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Do the WNBA stars stand a chance against Team USA?

The aggressive play of USA Basketball wings -- like Swin Cash -- on both ends of the floor might have a huge impact on the Stars at the Sun game. <em>Photo courtesy of Kailas Images.</em>
The aggressive play of USA Basketball wings -- like Swin Cash -- on both ends of the floor might have a huge impact on the Stars at the Sun game. Photo courtesy of Kailas Images.

I am usually indifferent to All-Star games of any sort.

So I have to admit that when the WNBA's fan favorites were announced, my indifference turned into active disinterest. All-Star selections in almost every professional sports league are inherently flawed to anyone who believes the game should be representative of the league's best performers in a given season, but the selection of four San Antonio Silver Stars players -- including the odd selection of rookie center Jayne Appel who averages 10.7 minutes per game -- was just too much for me.

However, the vision of the game -- which I initially thought was pretty cool -- strangely became more concrete for me after the reserves were announced: our hand picked US Senior National team led by Geno Auriemma against "the best of the rest". With a little bit more concreteness, I let my mind wander a little: I started to wonder about how Seattle Storm coach Brian Agler might approach the game. He's constantly telling Seattle media that he has "tunnel vision", taking one game at a time and respecting every opponent's potential to beat the 16-2 Storm...even in KeyArena. So although it's "just an All-Star game", it's hard to imagine the coach who is never satisfied being one of those All-Star coaches who's laughing and joking on the sidelines...and I suppose that would go for Agler or Team USA coach Geno Auriemma.

Somehow that led me to revisit a question that I had just dismissed as obvious previously: can the roster of "other" WNBA stars beat Team USA? If so, how and why?

Player Team
Jayne Appel San Antonio Silver Stars
Rebekkah Brunson Minnesota Lynx
Becky Hammon* San Antonio Silver Stars
Iziane Castro Marques Atlanta Dream
Katie Douglas Indiana Fever
Lauren Jackson** Seattle Storm
Crystal Langhorne Washington Mystics
Sancho Lyttle** Atlanta Dream
Michelle Snow San Antonio Silver Stars
Penny Taylor Phoenix Mercury
Sophia Young San Antonio Silver Stars
Player Team
Sue Bird Seattle Storm
Swin Cash Seattle Storm
Tamika Catchings Indiana Fever
Tina Charles Connecticut Sun
Candice Dupree Phoenix Mercury
Sylvia Fowles Chicago Sky
Angel McCoughtry Atlanta Dream
Maya Moore University of Connecticut
Renee Montgomery Connecticut Sun
Cappie Pondexter New York Liberty
Diana Taurasi Phoenix Mercury
Lindsay Whalen, Minnesota Lynx*
Monique Currie, Washington Mystics**
Lindsey Harding, Washington Mystics***

Rosters for the "WNBA vs. USA Basketball: The Stars at the Sun game"
Injury replacements for WNBA stars in italics.

Some thoughts:

  • As it turns out, once players were added to the game for Team USA and coaches made their selections for WNBA reserves, we end up with two rosters that roughly reflect the most statistically productive players in the league (by position). The Appel selection is a bit odd, but the fans have spoken.
  • Losing Jackson to a concussion would seem to be a huge loss for the WNBA. Then one could certainly quibble with the selections of Appel and Castro Marquez. However, the injury replacements might have actually balanced out the WNBA roster -- the additions of Harding and Whalen give them two more "traditional" lead ballhandlers.
  • Where Team USA has a huge advantage based on this season's statistics is on the offensive boards and it's not necessarily because of the presence of Charles and Fowles -- Cash, Catchings, and McCoughtry are among the best rebounding wing players in the league. Storm fans can vouch for the fact that Cash crashes the boards hard on almost every possession and Dream and Fever fans might have similar accounts of their respective players. The WNBA team will have to find a way to keep them off the boards.
  • Team USA also has three of the most efficient pure scorers in the WNBA this year in McCoughtry, Pondexter, and Taurasi. That Maya Moore individual is not going to hurt on the scoring front either. The WNBA team just doesn't have that.
  • The defensive intensity of Cash, Catchings, Fowles, and McCoughtry seems to just jump off the page, especially in comparison to the WNBA stars. That is either reason for concern for the WNBA stars or greater relief that a few additional ball handlers have been added.
  • If there was more time to practice in advance of this game, the WNBA stars could win this game by moving the ball and controlling the tempo. Without that time to gel, this could be a long game for the WNBA.

Who could have been added to make this a better matchup for the WNBA stars?

  • DeWanna Bonner: Castro Marquez is having a strong season as a rather efficient pure scorer. However, with this matchup, Bonner's defense, rebounding, and versatility would have been a nice addition to the WNBA stars. She might have given the WNBA stars a wrinkle on the perimeter to help contain Team USA's scorers.
  • Camille Little: Little's aggression inside and all-around game would have also given the WNBA stars something extra as an efficient scorer. However, there is also a strong case for the players who made it in ahead of her so her omission is understandable.
  • Taj McWilliams-Franklin: Depending on what numbers you look at, McWilliams-Franklin could make a case as the best player left out of this extravaganza. She has been among the most efficient interior scorers this season and would certainly add some defensive intensity.
  • Seimone Augustus: Augustus might have the best mid-range game in the WNBA. In the 7 games she's played this season, she's been an extremely efficient pure scorer and during the Lynx's win streak when both she and Wiggins were healthy, Augustus was a large of it.
  • Chante Black: If Castro Marquez can make it as a pure scorer, the Black could make a case as one of the league's best rebounders. She's been one of the best total rebounders in the league this season and is among the best offensive rebounders (by percentage). She's still growing as a player, but watching her board work has been outstanding this season.
  • Becky Hammon, Lauren Jackson, Sancho Lyttle: Their injuries are just unfortunate. It would have been nice for them to bring their talents to the Mohegan Sun.

Related Links:

USA Senior National Team: We talkin' 'bout Practice!

2010 WNBA All-Star Fantasy Team: Who Would Best Challenge Team USA?