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

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

Phoenix Mercury v Los Angeles Sparks
Instead of skying over the Ogwumike sisters for a put back, Brittney Griner would team up with Nneka and Chiney on the revived Houston Comets.
Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

Just like their Eastern Conference counterparts, WNBA players from the West also deserve the opportunity to go “home from the holidays.” Here’s what a territorially-organized Western Conference might look like.

Which team would be the best in this new West?

Dallas Wings

G: Moriah Jefferson

G: Odyssey Sims

G: Seimone Augustus

F: Ariel Atkins

F: Kalani Brown

Sixth woman: Alana Beard

Prospects: Chennedy Carter, Lauren Cox, Joyner Holmes and Christyn Williams

The prospect pipeline in the Ark-La-Tex is flowing! Unlike natural gas, hoopers are an uncontroversial, enriching regional resource. In 2020, the Wings could add Fort Worth’s and Texas A&M’s Chennedy Carter, Flower Mound’s and Baylor’s Lauren Cox and Cedar Hill’s and Texas’ Joyner Holmes before Christyn Williams, a Little Rock, Arkansas, native, who took her talents to Storrs, Connecticut, and wouldn’t emerge from the collegiate ranks until 2022. Until this rich well of talent could be mined, the Wings still would present a tough test. Sixth woman Alana Beard, from Shreveport, Louisiana, would come off the bench to form a ferocious lockdown partnership with Ariel Atkins and teach Atkins her veteran tricks, making the Dallas native an even more effective defensive force. At the guard positions, the Wings’ trio of Dallas’ Moriah Jefferson, Irving’s Odyssey Sims and Baton Rouge’s Seimone Augustus could get buckets in multiple ways, with the speed of Jefferson, the physicality of Sims and the sweet stroke of Augustus forming a complementary combination. As the only true big (at least until her former Baylor frontcourt mate Cox arrives), Kalani Brown would be offensively empowered to show off her diverse offensive skill set in ways that could further open driving lanes or scoring spots for the Wings’

guards.

Houston Comets

G: Sydney Colson

G: Kayla Thornton

F: Chiney Ogwumike

F: Nneka Ogwumike

F: Brittney Griner

Sixth woman: Teaira McCowan

Prospects: Queen Egbo and Sedona Prince

To retain the services of Brittney Griner, the Phoenix Mercury would relocate to Griner’s hometown of Houston, reviving the defunct Houston Comets. The new Comets would prove that things are, in fact, bigger in Texas. Griner would form a “triple towers” with the Ogwumike sisters, Nneka and Chiney, of Tomball. On defense, the Comets would wall off the paint with the Griner-Ogwumike-Ogwumike trio, while also wreaking havoc on the perimeter with the physical and feisty duo of Houston’s Sydney Colson and El Paso’s Kayla Thornton. On offense, the squad might encounter cramped spacing, with only Colson possessing consistent 3-point shooting ability. But the Comets could still give opponents trouble with a combination of force (Thornton as a jumbo guard and Griner as a post-up threat) and craft (the elder Ogwumike’s savvy). Or, the Comets could just go bigger. The Comets can call on sixth woman Teaira McCowan, of Bryan, Texas, to further overpower opponents. Poised to have even more size, the Comets will eventually have Houston native and Baylor sophomore Queen Egbo and later pillage West Texas for Liberty Hill’s Sedona Prince, who will not play for the Oregon Ducks until next season.

Los Angeles Sparks

G: Jordin Canada

G: Diana Taurasi

G: Kelsey Plum

F: Monique Billings

F: Katie Lou Samuelson

Sixth woman: Imani McGee-Stafford

Prospect: Gigi Bryant

Greater Los Angeles has been home to some of the best bigs in women’s basketball history, with Cheryl Miller, Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson all establishing themselves as area prep stars before suiting up for USC’s Women of Troy. In contrast, this modern-day L.A. team would primarily play a brand of high-scoring small ball, relying on a combination of shooting, scoring and speed to outpace other teams. The White Mamba, Chino’s Diana Taurasi —who would look really strange in Sparks’ gold — would, of course, captain this attack, undoubtedly coming up with clutch buckets. Kelsey Plum, of La Jolla, could do a decent DT imitation, showing a similar ability to take, and make, big shots. Fullerton’s Katie Lou Samuelson would stretch the floor from the four position, opening space for Los Angeles’ Jordin Canada to drive to the basket or work the pick-and-roll with her former UCLA teammate, Riverside’s Monique Billings. When they need to get a stop, the Sparks could turn to one of the league’s best rim protectors, Imani McGee-Stafford, daughter of a USC legend (by way of Flint, Michigan) in Pam McGee. The combination of McGee-Stafford and Billings also could dominate the glass, preventing opponents from converting second-chance points. And, if needed, the Sparks’ head coach, Lisa Leslie, could still make a difference on both ends of the floor. When it comes to future prospects, you know that those in La La Land only have eyes for the Mambacita, Kobe Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gigi.

