaring flaws. But even with their talent deficiencies, there’s no way they should be losing to the worst team in the league. Look, I understand. Sometimes a team just loses a game. But after re-watching this game, it’s a case of the Storms just being the Storm. In short, the major production comes from the Storm’s big 3 (Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd, and Breanna Stewart) with some great help from Alysha Clark & Crystal Langhourne with absolutely no recognizable help from that bench at all. Don’t let box score fool you. The Storm had control of this game when put up against the Stars slow tempo. But sure enough, the Storm slowly started to breakdown during the second half. From the questionable rotations, unforced turnovers, and not finishing in the lane. It all tallies up to another devastating lose. As someone that watches and attend these games regularly. It’s beyond frustrating seeing this team continue to run to the same well of misery. If I don’t know any better, maybe the Storm are trying to pull a stealthy tank job a la the Philadelphia 76er’s. I mean how else do you get back to back number one picks? Speaking of back-to-back…
The Atlanta Dream Hit the Snooze Button
The departure of Sancho Lyttle has really killed this Dream’s interior game. In particular, they’re struggling against teams who are aggressive in the post. After pulling away a tight OT game versus the Chicago Sky, the Dream went one to play one of the most uninspired games of basketball I’ve ever seen against the Washington Mystics. The entire Dream team practically rolled over and let the Mystics run the floor, stomping them 90-79. The lack of any sort of drive from anyone on that team was a major red flag. Just absolutely zero effort on either end of the court. Strangely enough, this comes right on the heels of piece about Angel McCoughtry calling for the WNBA to eliminate back-to-back games due to the minimal rest for players coming back from their overseas teams. On the hand, I understand this position. The WNBA off-season aligns perfectly for players to play overseas and make more money. But they also tend to run right on the heels the WNBA’s season kick-off. That’s practically playing all year with no rest. But with becoming a pro, there is a higher level of expectations required of you, especially when you’re the team leader. There will be back-to-back games. There’ll be nights where you’ll have to play when you’re not 100% or even 80% ready. That’s just part of the deal. And to see the lack of spark or any sort of drive really was a key indicator of how locked-in the Dream are.
Game of the Week: Phoenix Mercury (71) vs L.A. Sparks (77)
Watching this game almost broke my brain for a multitude of reasons. The first revelation that came to me is that these teams are polar opposites of each other. On one side, there’s the Phoenix Mercury. A championship caliber team of talented vets who’ve played with each other for at least three to five years along with the same coach. And in spite of all of this, the Mercury are still struggling to find some semblance of team chemistry. On the other side of the court, the L.A. Sparks are this exciting band of misfits, brought together from different places. The Sparks are right up there with the Lynx in dominating the league. But the Sparks are doing it all with a smile on their face and some extra pep in their step. This is clearly a group of women who enjoy playing together, and it shows on the court. I noticed that the Sparks are always communicating with each other, even through their mistakes. Calling back to my earlier assessment, the Sparks are this rare, quirky moment of catching lightning in a bottle. And while I do enjoy the Candace Parker revenge tour, her team mates are all standalone studs in their own right. In fact, the whole starting five is averaging a whooping 24.3 PPG. Let’s not forget Nneka Ogwumike who’s averaging, yes averaging, a double-double as well as shooting just above 75% from the floor. New York Liberty Essence Carson fits right into that rotation and is great defensively.And Kristi Tolliver (shooting just shy of 50% from inside and outside the arc), talk about deadly sharpshooters. She has one of the quickest catch-and-release shots in vein of a Clay Thompson. And they play was with such finese and skills that it’shard ot see why they’re a top ranked team. In many ways, the Sparks are essential what a team like the New York Liberty or the Seattle Storm want to be: great small ball play with solid defense in the paint and the perimeter.
