The 2016 season had so much potential for the Dallas Wings.
They were celebrating their first season in Dallas after calling Tulsa, Oklahoma their home for six seasons. The former Shock went to the conference semi-finals in 2015 after not making the playoffs the five season prior. And the new-look Wings had a bright young core in Glory Johnson, Odyssey Sims, and Skylar Diggins-Smith.
However, a myriad of injuries (only three players played all 34 games) and inconsistent play on both ends of the floor cost the Wings dearly, and as an end result, the team finished with the second-worst record in the league (11-23), losing 11 straight games at one point. Going into this season, though, Dallas comes in with a brand-new identity and some fresh faces to go alongside Diggins-Smith.
STARTING FROM SCRATCH
After finishing last season with a less than stellar record, head coach Fred Williams and general manager Greg Bibb decided to shake things up and rebuild their image from the ground up.
The Wings traded Sims along with their 11th overall pick to the Los Angeles Sparks, picking up the fourth and 23rd picks to go along with the third and tenth overall picks. In return, Dallas drafted Evelyn Akhator (Kentucky), and South Carolina’s Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis in the first round.
With Akhator, the Wings pick up a post player that can play both forward and center; with Gray and Davis, they bring a championship pedigree from their previous stop, where they both ended their college careers with a national championship. Dallas also added Breanna Lewis and Saniya Chong in the second and third rounds of the draft, respectively.
A NEW KEY THREE
The young core of rookies will have a lot of experience to lean on as they adjust to life as professionals. Diggins-Smith, Johnson and Courtney Paris have a combined 15 seasons of experience, with each player having playoff experience. The key trio will also have some considerable help behind them with Karima Christmas-Kelly and Aerial Powers coming off the bench.
QUICK START LEADS TO QUICK RESULTS
The key for the new-look Wings will be to start fast. The team split their preseason with one win and a loss, but the rookies have looked good in the times they’ve been on the floor. Davis, in their win against the Indiana Fever last Saturday, scored 14 points off the bench, making all six of her free throws. Akhator, Gray and Lewis have also contributed in spot appearances.
The upside for Dallas is that Diggins-Smith looks to have recovered fully from the ACL tear that ruined her 2015 season and affected her in 2016. With her at full strength and improved depth, the Wings should be in a much better position to be among the best in the Western Conference this season.