Archive for category Elena Della Donne
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 one of the WNBA 2016 is in the books and it’s been pretty amazing already. The slow start from opening day has turned into some pretty intense match-ups by week’s end. There s no denying that these women love this game and lay it out on the floor. I’m having an awesome time taking my WNBA engagement to a slightly deeper level. My familiarity with certain players and team dynamics is expanding rapidly. Here are the broad strokes from opening week.
Minnesota Lynx Are Rolling!
The 2015 WNBA champions don’t appear to have lost a step with three wins in the books against fairly strong teams. Then again, when a team has four Olympic players on the roster, there’s a forgone expectation of greatness. Of all the teams I’ve seen, the Lynx are the most cohesive unit with the best chemistry. There’s some great ball movement on the floor, so no one is particularly greedy. Moore is a great slasher and spot up shooter who drop daggers effortlessly. But watching Whalen run point is captivating. Fowles and Augustus work well off each other in the post. Even their bench has solid contributors. They’re easily the best team in the league at the moment. They’re starting 4 put up double digits in scoring….EACH! Part of me just wants to see how far they can take this run without the distraction of the Rio games.
And then we come to the Phoenix Mercury sitting at a surprising 0-3. This is a team that won the 2014 title and run to the conference finals (without Diana Taurasi) last year. But with Taurasi’s return, the team dynamic seems off kilter kicking off this season. The build up miscues in transition play is costing them, in particular, late in games. Tossing out the game against the Lynx; they should’ve won at least one, if not both, of their other games. This is especially true considering the Mercury held the lead for most of those games. Yet, through a series of mistakes, they lose in the end. The Seattle game was essentially their’s until the Storm rallied back leading up to Jewell Loyd’s buzzer-beater. This is a good a team but they have some bad juju working against them.
A Strom’s Brewin’…….At Some Point……Maybe
The Storm have had a pretty rough start to the season. As I expected, Breanna Stewart has been carrying this team on her back. Even with the loses, she’s been truly exceptional in how she’s fitting her way with the Storm. Looking at her splits, she’s clocking a solid 30 minutes a game, averaging close to a double-double (17 PPG / 8 RB’s) and shooting over 50% outside the paint. All this is great, but still amounts to her putting up nearly half of all the Storm’s positive stats. Not to be undone by Stewart’s dominance is the criminally under-rated Jewell Loyd. This 2014 rookie really seems to be off everyone’s radar given how well she stretches the floor. And Sue Bird continue to defy time continuing to put up 90% of career numbers, just flawless.
But after Sue Bird, there’s a significant talent drop. And I don’t mean that as a slight, but the proof is in the numbers. Seattle just doesn’t have the horses to be competitive right now. I’m pretty sure the expectation that the seasoned talents of Monica Wright and Alysha Clark would be a help. Unfortunately, they’ve been pretty non-existent for the most part (not counting Clark’s roaring outing against the Lynx). And the younger guns, Tokashiki, Lewis, Gatling and so on are not solid contributors and struggle in their respective roles. Case in point, the Storm gets killed on defensive rebounds which account for many of the points against them. Just fixing that aspect of their game would be huge. Bottom line, no one is stepping up to fill the void and it’s costing them.
Game of the Week: LA Sparks (93) vs. Chicago Sky (80)
Given the amount of star power on both these teams, it was definitely a one-sided affair with the Sparks running the floor the whole game up until the fourth quarter. The Candace Parker warpath blazes on dropping an impressive 26 points and 9 rebounds. On the flip side, the Sky’s Elena Delle Donne was strangely ineffective most of the game with Faulkner and Beland doing most of the heavy lifting. While this wasn’t the most exciting game on record, it was the game that demonstrated how well tuned the Sparks are. Their ball movement in transition is a work of perfection. The Sparks are on par with Minnesota for that one seed.
Player of the week: Maya Moore
My words can’t do justice to demonstrate how dominating she’s been this season, just an overall threat anywhere. She’s been a scoring leader (averaging 15 PPG), made short work of all her matchups, and a lockdown defender. I’m already eyeing the matchup between the Lynx and Sparks, Moore vs. Parker. Yes please!
- Quick Takes
The Mystics are a mess of a team. In spite of this, I like what I’m seeing out of Meesseman. Her numbers are improving year over year leading to her becoming not only a starter but also a 2015 All-Star. Keep her on your radar.
- Whistle Happy Refs:
One aspect of the game that’s caught my attention is the insane amount violations called by refs. They’ll blow a whistle for almost anything short of a sneeze. I’ve probably seen more traveling calls in one week of the WNBA than over 5 years of the NBA! Come on people, rein back on the ticky-tacky nonsense and let these players play ball.
- DraftKings Marketing:
The juggernaut that id daily fantasy sports (DFS) has spread its tentacles to the WNBA. Over the summer, Draft Kings has entered a marketing partnership with the New York Liberty as their marque partner with the DraftKings logo on Liberty uniforms and shirts. In many other sports, this relationship naturally goes hand-in-hand with one another. In this case however, this seems to be a one-sided affair that’ll benefit DraftKings more the the WNBA. In DraftKings’s favor, it gives them even more brand exposure and market reach. For the WNBA, it’s a generous influx of cash in the short term. But in terms of growing the league and reaching new audiences? Not so much. Adding further insult to this deal, DraftKings doesn’t even offer a WNBA platform for DFS or any game promotions. If there was one caveat to this partnership that could have made some inroads, it would have been the introduction of a trial run of 1-day game contests. This is a squandered opportunity that’s potentially leaving lots of money of the table for both sides.
From the eyeball test, the Sparks and Lynx look like they’re in mid-season form while the rest are trying to figure it out. I got my eye on a few dark-horses, so let’s not over-react about league dominance just yet. Even giants can stumble and fall, the 73 win’s Golden State Warriors can attest to that.