In contrast to the Sparks, the Mercury just didn’t seem that engaged with one another (or many of their past games when looking back on it). After a whistle, three players are arguing visibly agitated with one another, Griner is walking off in a completely different direction, Taurasi’s yelling at the ref. Just no sense of unity at all. It almost makes me wonder, do they even like playing with one other as much as the Sparks? or is too damn hot in Phoenix? It’s not all doom and gloom for the Brondello crew. In fact, the starting lineup are putting up some fairly respectable numbers. But just like with other teams, they’ll stay in a game well into fourth; after which, the wheel starts to fall off. I can pinpoint the issues in this team. One of them is DeWanna Bonner. Bonner is actually a good role player (and the Mercury’s second leading scorer). But she lacks a killer instinct. Example, playing against the Dallas Wings, She was matched up a few times on Skylar Diggins in the paint. Bonner stands at a good 6’6″ and Diggins is only 5’8″. Instead of taking advantage of the height advantage and taking Diggins to the basket or draining the bank shot, she kicked the ball out to someone else. It’s passing up offensive opportunities like that which cost the Mercury. Two, zero bench help. The starters scoring average 14 PPG, but the bench nets in about 2.5 PPG with almost equal time share of minutes played. Common sense would indicate just run with the starters more, but that’s an issue when they start to foul out of games in 3rd or 4th quarter. All that aside, I still think the Mercury will pull it together……eventually.
- Breanna Stewart has signed a contract to play for a Shanghai team in the off-season. I find this slightly off-putting given how much she’s been showered with endorsements. Plus she’s still averaging 36 minutes a game. Those two things really ratchet up the likelihood of an injury. And I’d hate to see that given how great she’s been.
- Orlando: Take a moment to read Shavonte Zellous’ piece in the Player’s Tribune about how the effects of Orland hit a bit too close to home. As a wake up call to everyone, enough is enough!
- Carolyn Swords: Can we put out an APB out for her? I haven’t seen her show up to a game in a few weeks now. Is she injured? She’s been looking really stiff and anciently slow the past few games?
Week 5 WNBA Power Rankings:
1. Minnesota Lynx – We’ll discuss them next week and their matchup against the Sparks
2. L.A. Sparks – See above
3. New York Liberty – They’ve been playing a bit sloppy but they are getting it done
4. Chicago Sky – My hometown Sky are killing. They’d be 3 but Liberty have better depth
5. Dallas Wings – The addition and Diggins and Johnson were just what this team needed.
6. Atlanta Dream – I see them dropping more without Lyttle, but they’ll stay here for now
7. Washington Mystics – Meesseman & crew have been better defensively lately
8. Indiana Fever – Shoutout to Elena Larkins on netting her 1,000th point vs NY
9. Phoenix Mercury – See previous section above
10. Seattle Storm – See previous section above
11. Connecticut Sun – Sorry, I got nothing.
12. San Antonio Stars – Shout out to the UConn ‘Big 3’ rookie Moriah Jefferson hitting a career high 19. I see big things for her as she works with Hamby and McBride
The Lynx and Sparks continue to sit high in the clouds while the rest of the league tries to figure out who they are. The prevailing theme of the season so far seems to be chemistry. Many teams just can’t seem to balance the equation regardless of all their endless tinkering. Some teams like the Mercury and Sky have all the right parts but just fall short of the mark. And others teams such as the Sun and Stars would probably be better suited trying to figure out what they want to be first before meddling in the pot.
While watching the Sun vs Storm game, the commentators had a brief discussion regarding the struggles of rebuilding for the Sun. The Sun have yet to qualify for a playoff over the past three years. Yet Seattle another team who’s also been in playoff drought somehow walks away with back-to-back number one picks. It sparked my curiosity of how much tanking is figured in some of them team’s future outlook. This can present somewhat of a dilemma to the league from a product standpoint. The WNBA is already faced with a ill-gotten stigma of being ‘boring’, so why would a team want to add even more to that issue? Perception issues aside, tanking for the sake of tanking is not a full-proof strategy in itself. Just ask the Orlando Magic or the Philadelphia 76er’s. And if you want an example that’s closer to home, look at the Seattle Storm. Speaking of which…
In this week’s Seattle Storm update, the Storm are still struggling to find a solid game plan. And their flaws are starting to stick out more than what they actually do well. Calling back to my observations from last week, the Storm just have a difficult time utilize their player’s talents. and their interior / post game is non-existent outside of Stewart. Poor Stewie, she’s definitely seeing too much burn, racking up a crazy 36 minutes per game. Utterly ridiculous. Stat wise, she started out netting a double-double, but lately he numbers have dropped a bit.
