Wings point guard Skylar Diggins-Smith announced that she is pregnant with her first child on October 17. It isn’t clear when she is due to give birth, but her announcement has significant implications for Dallas. Let’s take a look at what this could mean for the Wings.
Priority One: Find a new head coach
The Wings fired head coach Fred Williams after a loss to the Washington Mystics on August 12. Taj McWilliams-Franklin was immediately brought on as the interim head coach and was able to get Dallas to hold onto the eighth playoff seed, but they lost in the first round to the Phoenix Mercury, 101-83.
Dallas was in good shape through the midseason point, as they were 14-9 after July 19. But they lost 10 of their remaining 11 games, including nine in a row. It is hard to say whether McWilliams-Franklin is the right coach to lead the Wings long-term, but the new coach will have to be someone who can get on the same page with General Manager Greg Bibb and Diggins-Smith, who said that the team stood behind Williams in an impromptu TMZ interview.
Dallas must decide whether the current core is working
The Wings have been unable to get over the treadmill of mediocrity over the last five seasons, when they were only above .500 once in 2015 with an 18-16 record as the Tulsa Shock. They have made the playoffs in three of the last four years, but were unable to advance each time.
Meanwhile, the Wings have a fair amount of talent on their roster in Diggins-Smith, Liz Cambage, All-Star Glory Johnson and 2017 Rookie of the Year Allisha Gray. Other teams have consistently made the playoffs with less talent than Dallas, so something just isn’t working. The Wings may have to rebuild depending on where they see themselves.
If the Wings want to stay in contention, they must convince Liz Cambage to stay
With Diggins-Smith likely out for at least part of next season, the Wings would depend on Cambage to carry the load. She was an All-WNBA First Team player in the 2018 season, so if Dallas believes that they can still make a deep playoff run, they have to convince her to stay.
Cambage gave an honest interview to Sean Hurd of ESPN, where she said “playing [in the WNBA] doesn’t pay my bills ... We make more money overseas. I’m ready to have next summer off and focus on getting a European contract where [it’s] ten seasons’ here worth the pay.”
If Cambage does not like whoever the Wings hire as their head coach, it is unlikely that she will come back. Earlier this week, Cambage had an Achilles injury while playing for the Shanxi Flame in the Chinese WCBA. The good news is that she didn’t tear anything. But the bad news is that this tips in favor of her not playing for Dallas next season.
Tayler Hill gets her fresh start in Dallas
Tayler Hill has had a rough past year. In the 2016 and the first half of the 2017 seasons for the Mystics, she was scoring at a career-high level. In fact, she was the Mystics’ leading per-game scorer and was second in Most Improved Player voting in 2016.
But in 2017, Hill tore her right ACL. When she returned in 2018 for Washington, Ariel Atkins blossomed into a All-WNBA Rookie Team and All-WNBA Defensive Team player. Hill was just coming back, but the Mystics also didn’t have time to wait for her, so she was traded for Aerial Powers midseason. Ultimately, Hill averaged a shade under 17 minutes of playing time for Dallas in seven games, scoring five points a game.
With Diggins-Smith likely missing some time to start the 2019 season, Hill has a chance to regain her 2016 and early 2017 season form when she was a reliable scorer while driving to the hoop. Though Hill became a reliable scorer for the Mystics, she was very inefficient because she never shot above 36.1 percent from the field in any season.
If Diggins-Smith were to miss most or all of the 2019 WNBA season, it is reasonable to assume that Hill could start more, if not most of Dallas’ games. Hopefully, Hill improves her shot selection because that will help her maintain a starting role in the longer term.