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WNBA 2019 Team Preview: Can the Atlanta Dream (#2) continue their newfound success?

The Atlanta Dream had an ideal turnaround 2018 season under new head coach Nicki Collen. Can they stay among the top teams in the WNBA?

Tiffany Hayes averaged 17.2 points per game last season and will be a key player for the Atlanta Dream in 2019.
NBAE/Getty Images

After finishing above .500 for the first time since 2014, the Atlanta Dream fell to the Washington Mystics in a tough five-game semifinals series to end last season. The Dream are bringing back their core group, with a few additions through trades and the draft, and should maintain their success in 2019.

Season outlook: The Atlanta Dream in 2019

Familiar faces

Angel McCoughtry is the leader of Atlanta Dream and was key to their regular-season success. However, she may not be available until late into the season, if at all. McCoughtry suffered a torn ACL in August and there is no timetable for her return. Her anticipated absence led to the Dream trading their 2020 second-round pick to the Las Vegas Aces for forward Nia Coffey. Second-year player Monique Billings will likely be included in the rotation at the small forward spot as the Dream try to fill the hole left by McCoughtry.

Although small forward is a big question for Atlanta, the rest of the roster seems set. Renee Montgomery joined Atlanta in 2018 and had one of her best seasons since her Connecticut Sun days. She started all 34 games, averaged 10.3 points and shot 37 percent from beyond the arc.

Playing alongside Montgomery is Tiffany Hayes, who has played her entire career with Atlanta. Hayes has increased her scoring average every year since coming into the league. As she enters her eighth season, she will be called on to do even more.

Jessica Breland and Elizabeth Williams round out the starters for the Dream. Breland averaged 8.3 points and 7.9 rebounds in 2018. Williams’ scoring fell from 2017, but saw her shooting percentage rise to nearly 55 percent. These two also combined for nearly four blocks a contest.

Midseason acquisition Alex Bentley was quite the asset for the Dream, scoring in double figures in seven of her 16 regular season games with Atlanta and averaged over 15 points per game in the playoffs.

Brittany Sykes’ role changed in 2018, as she primarily came off the bench after starting 23 games in 2017. She is another guard in the stable for the Dream who can shoot and get to the rim at will.

Notable newbies

The Dream drafted Brianna Turner at No. 11, but traded her draft rights to the Mercury for center Marie Gülich. Gülich was drafted by Phoenix as the 12th overall pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft and saw just 115 minutes of playing time in 23 games.

The Dream also selected Oregon guard Maite Cazorla in the second round and Chinese center Li Yueru in the third round.

Cazorla was a four-year starter for the Ducks, where she averaged 10.1 points and was a 39 percent three-point shooter. Cazorla is a dynamic player who adds depth to a talented group of guards for Atlanta.

Li averaged 7.1 points and 5.6 rebounds in the FIBA World Cup for China last year. Having just turned 20 years old in March, Li is clearly a developmental player. It remains to be seen if she will see much, if any playing time with the Dream this season.

Coffey was acquired via trade the day after the draft. Entering her third year, she has yet to see significant playing time. She averaged 13.8 minutes and 5.3 points with the Aces last season, but did show some flashes of being able to get by players on the drive.

Biggest obstacles

Here are the biggest challenges the Dream will face this season:

  1. How can they fill the hole left by Angel McCoughtry? The Dream are a talented team, but when the leader goes down, everyone has to step up. The players attempting to fill the small forward role are relatively untested. It will be on the four other players on the court to put them in positions to be successful.
  2. Was their success a product of a down year by other teams? The Atlanta Dream boasted a great defense last year, holding their opponents to 42.3 percent shooting, the best in the WNBA. However, their offense was not as prolific. The Dream’s point differential was 2.3 points over the course of the season. With Los Angeles and Phoenix expected to improve this year, it will be interesting to see if the Dream can win on defense with just enough offense.

Game zone

Preseason opener

Dallas Wings vs. Atlanta Dream

When: Saturday, May 13, at 5 p.m. ET

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT

How to watch: To be determined

Notes: This game features the new-look Wings — without Liz Cambage or Skylar Diggins-Smith — against a team trying to prove they are more than a one-year wonder.

Season home opener

Dallas Wings vs. Atlanta Dream

When: Friday, May 24, at 7:30 p.m. ET

Where: State Farm Arena, Atlanta, GA

How to watch: WNBA League Pass

Notes: The Dream open up the 2019 season in the newly-renovated State Farm Arena against a Wings team that will be searching for its identity this year.

Marquee matchup

Washington Mystics vs. Atlanta Dream

When: Sunday, June 23, at 1 p.m. ET

Where: State Farm Arena, Atlanta, GA

How to watch: ESPN

Notes: This will be the second meeting of the regular season between Washington and Atlanta in only the Dream’s ninth game of the year. That said, how the Dream perform in this game will likely be an indicator as to how their 2019 season is going to go.