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WNBA players go ‘home for the holidays’ in this league-wide roster shakeup | Eastern Conference

Inspired by the famous maxim, “There’s no place like home for the holidays,” here’s what the WNBA’s Eastern Conference teams would look like if players competed for their home-state teams.

WNBA: SEP 06 Chicago Sky at Connecticut Sun
If the WNBA was organized territorially, Courtney Williams and Diamond DeShields would be teammates, forming a dynamic and dreamy backcourt in Atlanta.
Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There’s no place like home for the holidays, right? But WNBA players who also ply their trade overseas have limited holiday time at home, if that. But what if the WNBA re-organized the league so that players hooped at home — as in, for their home-state teams, like Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes and Rebecca Lobo in 1997?

Applying this “home for the holidays” spirit, here’s how the WNBA’s Eastern Conference teams would look if players completed for their home-state, or home-region teams:

Atlanta Dream

G: Diamond DeShields

G: Courtney Williams

G: Asia Durr

F: Dearica Hamby

F: DeWanna Bonner

Sixth woman: Lexie Brown

Wild card: Maya Moore

Prospect: Olivia Nelson-Ododa

“I have a dream” of the most dynamic backcourt in the WNBA! And, quite possibly, the most dynamic frontcourt too! While somewhat undersized, this Dream team would compensate with their ability to fly around the floor at all five positions. By claiming the services of Fairfield, Alabama’s DeWanna Bonner, the Dream would sport a fivesome with an absurd level of athleticism. The transition game with Norcross’s Diamond DeShields and Folkston’s Courtney Williams would be absolutely terrifying, while Marietta’s Dearica Hamby would inject the team with her characteristic relentlessness. For the team to reach its peak, the Dream must hope Asia Durr of Douglasville will find consistency at the professional level by playing close to home. Sixth-woman Lexie Brown, of Suwanee, would fit with the Dream’s undersized-but-uptempo style of play. And the possible return of another who played high school ball in Suwanee — some gal named Maya Moore — would give the Dream a surefire, steady wild card option.

In the 2022 territorial draft, the Dream would add a needed inside presence, bringing the Winder native and current UConn sophomore Olivia Nelson-Ododa back down south.

Charlotte Sting

G: Tamera Young

G: Allisha Gray

F: A’ja Wilson

F: Azurá Stevens

F: LaToya Sanders

Sixth woman: Cheyenne Parker

Prospects: Tamari Key and Teonni Key

To the satisfaction of many, the territorial WNBA has revived the Charlotte Sting, with Sting OG Dawn Staley directing this team of Carolinians. It can be assumed that the chance to coach Columbia, South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson swayed Staley to abandon her post with the Gamecocks. With the Sting, she also would get to coach another of her collegiate standouts, Allisha Gray, who was born in Greenwood (even though she played high school ball in Georgia). Gray would be paired in the backcourt with the second greatest player from Wilmington’s Laney High School, the veteran Ty Young. Although this tandem of Gray and Young should provide steady guard play, the Sting would rely on the interesting interplay of their bigs to frustrate other teams. On offense, Cary’s Azurá Stevens and Fayetteville’s LaToya Sanders could stretch the floor with size, popping to midrange (or beyond) to allow Wilson to go to work. The ever-reliable and never-overwhelmed Sanders also would anchor the Sting’s defense. Off the bench, the Sting would remain rather big, with High Point’s Cheyenne Parker sparking her squad with energy and intensity.

Sisters Tamari Key, currently a freshman center at Tennessee, and Teonni Key, a junior center/forward prospect at Cary High School, promise that the Sting could enhance their inside presence even further in future seasons.

Chicago Sky

G: Jewell Loyd

G: Allie Quigley

F: Morgan Tuck

F: Candace Parker

F: Napheesa Collier

Sixth woman: Sophie Cunningham

Prospect: Brea Beal

The Chicago Sky claim one of the most well-rounded teams in this re-envisioned WNBA. Naperville, Illinois’s Candace Parker would serve as the Sky’s fulcrum. Surrounded by floor spacers in Joliet’s Allie Quigley, Lincolnwood’s Jewell Loyd and Bolingbrook’s Morgan Tuck, Parker should be able to be at her playmaking point-forward best. However, her frontcourt partner Napheesa Collier, imported from Jefferson City, Missouri, would stand as the team’s future star. While serving as the glue for the Sky’s defense, Collier also should establish an exciting partnership with Parker. The prospect of her learning from Parker, injecting her already well-rounded game with more potent playmaking, would be even more enticing. Another Missouri import, Columbia’s Sophie Cunningham, would offer the Sky a chaos-creating sixth woman with shooting potential.

In 2023, the Sky would be poised to add another tantalizing talent in Rock Island’s Brea Beal. Although the South Carolina freshman still is adjusting to the collegiate game, her status as a physical scoring wing makes her a promising pro prospect.