On the positive side, I’m glad to see Alysha Clark step up. She’s been a key figure in carrying some of the load. Jewell Loyd maintains her rep as being a clutch player. She is truly a franchise player to build around post Sue Bird. And lastly, Sue Bird, wow! Year 14 and she’s probably having her best year yet shooting just shy of 50% from the field. Hopefully she’ll bounce back from that nasty ankle injury from the Sun’ game. That said, the Storm have been fairly up and down. The game versus the Fever was tight down to the wire. But the Sun game was a lock until last minute breakdowns in the fourth for all the reasons mentioned earlier. Strangely these last minute meltdowns aren’t unique to just the Storm.
Chemistry, symmetry, or just plain misery
I’m seeing way too many teams just self-destruct in the last few minutes of the 4th quarter. Aside from Seattle, other major offenders include Phoenix, Indiana, and Chicago. Take the Chicago Sky vs. Phoenix Mercury. Chicago controlled the pace of the entire game but once the 3 minute marked rollers around, the Sky ran amok with terrible turnovers in transition and bad shot selections. What accounts for this lack of discipline when you have a roster of vets?
Game of the Week: Washington Mystics (76) vs Minnesota Lynx (83)
This game would look like a throw away game under normal circumstances. But Lynx went into this game without Lindsay Whalen (scratched due to her brother’s wedding). But the Mystics actually held their own against the mighty Lynx, especially defensively. Even more impressive the Mystics went into the half with a soft lead. Maya Moore was held in check scoreless for the first half (0/9) before getting going in the second half. And my infatuation with Emma Meesseman just keeps growing with each game. The way she plays is so precise and mechanical, it basically factory made. But the weird thing is, I think she has another level to reach. I just want to see her one day embrace her inner Russel Westbrook and destroy a team. Let’s not also forget the recovered Ivory Latta and Tayler Hill for also providing some good backup as well. They actually could’ve won this game, but the Lynx are the top dogs for a reason. They know how to rally back thanks to an impeccable Augustus and Fowles.
- Irrational Confidence Player of the Week: Sonja Petrovic
The Mercury have been tinkering with their lineup the past couple of week. Bonner has conceded (more like ceremoinally benched) in favor for role player Sonja Petrovic. Not the most offensively dynamic player but she does know her role. And when the time calls for it, she’s not scared to make a shot or two, even though she has no business doing so. Good on you kid, keep it up!
- Notable Returns: Glory Johnson & Skylar Diggins
Skylar Diggins (coming off injury) and Glory Johnson (coming off suspension) are no doubt a welcome return to a struggling Dallas Wings. Going up against the domineering LA Sparks resulted in a relatively slow start for both. But the Wings should work themselves into becoming a competetive up-and-comer.
- Breakout Rookies:
The league will be losing some legends but the WNBA is in good hands with some of these feisty rookies who are really stepping to the plate.
- Imani Boyette: Boyette was a major factor in for the how badly the Sky trounced the Fever, getting an impressive double-double (10 /11)
- Meighan Simmons:The young Tennessee rookie also showed her grit by clinching the game for Atlanta late in the fourth against a surprisingly competitive second
- Tiffany Mitchell: The loss of Tamika Catchings will be huge for Indiana. But the way this kid spreads the court will definitely make up for it.
Week 4 WNBA Power Rankings
1. Minnesota Lynx: Do I really have to keep going over this?
2. LA Sparks: See above
3. Atlanta Dream: The absence of Sancho Lyttle (who returned to Spain for the Olympics) is huge. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team slip a bit while they find their identity again.
