Here’s what the Swish Appeal crew is talking about this weekend.
Albert says ...
Most impressive WNBA team so far: Seattle Storm. The Phoenix Mercury could easily be the pick, but they were widely considered to be a contender should the Lynx and/or Sparks take a step back in 2018. The Storm’s young star duo of Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart has led them to a strong start and they still aren’t in their prime yet.
Most disappointing team so far: New York Liberty. Bill Laimbeer left New York for the Aces, but the Liberty weren’t expected to have a big drop-off from last season. Nevertheless, New York is looking like they’re headed for the lottery, and the first half of the season isn’t over yet. If there’s something that I find most perplexing with New York, it’s the lack of offensive firepower. Tina Charles is the only starter averaging in double figures this season. Until that changes, it’s going to be hard to watch this New York team amount to very little.
Most resilient team so far: Washington Mystics. Washington came into the 2018 season looking worse on paper than most of their peers due to Emma Meesseman’s absence. But they are currently fourth in the WNBA standings. It wasn’t easy, however — partly because Elena Delle Donne had a Lyme Disease flare up, while other starters, like Krystal Thomas declined and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt continued to shoot poorly.
But Ariel Atkins has been a pleasant surprise on the wing, Natasha Cloud has stepped up her shooting, and LaToya Sanders is having a WNBA career season after many successful years in Turkey. It’s early, but the Mystics do have a shot at making the Finals if they continue to jell like this.
Antonio says ...
Christine says ...
Look, I’m just really proud of the Sky right now. Things are finally starting to come together for them now that their veteran stars are settling back in, and with Gabby Williams and Diamond DeShields doing all rookies proud, I can’t wait to see where the team will be by the end of the season — and in the years to come.
But I’m going to zoom in on this three-game winning streak they’ve got going on, because the level of team effort is admirable. In the Mercury and Liberty wins, six players scored in double figures. Courtney Vandersloot has amassed 34 assists in those three games alone. At least one bench player in each game, even the one against the Dream where only four players hit double figures, has joined that 10+ points group. And best of all, they’re scoring big, too: all three games have seen them hit 90 or more.
There’s a lot to like about the Sky at this point in the season, and it’ll be fun to see how long that continues.
Also: Thursday night’s Liberty-at-Mystics game was delayed by a half-hour due to shot-clock issues. Naturally, the teams’ Twitter accounts had something to say about that:
Suspense is our middle name. pic.twitter.com/v5uWOzSBVv— Washington Mystics (@WashMystics) June 28, 2018
Harkening back to last year’s delay at this very arena during which a dance battle broke out, the Mystics and Liberty decided to fine-tune their dancing games once more:
Pregame with @T_Cloud4 + @SZellous1 = DANCE OFF— WNBA (@WNBA) June 29, 2018
Last night's match-up between the @WashMystics and @nyliberty featured more than just hoops...who do you think won the dance battle?! #WatchMeWork pic.twitter.com/Ew1Pc0U5nB
While Elena Delle Donne wasn’t seen participating in the dance-off, some of her teammates’ magic must have rubbed off on her as she hit that sweet game-winning three.
Tamryn says ...
It’s time to vet the vets. No one is out to shoo veteran players out the league. But a lot of teams’ success depends on the longevity of long-time players, making it essential for teams to plan for the future. The process, of course, starts by evaluating what players have left in the tank. With WNBA players lasting decades, coaches and owners must decide when to cut their losses or hang their championship hopes on performance of veteran players (especially those incapable of an age-defying decline).
So, here are the vets who’ve been in the league for 10 years or longer. The players who have already been released or waived, or who are otherwise unlikely to make signification contributions to a team this year, have been crossed off:
- Seimone Augustus, Lynx, 12 years
- Alana Beard, Sparks, 12 years
- Sue Bird, Storm, 15 years
- Rebekkah Brunson, Lynx, 14 years
- Essence Carson, Sparks, 10 years
- Monique Currie, Mystics, 12 years
- Candice Dupree, Fever, 12 years
- Sylvia Fowles, Lynx, 10 years
- Camille Little, Mercury, 11 years
- Sancho Lyttle, Mercury, 13 years
Crystal Langhorne, Storm, 10 years
- Candace Parker, Sparks, 10 years
Cappie Pondexter, Sparks, 12 years Noelle Quinn, Storm, 11 years
- Diana Taurasi, Mercury, 13 years
- Lindsay Whalen, Lynx, 14 years
- Tanisha Wright, Lynx, 12 years
- Tamera Young, Aces, 10 years
That still leaves a lot of vets! And vets occupy roster spots, sometimes past their expiry dates, preventing newbies from the chance at WNBA stardom. So, to develop the league, it will be important for a league expansion to happen, to reverse the current scenario of very good players being being released or waived. From the list above, here are the five vets most likely to retire after the season and the five who are most likely to play another few years.
MOST LIKELY TO RETIRE AFTER THE SEASON
Father Time defeats everyone.
- Seimone Augustus & Rebekkah Brunson. Both players have been going hard for years and have championship hardware to show for their labor. But these players are on the decline, unable to produce like they used to. If not retirement, Augustus and Brunson are headed for limited minutes off the bench.
- Candice Dupree. The WNBA champ (with the 2014 Phoenix Mercury) is on an upstart, yet very good Indiana Fever team that has managed to win just one game this season. With postseason possibilities being a few years away, it is hard to see why Dupree would stay with a team that will not produce another championship. Factoring in that her wife, DeWanna Bonner, still plays for the Mercury and lives in Phoenix with the couple’s twin daughters while Dupree lives in Indianapolis away, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if she chose to retire to be closer to her family. A best-case scenario for Dupree would be to secure a job with the Mercury post-retirement (as Penny Taylor did).
- Sancho Lyttle. The Queen of the Intangibles showed early in the season that she had found a way to make strong, starting lineup contributions, despite diminishing hops. Her play-making abilities and relentless defensive efforts are a big reason the Mercury are in first place in the standings. So, if Lyttle (age 35, with 13 years of WNBA and international hoops mileage on her body) is expected to miss significant time because of the knee injury she suffered in last night’s game against the Mystics, it very well could spell the end of her career.
- Lindsay Whalen. The Lynx have found a rhythm and put together some wins. But Whalen has struggled all season, with the exception of just a few games. Only she knows if coaching the Gophers full-time, while actively playing in the WNBA, is too much to juggle. But taking the head coaching position is a sign that she is planning for her off-court future and, at age 36 with 12 years of WNBA wear and tear on her body, she may be ready to leave her playing days behind.
MOST LIKELY TO PLAY THROUGH THE 2020 SEASON
So far, Father Time seems to have left these players alone.
- Sue Bird
- Sylvia Fowles
- Candace Parker
- Diana Taurasi
- Tamera Young