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2021 WNBA Season Preview: Dallas Wings could be underrated with so much young potential

The Dallas Wings have two stars in Arike Ogunbowale and Satou Sabally returning and four draft picks (Charli Collier, Awak Kuier, Chelsea Dungee and Dana Evans) who could make impacts.

WNBA Draft 2021
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert (right) holding up a Dallas Wings jersey with the number 1 on it after Charli Collier was selected as the top pick in the 2021 draft.
Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser /NBAE via Getty Images

The Dallas Wings went all-in on the 2021 WNBA Draft and now have an impressive young core. How long will it take for them to find success?

Potential promise of the Wings

Four great draft picks

Charli Collier may not be the most hyped-up No. 1 pick, but she is a great player. She had her breakout college season as a sophomore and people knew she was going to be special after that. Her 3-point shot, which she went away from a little bit as a junior, was impressive as a sophomore and she has great inside moves and toughness to complement it. At the same height as Elena Delle Donne (6’5”), she’s not as good at putting the ball on the floor and driving, but could improve in that area.

Awak Kuier does have that skill and should complement Collier’s inside game. Kuier can also shoot the three and dunk and has a style of play reminiscent of the NBA’s Kevin Durant. A lot of people are excited about what she could do in the WNBA and, could she maybe have more of an upside than Collier? The Wings have both of them so they don’t have to worry about that.

Dallas got Chelsea Dungee at No. 5 and, while she was projected to go at No. 10, she is certainly a great talent who was one of the best college players in the nation. Every team could use another scorer if they’re not trying to fill a specific need in the draft and the Wings were done filling their frontcourt needs after drafting Collier and Kuier. Dungee’s ability to get to the charity stripe and knock down free throws at a prolific rate sets her apart. The Wings will take the freebies.

Finally, Dana Evans was a steal at No. 13. She can put points on the board in a hurry like Dungee and improved as a distributor throughout college. She also had some signature clutch moments at Louisville.

With this quartet of draft picks, Dallas may be underrated. In the WNBA we have seen rookies make big impacts in the past. Caution would advise waiting another year or two to call the Wings a good team, but their ceiling for 2021 if these rookies live up to their upsides is high.

Almost made playoffs last year

In addition to the rookies, the Wings have reigning scoring champ and All-WNBA First Team member Arike Ogunbowale, who nearly led the team to the playoffs last year. Dallas’ best win in 2020 came over a Phoenix Mercury team that still had Brittney Griner, who scored 29 points in the contest. Ogunbowale had 33. The Wings also swept the eventual No. 8 seed Washington Mystics and were a game and a half ahead of them after the second win before losing their next two. Washington won four straight to close out the regular season and steal the final playoff spot.

Dallas Wings v New York Liberty
Arike Ogunbowale (with ball)
Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

In addition to Ogunbowale, the Wings return Satou Sabally, who was the No. 2 pick in the 2020 draft and is expected to take a big leap in 2021. Add Moriah Jefferson, Allisha Gray, Isabelle Harrison, Kayla Thornton and Marina Mabrey into the mix and you get a pretty good Dallas team even without the draft picks. Mabrey stepped up big-time last year when the Wings needed her to, so don't overlook what she can contribute.

Potential problems for the Wings

Lack of experience

Though the Wings have a lot of potential, they lack experience. Last year they were an even younger team than the New York Liberty, which had seven rookies. Thornton is the oldest player on the team at age 28; she’s been in the league for five years. Jefferson and Harrison are both 27.

Dallas Wings v Washington Mystics
Kayla Thornton (second from the right) is surrounded by a lot of youth.
Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dream have Tiffany Hayes, the Sky have Candace Parker, Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot, the Sun have Briann January and DeWanna Bonner, the Fever have Jessica Breland and Jantel Lavender, the Aces have Angel McCoughtry, the Sparks have Kristi Toliver, the Lynx have Sylvia Fowles, the Mercury have Diana Taurasi, the Storm have Sue Bird, Candice Dupree and Epiphanny Prince and the Mystics have Leilani Mitchell, Tina Charles and Elena Delle Donne, all of whom are key contributors who are 31 or older.

That just leaves the Liberty, who have gotten a bit older this year with the addition of Natasha Howard. Now they have two 29-year-olds in her and Layshia Clarendon.

So Dallas is lagging behind every WNBA team. Can Thornton, Jefferson and Harrison find a way to lead the team through the trials and tribulations of a 2021 WNBA season where you have to bring it every night because there are so many elite teams?

Low shooting percentages

The Wings had the second-lowest field goal percentage in the league last year at 41.5 and were 10th in the league in 3-point percentage at 32.3. They took even more threes (27.6 per game) than the trigger-happy Liberty. If they are going to take that many threes again they are going to want to shoot a better percentage.

Ogunbowale led the team with 6.5 trey attempts per contest and shot a decent 33.6 percent, but perhaps not a high enough percentage to justify the number of attempts. She is a much better 3-point shooter than that, though, shooting 35.2 percent as a rookie, 45.4 percent as a sophomore at Notre Dame and 39.3 percent for her college career. She’ll need to get back to those higher percentages if Dallas is to have more team success.

Mabrey took the second-most amount of threes and led the team at a 41.8 percent clip, but the Wings were hurt by Sabally’s 19.7-percent performance, which came with 4.1 attempts per game. Sabally, like Ogunbowale, has put up much better numbers in the past, so there is hope of improvement.

Playoff prospects

The Wings have to compete with-much improved teams in New York and Atlanta as well has LA and Connecticut. We had them at No. 11 in our power rankings but it is really close between them and some of the teams right above them. As mentioned above, their rookies are major wild cards and the ceiling could be high for this Dallas team. Climbing up to No. 8 might not be out of the question.