Since our last update, the Atlanta Dream (2-4) turned in a resilient 92-87 losing effort against the Las Vegas Aces before, one week later, falling 106-83 to the New York Liberty under a flurry of fouls and threes.
Between these two games, Atlanta learned they lost starting point guard Aari McDonald for the next three to four weeks due to a torn labrum. With Danielle Robinson already sidelined until after the All-Star break due to a knee injury and subsequent procedure, the Dream are down their two primary point guards, shifting more ball-handling responsibilities to Allisha Gray, Rhyne Howard and Haley Jones.
Things do not get easier for the Dream in the coming days, as they close out the home stand against the Connecticut Sun on Sunday (4 p.m. ET, ESPN 3) before a rematch with the Liberty in Brooklyn on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET, CBS Sports) and a trip to Connecticut to again take on the Sun on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, Amazon Prime Video). Yikes!
However, let’s take this opportunity for some optimism by evaluating the All-Star cases for Allisha Gray, Cheyenne Parker and Rhyne Howard. WNBA All-Star voting began June 7 and continues through June 21. Fans will select the 10 starters before head coaches name the 12 reserves. Based on their play so far, should Dream fans expect Gray, Parker and/or Howard to be among this exclusive group of 22?
ALL STAR VOTING HAS OFFICIALLY STARTED!— Atlanta Dream (@AtlantaDream) June 7, 2023
From the city where the players play…to up in lights for the world to see.
Atlanta, we can make this dream happen & bring our stars to the WNBA's biggest stage.
Click the link below to vote for your favorite Dream player!
Upon arriving in Atlanta, Allisha Gray was insistent about her All-Star ambitions, saying at her first training camp media availability, “I definitely want to be an All-Star this year. I feel like last year I should have been an All-Star. I was right on the cusp of it.”
Through the season’s first six games, her play has pushed her over the All-Star edge. Gray is tallying career highs across the board, with 16.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Among all guards, she ranks sixth in points (tied with teammate Rhyne Howard) and third in rebounds per game.
Despite increased usage, Gray has maintained her efficiency. Her true shooting percentage of 57.4 ranks fourth among high-usage (greater than 20 percent) guards. She also has upped her aggressiveness, attacking the basket to earn 4.5 free throws, 7.7 points in the paint and 2.3 second-chance points per game, all of which are career highs. For guards, these marks place her fourth, second and sixth, respectively. Even with greater offensive responsibility, Gray has not slipped on defense, continuing to take on tough perimeter assignments with persistence.
In short, Gray has compiled an All-Star-caliber resume. As long as she keeps it up, she should easily attain her personal preseason goal.
Along with Gray, Cheyenne Parker’s name should appear on any list of the best WNBA players to never make an All-Star team.
Over the course of her nine-year career, Parker has steadily improved, culminating with her performance in her third season in Atlanta, where the combination of her firey persona and consistent production has been essential for the Dream.
Parker is posting career highs of 16.3 points and 7.5 boards per game. Although categorized as forward, she starts at center for the Dream, meaning she primarily is battling with bigger foes as she snags rebounds at a Top 10 rate on a per game basis. Her 3.3 offensive boards per game lead the league, helping her register a career-best 3.8 second-chance points per game, which is the fourth-highest mark in the W. Like Gray, Parker has maintained above-average efficiency despite a career-high usage percentage.
After Atlanta’s win over the Chicago Sky, teammates Nia Coffey and Haley Jones showered Parker with praise from the podium. Coffey noted that, “Every time we get her the ball, great things happen,” calling her a “huge threat” and “unstoppable.” Jones echoed these assessments, asserting, “CP is a beast offensively and defensively.”
Will fans and opposing coaches agree and give Parker a well-earned first All-Star nod?
Compared to her teammates, Rhyne Howard might have an easier time securing a second-straight All-Star bid. Or, she could be facing a taller task.
On one hand, her previous All-Star selection almost automatically inserts Howard into the All-Star conversation, with fans and coaches likely associating her with an “All-Star” aura. On the other hand, making the All-Star team as rookie raises expectations, requiring Howard to improve upon her own high standard to again earn the league-wide honor.
So far, the numbers she has tallied during sophomore season slightly improve upon those of her debut W season. Per game, her scoring and rebounding has inched up, from 16.2 to 16.8 points and from 4.5 to 4.7 boards. While her assist number remains even at 2.8, she has halved her turnovers to 0.8 per game. With Gray now in Atlanta, her usage percentage has dropped by just over two percentage points, with this reduced offensive burdening helping her incrementally increase her effective and true shooting percentages.
A subpar free-throw percentage is the only blemish on a resume that — just last year — was considered All-Star caliber. She also has a ride requisite of an All-Star.
However, Howard, like Gray and Parker, is not competing for an All-Star spot against her past self but against a league packed with players worthy of a mid-July jaunt to Las Vegas. As an illustration of the depth of talent in the W, a full All-Star squad likely could be plucked from the rosters of the four teams — Chicago, Vegas, New York and Connecticut — that the Dream have hosted on this home stand.
Atlanta’s brutal schedule also may not do any favors for their aspiring All-Stars, as the Dream’s overall record dip further below .500. Conversely, rebounding from Friday night’s resounding defeat to battle when they meet the Liberty in Brooklyn on Tuesday, as well as in both games of their set against the Sun, could boost the All-Star profiles of Gray, Parker and Howard.