Indiana Fever

G: Skylar Diggins-Smith

G: Jackie Young

G: Kelsey Mitchell

F: Natasha Howard

F: Jantel Lavender

Sixth woman: Alex Bentley

Prospects: Jordan Horston and Zia Cooke

Buoyed by talents from neighboring Ohio, the Indiana Fever would have a sneakily solid territorial team. A three-guard lineup of South Bend’s Skylar Diggins-Smith, Princeton, Indiana’s Jackie Young and Sharonville, Ohio’s Kelsey Mitchell would present some funky, but potentially fruitful, combinations. The veteran Diggins-Smith should help Mitchell take advantage of her scoring talents, even as Sky-Digg strategically drives, dishes and/or scores. Young could then find cracks in the defense to get to her spots. Yet, Natasha Howard, with Toledo, Ohio, roots, should be the Fever’s foundation on both ends of the floor. In the frontcourt, she would partner with Jantel Lavender, who hails over from Cleveland. By launching her legendary long twos, Lavender could provide enough space for Howard to attack, post-up or play-make. As sixth woman, Indianapolis’s Alex Bentley would bring microwave scoring ability and a bulldog mentality.

Two of the top 2019 college recruits also hail from Ohio, in Toledo native and South Carolina freshman Zia Cooke and Columbus native and Tennessee talent Jordan Horston, giving the future Fever further dynamism from the guard spots.

Orlando Miracle

G: Erica Wheeler

G: Tiffany Hayes

G: Riquna Williams

F: Sylvia Fowles

F: Candace Dupree

Sixth woman: Jamierra Faulkner

Prospects: Beatrice Mompremier and Rennia Davis

The Connecticut Sun have returned to their roots, again becoming the Orlando Miracle to take advantage of the well of talent in the Sunshine State. For opponents, a matchup with the Miracle will be no trip to Disney World. The Miracle sport a trio of guards with scoring potential in Miami’s Erica Wheeler, Winter Haven’s Tiffany Hayes and Pahokee’s Riquna Williams. When most ideal, Wheeler and Williams would have the three-ball falling, opening driving lanes for Hayes. Off the bench, West Palm Beach’s Jamierra Faulkner would offer a similar skill set. However, all four somewhat struggle with consistency, which could be a problem, except for the steadying presence of Tampa’s Candice Dupree and Miami’s Sylvia Fowles. Dupree would be ever-reliable from the midrange while Fowles could feast on second-chance points. On defense, Fowles would serve as the steady anchor, allowing Hayes, in particular, to play high-leverage, disruptive defense, turning opponents over to generate easy points in transition.

Next season, the Miracle could bring in a Fowles apprentice with Beatrice Mompremier, a Miami native who returned to the U for her redshirt senior season. Rennia Davis, the Tennessee junior from Jacksonville, could bring energetic, athletic forward play to central Florida in 2021.

New York Liberty

G: Sue Bird

G: Brittney Sykes

F: Breanna Stewart

F: Tina Charles

F: Stefanie Dolson

Sixth woman: Marina Mabrey

Prospects: Amari DeBerry and Olivia Miles

In this alternate WNBA, the terrific twosome of Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart would remain intact. Bird, of Syosset, and Stewie, from Syracuse, team with fellow former UConn Husky and current Liberty legend Tina Charles, a native of Jamaica, New York. With Bird at the controls, trust that Stewart and Charles would find plentiful scoring opportunities. The ability of Stefanie Dolson, from Point Jervis, New York, to hit 3-pointers would provide even more space for the Liberty offense to hum. On the other end of the floor, Newark, New Jersey’s Brittney Sykes would use her athleticism to turn opponents over and get points in transition. Another New Jersey native, Marina Mabrey, could provide a sharpshooting scoring punch off the bench.

Eventual replacements for Bird and Charles are on the way. And, unsurprisingly, at least one of the them is another UConn Husky. At 6’5’’, 2021 signee Amani DeBerry, from Williamsville, New York, should succeed Charles. Blairstown, New Jersey’s Olivia Miles, meanwhile, would be poised to bring her bold brand of point-guard play to Barclays.

Washington Mystics

G: Jasmine Thomas

G: Kristi Toliver

F: Elena Delle Donne

F: Angel McCoughtry

F: Elizabeth Williams

Sixth woman: Betnijah Laney

Prospects: Ashley Owusu, Azzi Fudd and Angel Reese

In this reformulated WNBA, #RunItBack2Back would remain a strong possibility for the defending champion Mystics. Much to the satisfaction of Mystics’ faithful, 2019 MVP Elena Delle Donne, of Wilmington, Delaware, stays in D.C., as does her stalwart sidekick, Harrisonburg, Virginia’s Kristi Toliver. The Mystics also welcome one of their foes from this year’s WNBA Finals — Fairfax, Virginia’s Jasmine Thomas. The Toliver-Thomas backcourt would be quite enticing, as the defensively solid Thomas, who is sometimes too reluctant on offense, would pair well with the often shot-happy Toliver, who lacks lateral quickness on defense. In the frontcourt, Baltimore native Angel McCoughtry, hopefully fully-recovered from her knee injury, could take advantage of the attention directed at Delle Donne, finding easy scoring opportunities. Virginia Beach’s Elizabeth Williams would clean the glass on both ends, while Betnijah Laney, from Clayton, Delaware, would serve as the quintessential role player, coming off the bench to fill gaps on both ends of the floor.

Future titles would be possible in D.C., with exciting Maryland freshman Ashley Owusu of Woodbridge, Virginia, one day playing with the Mystics. The much-heralded Azzi Fudd, the D.C. native who just so happened to receive the 2018-19 Gatorade Player of the Year Award from Elena Delle Donne, will matriculate at a yet-to-be-named college in 2021. Baltimore’s Angel Reese, a recent 2020 Maryland commit, would give the future Mystics a boost in the frontcourt.

Check back next week for the best in the West!