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WNBA Six Pack: What if Deanna Nolan was doing damage for Dallas? How about Elena Baranova draining 3s for the Aces?

Ahead of this weekend’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony, let’s turn to the WNBA’s past to think about the present, selecting a former player who could enhance the current version of the team for which she once played.

Los Angeles Sparks vs Detriot Shock
Imagine Deanna Nolan on this season’s Dallas Wings.
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

History is top of mind in the WNBA of late.

Last week, Diana Taurasi passed 10,000 career points. This weekend, Becky Hammon will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Let’s extend this reflective mindset to this week’s editions of “WNBA Six Pack,” selecting a player from each franchise’s past whose addition would enhance this season’s squad.

To make this exercise more interesting, players already in the Hall of Fame are ineligible. (Although, if the Hall of Fame selection standards used for men’s basketball players equitably were applied to women’s basketball players, a number of these players would be enshrined in Springfield.) Players who retired less than five seasons ago also have been withheld from consideration.

So we’re going for some deeper cuts, celebrating the skills of players who, although not (yet) in the Hall of Fame, were important contributors to the history of the WNBA.

We’ll begin alphabetically by city/state, covering Atlanta, Chicago, Connecticut, Dallas, Indiana and Las Vegas today.

Atlanta Dream (15-13): Erika de Souza

Atlanta Dream v Los Angeles Sparks
The Atlanta Dream’s Erika de Souza looks to deny the entry pass during a 2014 contest.
Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

The Dream have enjoyed a career season from Cheyenne Parker, who brings a relentlessness to the block on both ends on the floor. However, head coach Tanisha Wright has not settled on another, reliable interior option, with playing time fluctuating for Monique Billings, Naz Hillmon, Iliana Rupert and Laeticia Amihere.

Erika de Souza would give Atlanta a consistent physical presence to complement Parker. The Dream acquired de Souza in the 2008 expansion draft from the Connecticut Sun. The Brazilian, who, as 20-year-old in 2002, had a cup of coffee with the Los Angeles Sparks, would spend over seven season in Atlanta, earning three All-Star honors. She finished her 12-year WNBA career with a season and a half with the Chicago Sky and one season with the San Antonio Stars.

While playing de Souza with Parker could cramp Atlanta’s spacing in the half court, as de Souza rarely attempted a shot outside the paint, the duo would allow the Dream to absolutely dominate the offensive glass, creating a cascade of second-chance scoring opportunities.

Up next: Wednesday, Aug. 10 at Seattle Storm (10 p.m. ET, NBA TV); Saturday, Aug. 12 at Los Angeles Sparks (7:30 p.m. ET, League Pass); Sunday, Aug. 13 at Las Vegas Aces (9 p.m. ET, CBS Sports)

Chicago Sky (12-15): Armintie Herrington

Sacramento Monarchs v Chicago Sky
Arminite (Price) Herrington of the Chicago Sky doggedly defends an opponent in a 2007 game.
Photo by Warren Skalski/NBAE via Getty Images

As our Sky expert Zachary Draves has emphasized in his coverage of the team, Chicago has been at their best when they are turning defense into offense, disrupting passing lanes to snag steals that allow the likes of Kahleah Copper to streak down the floor for an easy score.

This approach would be even more effective for the Sky if they had Rebekah Gardner, who emerged as a high-energy defensive ace during her W debut last season but only has appeared in three games this season due to her recovery from foot surgery. Who could give Chicago what they’ve missed without Gardner? Let’s go with Armintie (Price) Herrington.

Selected No. 3 overall in the 2007 WNBA Draft by the Sky, Herrington, the 2007 Rookie of the Year, earned three All-Defensive honors over the course of her nine-year career. During her third W season, she was traded from Chicago to Atlanta. After four more seasons with the Dream, she closed out her career with a single-season stop with both the Los Angeles Sparks and Washington Mystics.

Herrington’s defensive impact was most demonstrated through her steals. Although she might not add much to the Chicago offense in the half court, her ability to pester opponents on the perimeter would augment the desired defense-to-offense attack of the Sky.

Up next: Tuesday, Aug. 8 vs. Minnesota Lynx (8 p.m. ET, NBA TV); Friday, Aug. 11 at New York Liberty (8 p.m. ET, ION); Sunday, Aug. 13 at Washington Mystics (3 p.m. ET, ESPN 3)

Connecticut Sun (20-7): Taj McWilliams-Franklin

Sun v Sparks
Taj McWilliams-Franklin goes to work in the post for the Connecticut Sun in 2004.
Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

In 2020, as part of SB Nation’s Underdogs series, I highlighted Taj McWilliams-Franklin, arguing she is the W’s “ultimate underdog.” A third-round selection in the 1999 WNBA Draft who would become a six-time All-Star, McWilliams-Franklin played eight seasons for the Orlando Miracle/Connecticut Sun. Among a few other stops, she would spend time with the Detroit Shock and Minnesota Lynx, winning a title with each franchise.

