The Silver Stars were destined to have a bad 2013 season after losing Sophia Young months before it began and getting all of one half out of Becky Hammon before an ACL tear sidelined her for the season as well. It wasn't all bad, though, as it meant San Antonio could get a great draft pick and get back their two super stars for 2014.
And then they had to go and win basketball games. 12 of them, to be precise. Winning one more game than the Tulsa Shock halved the Stars chance of getting the number one pick in the 2014 draft. They were just three losses away from clinching the highest lottery odds! Three losses!
My irritation with not tanking aside, San Antonio is going to be in a pretty good place in 2014. Sophia Young will be back, Becky Hammon will be back and after another great season from Danielle Robinson the Stars just might have a starting five to be proud of.
How will the Silver Stars line up in 2014?
Assuming that Dan Hughes will not start a rookie unless literally everyone else is dead (no, seriously) this is how I imagine the Stars will start most of their games.
F: Sophia Young
F: Danielle Adams (sure)
G: Danielle Robinson
G: Becky Hammon
C: Jayne Appel
That's not so bad at all! Now if the Stars get Chiney Ogwumike (unlikely), I could see Adams getting the bump from the starting five. If Hammon can stay healthy (she's not as young as she used to be, you know) the Stars will almost certainly be a playoff team, even though they'll have to play in the talent-laden Western Conference.
This assumes that restricted free agent Jayne Appel sticks around (she will) and that the Stars don't make any significant trades or free agent signings before the season begins. Injuries were such a huge part of the Silver Stars' story in 2013 that the 2014 squad is going to feel like a brand new team. Young and Hammon on the floor at the same time? Jia Perkins coming off the bench instead of starting? That's something a lot of San Antonio fans can get into real quickly.
How much does Becky Hammon have left in the tank?
This is a big question for the Silver Stars going forward. Hammon is 36 years old and has torn her ACL twice in her career (the first time in 2003). The first tear was her right knee and the more recent was her left, so the injury does not compound the previous one. That being said, tearing both ACLs isn't much better than tearing the same one twice and Hammon is nearing the end of her career because of her age regardless of how her ligaments are feeling.
While we don't know the exact details of Hammon's contract (thanks, WNBA! Love ya!), 2014 appears to be the final year of her deal. Whether Hammon is relegated to a bench role in 2015 with San Antonio or elsewhere doesn't change much for the Silver Stars in 2014, but expect her minutes to be watched closely by Hughes, at least to start off.
What should the Silver Stars be targeting in the 2014 draft?
Quite frankly, San Antonio just needs to worry about drafting the best available player in the draft. They don't need a point guard or a center, but any type of forward or a shooting guard will be just fine. If they can get Ogwumike, awesome. If they grab Maggie Lucas out of Penn State, that's great too.
Have the Silver Stars shaken the injury bug?
If the Silver Stars have any manner of luck at all, last season will have properly exercised two years worth of injuries. Jayne Appel missed time, Danielle Robinson missed time, Sophia Young and Becky Hammon missed the entire damn season. That's 4/5 of the projected starting lineup. It seems impossible that San Antonio's luck can be that poor two years in a row and if they can stay healthy in 2014, they're a playoff team.
How about that bench?
By my count, the Silver Stars will have Jia Perkins, Shenise Johnson, Kayla Alexander and Davellyn Whyte on the bench to start the season. That leaves three open spots that will be filled by at least two draft picks and one free agent signing. San Antonio could also retain a player like Shameka Christon or Cathrine Kraayeveld if they don't like what they see on the free agent market.
The Silver Stars have four starters all but confirmed and will probably need to fill one starting spot and one bench spot after the draft. Their biggest need is at the forward position, which would make Chiney Ogwumike a real nice draft option for them if she's still available when they pick (unlikely). Rolling over the two rookies from last season, the two new rookies from the upcoming draft, Shenise Johnson and Jia Perkins will make up the bulk of the bench with one free agent needed to round it all out.
Assuming San Antonio ends up with the fourth pick in the draft, Penn State's Maggie Lucas looks like a nice option, though it's still waaaaaaaay too early to say anything definitive about that.
At the very least, assuming good health, the 2014 season will be quite a bit more fun to watch than the 2013 season.