4. Chicago Sky: Elena Delle Donne has been somewhat inconsistent lately. If it weren’t for her strong supporting cast, I’d drop them a bit lower.
5. New York Liberty: I still love everything about this tempo team. I expect them to make the jump into the top 3-4 in the next few weeks.
6. Phoenix Mercury: The team dynamic is slowly coming into shape. But Griner has been shaky lately with her post game, missing many inside bank shots. What’s going on there?
7. Seattle Storm: See my earlier section above. I can see this the Storm taking a nose dive with the amount of burn Stewie is getting and their lack of a post game.
8. Washington Mystics: Mike Thibault is really nailing down this team to be good defensively. But they do have some shortcomings when it comes to scoring on transition.
9. Indiana Fever: The Fever would be higher but they’ve developed some car sized holes in their defense lately.
10. Dallas Wings: The return of Johnson and Johnson should move them somewhat closer to the middle of the pack quickly.
11. Connecticut Sun: At this point, maybe tanking wouldn’t be a bad option. I like Chiney Ogwiumike and Morgan Tuck; but the Sun just don’t have the tools to be relevant this year.
12. San Antonio Stars: See point 11
Week 3 brought us a lot of rematches with predictable outcomes. Minnesota and LA sit comfortably at the top of the heap while the rest of the league scrap at each other for scrapes. I don’t want to over-react but I’m gonna’ over react: Minnesota and LA will go head-to-head in the finals. The talent and dynamics those teams have developed has yet to be challenged. But again, it’s only week 3. And it’d be a shame to dismiss some of the impressive developments around the league. I won’t get to all the teams or recap all the games from last week, only the broad strokes of what stuck out.
The Seattle Breeze
There’s this stigma about Seattle called the Seattle Freeze. The notion is that it is extremely difficult to make friend with people there. Sure, the people are nice and share common pleasantries with you, but that’s the extent of the interaction. It’s a very superficial exchange, building relationships on a deeper level is a difficult task few care to take on. And this pretty much sums up this current Storm team. They look like a basketball team. They play like a basketball team. But a certain chemistry is missing and the flaws are glaring.
On the plus side, the big 3 of Loyd, Bird, and Stewart is solid. They play off each other seamlessly and have no problem sharing the ball (see below). But there’s a terrible streak of inconsistency everywhere else. They’re the second worst team in total turnovers. The perimeter defense is horrendous. And I’m pretty certain they’re allergic when it comes to playing in the post. When your centers are only averaging 1-2 rebounds a game, something is definitely needs to be fixed.
Which leads to another issue, the Storm want to play small ball. But they just don’t have the talent for it. This is also a huge reason for the glut of unforced turnovers. It’s just maddeningly confusing why they won’t play to their players strengths. Case in point, Tokashiki. Check the video below of Ramu’s highlights in the JP league. It’s clear as day that all of her offensive prowess comes from working in the post, not sitting out on the wing and setting weak screens. Yet, I have no doubt this mismanagement will continue to happen every game going forward. On this Storm offense, she looks like a fish out of water and completely lost. Furthermore, her teammates clearly don’t trust her. There’s more than a few occasions where they will not pass to her when she’s cutting into the lane. But the Storm knew what they were getting when they signed that bill of goods. Look, I realize players tend to develop other parts of their game. But that’s not the case here. This is clearly a situation of trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. I don’t intend fo this to sound like a ‘I hate Tokashiki’ rant, because I don’t. If anything, I think she’d be a huge help if she was utilized to what she is. On the positive side of things, she is decent defensively and great at creating turnover opportunities.
Also, shout out to Breanna Stewart’s ‘Welcome to the WNBA’ moment.
Not Perfect, but I Like It…A Lot!