Her underdog spirit, certainly, would fit with the current Connecticut Sun, always fighting against the disrespeCT. But more critically, so would her skillset, helping Connecticut compensate for the injury-induced loss of Brionna Jones.

Frequently at the top of the league in rebounding in recent seasons, the Sun have slipped to the middle of the pack. The 6-foot-2 McWilliams-Franklin would restore Connecticut’s dominance of the glass. Currently, she ranks ninth in career rebounds, and a more impressive third in career offensive rebounds. She also was an efficient low-post scorer, giving the Sun another offensive dimension in the half court.

Up next: Tuesday, Aug. 8 at Seattle Storm (3 p.m. ET, NBA TV); Thursday, Aug. 10 at Phoenix Mercury (10 p.m. ET, Prime Video); Saturday, Aug. 12 at Dallas Wings (8 p.m. ET, League Pass)

Dallas Wings (15-13): Deanna Nolan

Mystics v Shock
Deanna Nolan races up the floor for Detroit Shock during a 2004 game.
Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images

This might be my favorite fit, and not just because Deanna Nolan starred for my beloved Georgia Lady Bulldogs of the early 2000s. Known by her nickname “Tweety,” Nolan spent all nine seasons of her WNBA career with the Detroit Shock (the grandmother of the Wings), earning four All-Star honors and the 2006 WNBA Finals MVP.

Recently, Nolan’s name has reappeared in relation to record-breaking performances from Satou Sabally and Arike Ogunbowale. First, in late July, Sabally became the first Shock/Wings player to register a triple-double since Nolan. Then, last week, Ogunbowale passed Nolan for most made 3s in Shock/Wings franchise history. But these records don’t fully capture why Tweety would be an amazing addition to today’s Wings.

It’s worth questioning whether or not Dallas is a legitimate contender. With Nolan, they would be! The quickness and skill of a Nolan-Ogunbowale backcourt would torture opponents. Combined with the Sabally and Natasha Howard, the Wings would claim the most athletic foursome in the league, if not WNBA history. Nolan also would play the kind of point-of-attack defense that head coach Latricia Trammell would love.

Take a look back at Nolan’s 2005 triple-double:

Up next: Tuesday, Aug. 8 vs. Las Vegas Aces (8 p.m. ET, CBS Sports); Saturday, Aug. 12 vs. Connecticut Sun (8 p.m. ET, League Pass)

Indiana Fever (7-21): Niele Ivey

Fever v Comets
Niele Ivey runs point for the Indiana Fever in 2004.
Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

Fans in Indy love to see the local gals succeed. And this season’s Fever squad, subject to the ups, downs and inconsistencies of a young team, could use extra leadership.

Enter Niele Ivey.

The current head coach of Notre Dame was drafted by the Fever in the second round of the 2001 WNBA Draft after helping lead the Fighting Irish to the 2001 NCAA national championship. During her playing career a Notre Dame, Ivey suffered tears to both ACLs, with these injuries ultimately limiting her time in the W. She spent four seasons with Indy before her career ended in 2005 after stints with the Detroit Shock and Phoenix Mercury.

However, as true, steady-handed point guard well practiced playing with a dominant big in Ruth Riley at Notre Dame, Ivey could organize the Indiana offense and more effectively enter the ball to Aliyah Boston.

Up next: Tuesday, Aug. 8 vs. Los Angeles Sparks (7 p.m. ET, League Pass); Sunday, Aug. 13 vs. New York Liberty (3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Las Vegas Aces (24-3): Elena Baranova

2001 WNBA All-Star Game
Elena Baranova, then with the Miami Sol, attempts a 3-pointer in the 2001 WNBA All-Star Game.
Photo by Fernando MedinaNBAE via Getty Images

When their 3-balls were failing to fall during Sunday’s demolition in Brooklyn, the Aces could have used Elena Baranova, who was allocated to the Utah Starzz (the grandmother of the Aces) at the WNBA’s outset in 1997.

A native of Russia, the 6-foot-5 Baranova was an ahead-of-her-time big during her seven seasons in the W. A 39 percent career 3-point shooter who twice finished in the top 10 3-pointers made, her floor spacing would further juice a Vegas attack that (usually) overflows with fire power. Baranova also would not weaken the Aces’ top-ranked defense, providing elite rim protection. In six of her seven seasons in the WNBA, she finished in the top 10 in total blocks, leading the league in 1997.

After playing three season with the Starzz, Baranova played one season with the Miami Sol, where she earned an All-Star nod. She then finished her WNBA career with three seasons for the New York Liberty.

Check out these bopping highlights of Baranova’s time with the Russian national team, which includes a swat of Lisa Leslie:

Up next: Tuesday, Aug. 8 at Dallas Wings (8 p.m. ET, CBS Sports); Friday, Aug. 11 vs. Washington Mystics (10 p.m. ET, ION); Sunday, Aug. 13 vs. Atlanta Dream (9 p.m. ET, CBS Sports)