Minnesota Lynx

G: Rachel Banham

G: Arike Ogunbowale

G: Natisha Hiedeman

F: Aerial Powers

F: Megan Gustafson

Sixth woman: Nia Coffey

Prospect: Paige Bueckers

Of course, Hutchinson, Minnesota’s own, Lindsay Whalen, would head this territorial Lynx team. The current Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach could not convince Paige Bueckers, the walking high school highlight from Hopkins, Minnesota, to suit up for her home state’s flagship university. Yet, in 2024, Bueckers would bolster an already exciting Lynx team. Because the Lynx would be permitted to claim all talents from states bordering the Great Lakes, Arike Ogunbowale, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Aerial Powers, of Detroit, Michigan, would don the Minnesota gray and blue. Ogunbowale’s electric scoring, combined with Powers’ relentless energy, would make the Lynx hard to handle, especially as Green Bay’s Natisha Hiedeman also would provide some scoring spunk. The Lynx, too, would rely on some #BanhamBombs (both before and during the game) from Minneapolis’s Rachel Banham. In the frontcourt, Megan Gustafson, of Port Wing, Wisconsin, would provide rebounding effort and scoring efficiency. From the bench, Saint Paul’s Nia Coffey would provide Whalen and the Lynx with lineup flexibility, as she could space the floor as a small-ball forward or attack the basket as a big guard.

Sacramento Monarchs

G: Chelsea Gray

G: Layshia Clarendon

G: Danielle Robinson

F: Kristine Anigwe

F: Reshanda Gray

Sixth woman: Courtney Paris

Prospects: Sabrina Ionescu and Haley Jones

In an initially shocking announcement, the Las Vegas Aces, an undoubted women’s sport success story in Sin City, expressed their intent to relocate the Sacramento, reviving the shuttered Monarchs. Yet, one look at the 2020 draft board and it all makes sense. The triple-double queen, Walnut Creek’s Sabrina Ionescu, would seek to reign over the WNBA while wearing royal purple. All the more, in 2023, Haley Jones, the Stanford Cardinal freshman from Santa Cruz, would join Ionescu in Sacramento. Who can blame the Aces for decamping for Northern California? Even before these prospects join the pro ranks, the Monarchs would be in the good hands of the Point Gawd, Chelsea Gray, from Hayward, who would use her prescient passing and timely scoring to keep her team in every game. Somewhat curiously, the Monarchs would be allowed to claim three former California Golden Bears who are not from the area — San Bernardino’s Layshia Clarendon, Los Angeles’ Reshanda Gray and Phoenix’s Kristine Anigwe. It seems that the WNBA’s allocation process is just as capricious as the NCAA’s transfer waiver process (or lack thereof), making decisions about area eligibility that belies any consistency. While angering other franchises, this trio, along with two San Jose natives in Danielle Robinson and Courtney Paris, would present some interesting strategic possibilities for the Monarchs.

Seattle Storm

G: Courtney Vandersloot

G: Leilani Mitchell

G: Briann January

F: Marie Gülich

F: Mercedes Russell

Sixth woman: Jaime Nared

Prospect: Evina Westbrook, Cameron Brink and Hailey Van Lith

It seems the Pacific Northwest is the nation’s small guard capital. The trio of Kent’s Courtney Vandersloot, Richland’s Lelani Mitchell and Spokane’s Briann January would give the Storm an undersized, but at times possibly unstoppable, backcourt. January is one of the league’s best 3-point shooters while the ever-improving Mitchell can get hot from distance and scoot into the midrange to stop-and-pop. But, of course, Vandersloot would be in charge of the Storm offense, combining her driving, dishing and swishing to trouble opposing defenses. Slooty especially could help the Storm’s young frontcourt — Mercedes Russell, from Springfield, Oregon, and Marie Gülich, from Altenkirchen, Germany (allocated to the Storm due to her time at Oregon State) — further develop their offensive repertoires by getting them the ball in favorable spots. The Storm would hope that Sloot’s play also could encourage progress from sixth woman and Portland native Jaime Nared. In the coming years, the Storm would welcome some significant reinforcements. Eventual UConner Evina Westbrook, from Albany, Oregon, 2020 Stanford signee Cameron Brink, from Beaverton, Oregon and 2020 Louisville commit Hailey Van Lith, from Wentachee, Washington, could boost the future Storm with their diverse and dynamic skill sets.