Lately, I’ve really taken a shine to the New York Liberty. They’re not the deepest team in terms of talent. Their defense needs work, especially on the perimeter. But I absolutely LOVE their chemistry on the court. They gritty, and it shows. Clearly, this is the Tina Charles show, but the cast around her really plays up to their role. And that’s really what makes this team work. Every knows their role and performs accordingly. Even the newly acquired Shoni Schimmel (who’s essentially a relief player now) fits and catches fire at the right moment. Sugar Rodgers is now averaging double digits per game (16.3) with Zellous not too far behind at 8.7 PPG. Stokes and Swords are great in the paint on both ends of the court. They play with a passion and a physicality I don’t see in many other teams. It’s as though Bill Laimbeer has found a way to transfer that 90’s Pistons’ nastiness into the team. Again, they’re not the most sound team and have the tendency to play themselves into flow. To put it another way, they first half of the game is spent feeling a team out, then they’ll really turn it out in the second half. When they go uptempo, they’re damn impressive. But by that time, the game could almost be taken away from them against better teams (i.e. Minnesota and LA). Win or lose, this team will play you hard. I love it!
The Atlanta Dr………. huh? What?
For a team that’s ranked third in the standings, the Atlanta Dream is the one team I have the hardest time following. I enjoy watching McCoughtry play. She is easily one of the best two-way players I’ve seen in this league. It’s just a shame I find it so hard connecting with anyone else on this team. The Dream seem to be the complete antithesis of the New York Liberty in terms of how dynamic they are on the court. Ironically, the Dream are way more fundamentally sound than the Liberty: cleaner passing lanes, better FG% , and higher overall offensive rating. Despite all that, I’m practical unimpressed with any of that. It should be pointed out, that the Dream have taken on fairly softer targets early on and they were road wins, which accounts for creating better team synergy. Let’s see if this chemistry holds going into this stretch of home games.
Game of the week: New York Liberty (91) vs Indiana Fever (59)
When I saw this score, I immediately had to check the box score. I figured Catchings or Tiffany Mitchell must have been injured. Fortunately that wasn’t the case. While watching this game WNBA League Pass, both teams were pretty evenly matched for the entire game. Plus, I was confused how the Fever could lose in such bad fashion after playing such a dominate game against the Storm just a few days earlier. But it all started to click in the midway into the fourth quarter. The Liberty pulled ahead by double digits and the Fever started to play with more desperation. Bad shot selections and unforced turnovers in the last minutes allowed the Liberty to drive up the score for a comfortable win.
- Swin Cash Retiring: It’s not only Tamika Catchings that’ll be hanging it up this year. Swin Cash will retire after this season as well. With so many of this key legendary players retiring or getting close to retirement. It’s really up to this new generation to carry the torch.
- San Antonio Stars: Poor Kayla McBride and Dearica Hamby. The Stars are just a wreck of team right now. In a way, they remind me of the OKC Thunder. Where you have two superstars surround by a supporting cast of mediocrity. I think it’s safe to say this team won’t make the playoffs unfortunately. While we’re on the topic of being barely tolerable.
- Phoenix Mercury: I’ve talked about this team to death now and I’m just as confused now as I was then. What the hell is happening? Taurasi’s been great. Griner is finally back into it. Bonner’s consistently solid everywhere. Even Penny Taylor has been putting up great numbers from previous years. How are these games just slipping away from them? The Seattle game should’ve been sowed up comfortably. And they even gave the Lynx a close one. It’s something about the fourth quarter where things just go to shambles. It’s not desperation play entirely either. This is a better team than their record indicates.
- Indiana Fever: This another uptempo team that is sneakily good everywhere. Offensively, they’re great at spreading the ball around and creating outside shots as well as creating lanes to the rim. Defensively their perimeter defense needs work, but that’s something I see a lot of these teams need. But they’re great at cutting off passing lanes and sealing up the baseline. Catchings speaks to herself. Tiffany Mitchell is essentially Jewell Loyd #2 given how fiery she is and how well she stretches the floor. Throw in Lynetta Kizer and Erlana Larkins down low and you got something going. I especially like Larkins’ work in the post. The way she’s able to use the full range of her body and take advantage of her size is great. Not afraid to get physical and create space for herself. This another team that has to feel teams out but when they get going, watch out. With Stephanie White going on to Vanderbilt and losing Catchings next year, I hope they make a monster run this season.
