Stop us if you’ve heard this before: Arike Ogunbowale has been balling out for the Dallas Wings.
In her fifth year with the Wings, Ogunbowale has started the 2023 WNBA season on an absolute tear, leading the league in scoring through the first week of the season at 26.5 points per game. According to Across the Timeline, Ogunbowale has scored 20 or more points in 58 percent of the games she’s played in her WNBA career, so it’s not exactly a surprise that she’s once again carrying the offensive load for Dallas; it has, however, been particularly crucial for the Wings, who have started the season 2-0 (wins over the Atlanta Dream and Seattle Storm) despite missing several key pieces.
Diamond DeShields, who was set to play a significant role for the Wings after the team acquired her via trade this past offseason, is out indefinitely due to a knee injury, while first-round draft pick Lou Lopez Sénéchal will also be shelved for at least six weeks after undergoing a knee procedure. These absences have greatly limited the Wings’ options on the perimeter and forced Ogunbowale into even heavier playing time: She’s played 78 out of a possible 80 total minutes thus far.
Fortunately for the Wings, Ogunbowale is well-equipped for the challenge. According to Basketball Reference, she ranked no lower than No. 3 in the WNBA in usage percent in each of her first four seasons, and while that tended to yield mixed team-level results in the past, Ogunbowale’s high-volume shooting has been relatively efficient (53.5 percent true shooting percentage) thus far in 2023, and Dallas will certainly take a 2-0 record considering the circumstances.
Satou Sabally has also gotten off to a hot start, averaging 21 points, 8.5 rebounds and four assists in two games. The forward’s versatility has already paid dividends, allowing her to play both the small forward position in DeShields’ absence and the power forward position in smaller lineups. Those smaller lineups have become a necessity for the Wings, with center Teaira McCowan exiting the team’s season opener early with a knee injury and missing its following game altogether.
We don’t yet know what McCowan’s status is long-term — as of Saturday, she was listed as questionable on the team’s injury report — but the sooner the Wings can get her back, the better. Natasha Howard has been holding down the fort at center for the time being, most recently recording five steals and four blocks in the Wings’ win over Seattle, but is shooting 36.8 percent from the field. McCowan’s paint presence and offensive rebounding prowess (career 16.7 percent offensive rebounding percentage) are irreplaceable, and her ability to dominate the game in those areas is why the Wings signed her to a multi-year contract last offseason.