Only a third of the WNBA teams have winning records right now. Here’s a look at those four teams and what they need to do in the second half of the season in order to win it all.
Get more scoring from supporting cast
The Storm’s big three has carried them this season and the team is second in the league in scoring at 86.4 points per game. It’s hard to criticize that success, but Seattle could be even better if the supporting cast got more involved. Right now, Breanna Stewart is averaging 20.6 points per game, Jewell Loyd is averaging 17.5 and Sue Bird is averaging 10.9. Everyone else on the team is averaging less than seven, with Katie Lou Samuelson’s 6.9 points per game standing in fourth. Samuelson has yet to put up big scoring numbers as a WNBA player, but she was brought in in place of the No. 1 overall pick for a reason. She was a No. 4 overall pick and, as a 6-foot-3 wing who can shoot and drive, she has a dangerous offensive repertoire. To deal with the Aces, who have more than a big three and really a big seven of stars, the Storm will need Samuelson, Mercedes Russell, Jordin Canada and others to step up.
Use both Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd as closers
The Storm have two closers in Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd. They can’t worry about which one takes the final shot and should draw up plays for Loyd in the closing moments of close playoff games at least some of the time if not most of the time depending on what the situation calls for. In the NBA, everyone would be putting pressure on Stewart to be the one taking the final shot in order to achieve GOAT status. The narrative of some is that LeBron James can’t be considered better than Michael Jordan if he’s not the best player on his team for six championships and the one taking the final shots in all six Finals. We know Stewart is the best player on the Storm, but she may not be the one taking the final shots. The Storm can’t worry about helping Stewart achieve GOAT status; they need to focus on winning. And they have already won two championships with Stewart and Loyd playing together. But the only close game from those two sweeps was Game 2 in 2018 when the Storm defeated the Mystics 75-73. Stewart scored six of Seattle’s final seven points in that game with the final point being an Alysha Clark free throw with one second left that didn’t affect what Washington did with the final second: a two-thirds court shot by Ariel Atkins. But Loyd has gotten even better since then and even more clutch. So she needs to share the closer role with Stewart, a role that may be more important this time around with the Aces being so loaded and the Storm not being the clear-cut best team. And Stewart isn’t going to face as much scrutiny as LeBron James and shouldn’t because being the GOAT is about playing your role, whatever that may be, to help your team win a championship.
Las Vegas Aces
Continue playing through A’ja Wilson
Wilson may not be as physically imposing as 6-foot-8 Liz Cambage or 6-foot-9 Brittney Griner, but is truly special for her height (6’4”). She is one of the best inside scorers in the game and arguably the best mid-range shooter in the game (certainly the best post mid-range shooter). So even with Cambage being on her team, the Aces offense has to run through her. Cambage herself called Wilson the best player in the WNBA at Aces media day for a reason. Vegas is A’ja’s team and even with so many other stars on the roster, it would be wise to continue playing through A’ja. Cambage, Chelsea Gray and others will still have their moments.
Liz Cambage backs her teammate at Aces media day, saying A'ja Wilson is the best player in the #WNBA in her opinion.— Zack Ward (@Zack_L_Ward) May 3, 2021
Be efficient from 3-point range
The Aces are known for not taking a lot of threes. They were comfortably last in 3-point attempts per game last year with 11.5 and still scored the most points in the league and made it to the Finals. This year, they are taking slightly more threes (13.8 per game), though that is still last in the WNBA. They are shooting 36.2 percent from distance compared to 36.8 percent last year. 36.2 is still good and it’s second in the league behind the Storm. The Aces need to continue to shoot well from beyond the arc when they do shoot from out there because the three ball is such a crucial part of today’s game and they need to keep up with the other teams, who are going to be making a lot more attempts.
Remain confident in their big three, especially Jonquel Jones
Let’s not overreact to Connecticut’s blowout loss to the Storm in the Commissioner’s Cup championship game. The Sun can still win the title this year and one of the reasons they can is because they are not just scrappy anymore; they are confident. And they should be, especially if they can get a top two seed, which is still very possible, because that would advance them straight to the semifinals and put them in a really good position. Jonquel Jones is a superstar who put up amazing numbers in the 2019 Finals. Her confidence is sky high right now and with the help of DeWanna Bonner and Brionna Jones, who are also confident, the Sun could challenge Seattle and Vegas.
Have Natisha Hiedeman be an X factor
The Sun’s supporting cast, like that of the Storm, has been a point of concern and criticism at times this season. However, they do have four players who average in double figures compared to the Storm’s three and Hiedeman is the fifth-leading scorer at 8.2 points per game. Hiedeman is capable of having really big scoring nights and can break a defense’s back with her timely threes. Her toughness inspires her teammates and is really a key X factor for the Sun. She has fought hard for a spot in the league and her fearlessness provokes fear in opponents.
This list wouldn’t be complete without the Lynx, who can truly be a title contender, especially if they get Aerial Powers back from a thumb injury. Natalie Achonwa has also been out (knee), but played in the Olympics for Canada and will be back for the Lynx. According to a report from Kent Youngblood of The Star Tribune on Monday, Powers is “still a ways away from returning.” Achonwa is not a star, but is a solid contributor and will definitely make Minnesota better. Powers on the other hand is a star and we don’t really know exactly how good she can be. She could be a big star. Her, Kayla McBride, Crystal Dangerfield and Damiris Dantas are all a tier below Napheesa Collier and Sylvia Fowles, but could be the difference in getting the team’s talent level closer to that of Seattle and Vegas.
Have Sylvia Fowles play at the high end of what she is capable of
Collier and Fowles put on a gutsy performance against the Aces in a 90-89 overtime win on June 25, convincing many that the Lynx are for real. Collier is young and on the rise. Fowles is aging, so we’ll see if she can keep putting up monster stat lines in the second half of the season. The Lynx need her to if they are to compete with Seattle, Vegas and Connecticut.