2012-2013 Tulsa Shock Offseason: Can the team take its next step toward building a perennial playoff contender?

Tulsa Shock Head Coach Gary Kloppenburg may not be leading a championship contender for 2013, but he will have many assets at his disposal to help him get there sooner than some skeptics may think. - Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

The 2012 Tulsa Shock team tripled its win total from its 2011 campaign, from three to nine wins, and if you watched many games on LiveAccess, you probably feel that they were in a position to win most of its games with a young roster. For 2013, this team looks to take another step in its rebuild toward its first playoff appearance since 2009 when the team was in Detroit.

Here are the major things that I think the Shock needs to consider for 2013:

1. Re-sign Temeka Johnson or Ivory Latta

The position of strength for the Shock has been at point guard where Latta and Johnson manned the position. Both were leading the team in scoring and assists for 2012 and provided veteran leadership for the younger core players on the team.

The one thing that is questionable to me is that neither Johnson nor Latta were cored, or given the franchise tag for the 2013 offseason, because the team gave the tag to UMMC Ekaterinburg guard Deanna Nolan who hasn't played for the Shock since 2009. In fact I think that this move makes no sense unless the Shock has an axe to grind in regards to Nolan not playing for them or maybe there is something else that only people behind closed doors know. However, perhaps the Shock knows that they will re-sign at least one of them anyway, not unlike last year's offseason when Sue Bird was an unrestricted free agent but still re-signed with the Seattle Storm anyway.

Either way even if there are verbal agreements to stay in Tulsa, Johnson and Latta are now both unrestricted free agents and figure to be free agent targets for a number of teams that need a point guard. And should the Shock lose both of them in free agency it will be hard not to call this a step back.

Update on February 1, 2013 at 2:50 PM EDT: The Washington Mystics signed Latta, which now makes re-signing Johnson a higher priority.

2. Acquire additional players who are good rebounders

The Shock had a significant rebounding deficiency as a team grabbing 29.5 boards a game while opponents grabbed 37.1 on average. If the Shock expects to win more games in 2013, this differential must improve.

One player, center Liz Cambage is expected to return to Tulsa after skipping last year due to her commitment to the Australian basketball team and later just for rest. She will help close this gap, but the Shock should try to see if they can get another player who can rebound the ball at a good clip.

3. Gauge the market demand for the team's best assets, Liz Cambage and the #3 overall pick of the 2013 Draft

Like I said with Phoenix, the Shock brass needs to test the market for all of its players and assets which include Cambage and the third pick of the 2013 Draft.

In regards to Cambage, there have been some rumblings, at least among fans that she does not want to stay in Tulsa and would rather play in a larger market. Whether or not this is true, fact about last year is that she did skip out an entire season on the Shock, while other Australian players like Lauren Jackson and Jenna O'Hea did return to their teams. Either way, it doesn't hurt to see what assets can be acquired in a deal involving Cambage. Preferably another post player should be acquired in this deal considering my second point that the team needs more rebounders.

The third overall pick in the WNBA Draft is another prized asset that will help the Shock in one way or another. I already pointed this out in another post back last fall. One reason why this team needs to keep this pick in the 2013 Draft is because the Shock still can use another rookie, and this rookie player would likely be a potential "true franchise player" that basketball teams often need in order to win championships. But at the same time, other teams may be willing to offer significant assets in return that could also help the Shock get to where it wants to be.

Conclusion

The Tulsa Shock is continuing a rebuild that revolves primarily around younger players' contributions along with veteran leadership. In 2013, this team isn't likely to be the favorite in the West, and many believe that this team will miss the playoffs again, but we do know for sure that the team is gradually adding talent to the team, and with Coach Klop's system and dedication to this younger core, we may be seeing the Shock as a Western Conference contender sooner than we think.

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