For years now, the Seattle Storm have tried to find someone to serve as an alternate distributor when Sue Bird is injured or needing to rest.
Yesterday's signings of Temeka Johnson and Noelle Quinn are this season's attempt to fill that role of distributor whenever Bird is off the floor.
Johnson is a veteran point guard whose overall efficiency has been declining over the last few years, but she was an integral part of the Tulsa Shock's step forward last season as the team's most efficient distributor (1.32 pure point rating). Yet unfortunately she wasn't a particularly efficient scorer last season: were it not for her 53.12% 3-point shooting, her 38% 2-point percentage really would've dragged down her scoring efficiency.
Noelle Quinn's versatility is what has stood out about her throughout her career and for a coach like Brian Agler who likes players who can serve more than one function on the floor she's a great fit. While Quinn wasn't particularly much of a scorer for the Washington Mystics last season, she was essentially an equally efficient ball handler (1.05 PPR) who was also more than capable of hitting the three (40.25%).
For the Storm, these additions give them additional ball handling options to help allay their biggest weakness from last season: turnover differential. They turned the ball over at the highest rate in the Western Conference. Having a group of players on the court capable of handling the ball efficiently along with hopeful improvement from starting shooting guard Tanisha Wright (whose assist ratio was nearly as high as Bird's last season at 28.26% but nearly negated by a very high 17.16% turnover rate) should help the Storm cut down on their turnovers and provide additional 3-point shooting to spread the floor and create driving lanes. Whereas Quinn's ball handling efficiency comes more from simply not turning the ball over, Johnson's is more about creating plays for others as a true distributor but both will be useful in the guard rotation to find ways to make up for when Bird is off the floor.
For Washington, Quinn isn't a huge loss – coming off a season in which they only won five games, nobody could be considered irreplaceable and she's not necessarily the type of young player they should build around heading into the future. For Tulsa, losing Johnson just makes Skylar Diggins the even more obvious choice for them with the third pick in the 2013 draft, assuming things go as most people expect in the first two picks – it's not a draft loaded with point guards and Diggins is the top option.
But another team impacted by this move was the Atlanta Dream: after Lindsey Harding joined the L.A. Sparks, Johnson was probably their next best option as a replacement point guard. With Johnson headed to Seattle, there's not an immediate alternative answer at point guard with any previous WNBA experience, which is a blow to a team that has made itself into a perennial playoff contender.
For more on the Seattle Storm, visit our offseason storystream.