The Seattle Storm have only known four seasons without Sue Bird, and really only two when she wasn’t on their minds at all because she had yet to join the team.
Bird retired after last season’s semifinal exit, leaving behind a legacy as the greatest point guard in WNBA history and the heartbeat of Seattle sports.
Gone too is Breanna Stewart, who chose not to leave while Bird was still around, allowing the duo one more ride together. Now Stewart, the best player on the planet, is a member of the New York Liberty. She brought the city of Seattle two championships; Bird of course brought it four.
The Storm came in second place out of 23 teams in our all-time WNBA standings, behind only the Houston Comets dynasty that dominated the first four years of the league’s history. The Storm along with the Minnesota Lynx are the proudest of the remaining franchises. That cannot be denied. But now they enter into uncertain times. No more is the era of the big three. Instead, it’s the era of the Gold Mamba.
Jewell Loyd was always the Robin and everyone wondered if someone with her level of talent secretly wanted to see if she could be a Batman. Did she dream of not just the best player on a WNBA team, which she has already been capable of being and now is, but the best player on a championship team?
Well, even Stewie didn’t win it all on her own. She had Loyd. So who is Loyd’s Robin?
Perhaps she doesn’t have one at the moment, though that is no disrespect to the rest of the Storm’s roster. Mercedes Russell, Ezi Magbegor, Kia Nurse and Sami Whitcomb are all good players. But because the Storm don’t have a second superstar, you can understand why they are No. 11 in ESPN’s preseason power rankings. (Swish Appeal power rankings are coming out on Friday!)
Let’s take a look at those four other high-impact players who are expected to give Loyd some support.
Russell missed all but five games last year with recurring headaches. This after she signed a three-year deal at $160,000 and was expected to be a rising star at center. At 6-foot-6, she is the same height as Sylvia Fowles and Jonquel Jones. Six-foot-five and 6-foot-4 are decent heights for a WNBA center. Once you get to 6-foot-6, you become a problem based on your height alone, though you’re still not as tall as Teaira McCowan or Brittney Griner. Russell was a starter in both 2019 and 2021, putting in solid work (north of seven points and six rebounds per game both seasons).
Magbegor is also a rising star for the Storm and also a center. She is just 23 years old, four years younger than Russell. She was a reserved player this offseason and the Storm elected to pay her $159,650. She is still so young, so most would say she has the potential to become much better. And she already has a better career-high scoring average than Russell with 9.5 points per game being her mark last year. She is also a potential future Defensive Player of the Year.
Nurse is the only former All-Star of this group of four players backing up Loyd (Loyd herself has been to four All-Star Games) and the Storm need her to get back to her All-Star ways. Nurse is still just 27; she went to the All-Star Game in her second year in the league, 2019, a season in which she averaged 13.7 points and 2.3 assists. The following year, she saw her 3-point percentage drop from 35.3 to 23.8 with both percentages coming on quite a few attempts per game. Nurse bumped her long-distance clip back up to 35.3 in 2021 in her one season playing for the Mercury after three in New York. The Storm are hoping to get a sharpshooting Nurse who can average even more than 13.7 points. She missed all of last season with a torn ACL and was signed by Seattle this offseason at $142,500.
We conclude with Whitcomb, who is back in Seattle, where she won two championships, after two years in New York. At age 34, she is starting to move past her prime, but her best play has come of late, particularly in 2021 when she nearly made the All-Star Game and finished the season with 11 points, five rebounds and 2.7 assists per game and a 3-point shooting percentage of 42.5 with 76 makes. She is a flat-out sharpshooter with beautiful form and a career 3-point percentage of 36.8. Storm fans will certainly be excited to have her back.
The Storm also got a draft steal when they took Jordan Horston out of Tennessee at No. 9. Horston will look to fill Bird’s shoes at point guard. She’s tall (6-foot-2), so she can stuff the stat sheet with rebounds, not just assists.
Loyd is going to have a chip on her shoulder knowing her team is being looked down on. She has a history of being clutch and is still one of the best closers in the league, though the best is now Chelsea Gray after her incredible postseason run last year. We’ll see if Loyd and these other pieces can make some magic happen in the fourth quarters of close games.