- Dallas Wings: Shout out to Aerial Powers. Really like how the rookie is stepping up in the absence of Skylar Diggins. By extension this applies to Karima Christmas and Odyssey Sims as well.
WNBA Week 3 Power Rankings:
- Minnesota Lynx: There’s no need to keep going on about how great they are. They’re in their own echelon right now.
- LA Sparks: The Sparks are right up there but in my opinion they’ve faced some softer opponents than the Lynx. But make no mistake, Parker and crew are playing phenomenal.
- Atlanta Dream: Even though they don’t pass my dynamic flow radar. Game recognizes game and they have something going here.
- New York Liberty: As much as I like watching this team, they need to start coming out the gate ready and not playing themselves into game form.
- Indiana Fever: Once they stop playing desperate in the stretch of the fourth quarter, they may actually hold on to winning.
- Chicago Sky: My home town Sky, we’ll be talking more about them next week.
- Seattle Storm: See previous section above
- Washington Mystics: This is a team that started out somewhat decent but seems to be plagued by onset chemistry issues, especially on the offensive side of things.
- Dallas Wings: Let’s see what happens when (if) Diggins comes back
- Phoenix Mercury: See previous section above
- Connecticut Sun: Still figuring it out
- San Antonio Stars: See previous section above
It’s only week 2 and some teams are starting to come into form or at least putting the pieces together. This week has seen the Phoenix Mercury secure their first win. The flux of the Indiana Fever continues to malinger that franchise. And the Atlanta Dream are tinkering away, silently climbing the ranks.
Game of the Week: Washington Mystics (77) vs. Phoenix Mercury (93)
After a nasty spat of loses, the Mercury finally found success. Starting guard Diana Taurasi dropped an impressive 28 points (58%), followed but Griner and Bonner both putting up double digits respectively. The key difference that jumped out to me in this game was the spouts of great defense and better shooting, not to mention the Mystics are a bit of a soft target compared to their earlier opponents. As I mentioned before, this is a talent heavy team, but they can’t seem to locked down any sort of team dynamic. They’ll keep floundering until their chemistry issue is resolved. Next up, the Mercury will take on the Connecticut Suns. There is no reason they should lose this game but I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns sour. I believe in this team and really hope they find a way to course correct soon.
Player of the Week: Angel McCoughtry
The Atlanta Dream present are a team I just haven’t figured out. At first, looking at past game logs and these spurt of games, they give me the impression of the Phoenix Suns / Utah Jazz. One of those middle tier teams that’ll make a playoff run here and there but can never get over the hump to be dominant. Their games haven’t terrible impressed me, but I keep hearing the Angel McCoughtry and had to pay attention. She works well in the paint, is a great rebounder and defender from what I can tell. It’s not a surprise that she made the cut for the US team.
This will be a short week as I need to catch up on some of the weekend games. Plus, I’d rather not recycle even more material about how unstoppable Minnesota’s been or my over-analytical rants of the Seattle Storm. Though I gotta say; the Seattle Strom should be brought up on criminal charges for the lack of exposure regarding Jewell Loyd. And lastly, I will be in attendance for the Storm game vs the Phoenix Mercury, so definitely excited about that. So I’ll close with my top five power rankings (based on my view of team dynamic, record, and strength of schedule).
WNBA Week 2 Rankings:
1. Minnesota Lynx – No need to explain this one
2. LA Sparks – See above
3. Atlanta Dream – See my player of the week above
4. Chicago Sky – Aside from Della Donna, I’m really liking what I see in Pondexter and Faulkner
5. Seattle Storm – If they keep up the dynamic play as they did against the Sun, they can easily jump to the three spot.