Last-Minute 2015 WNBA Predictions: Awards and Standings and Playoffs, Oh My!


Most Valuable Player


In trying to come up with a shortlist of MVP candidates, I only ended up with eight names that seemed plausible. Obviously injuries can push certain players to the fore, or take them out of the running entirely, but with so many players sitting out or taking time off this year it cuts down on the candidates. And if you think anyone on the rosters in Washington, Connecticut, Seattle or San Antonio have a realistic MVP shot then you’re more positive about their chances than I am.

That left me with, in alphabetical order, Tamika Catchings, Tina Charles, Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins, Brittney Griner, Angel McCoughtry, Maya Moore and Nneka Ogwumike. I don’t trust Catchings to stay healthy and play close enough to 34 games. It’s probably too soon for Diggins, plus the Shock may not be good enough (it takes something extraordinary to win an MVP on a poor, or even mediocre, team). Charles’s focus and intensity has been too inconsistent in recent years, although she should pile up raw stats this year in New York. Ogwumike may take a little time to settle in as a more central offensive figure in Los Angeles without Candace Parker around, and Parker’s possible return could affect her as well.

That leaves four. Moore will inevitably be a strong candidate again, and her history suggests breaking down due to injury is unlikely. Oddly, winning consecutive MVP awards is very rare in the WNBA – despite multiple multi-time winners, no one’s won two in a row since Cynthia Cooper in the league’s first two seasons. But breaking records and accomplishing unusual feats is nothing new for Moore. McCoughtry is apparently more settled and focussed this year, according to media reports, after talking openly about her sexuality. She should be as impressive as ever on the floor, although her base shooting percentages can count against her. Griner will be more in the spotlight than ever this season, with Diana Taurasi out of the picture and her marriage splashed across the news. Missing seven games due to suspension at the start of the season will make it difficult for her to win MVP though, even if she’s exceptional for the rest of the year. That’s 21% of the season she’s missing, right off the bat. Delle Donne will have to take on more of the load in Chicago this year with Sylvia Fowles out, and looks a strong contender – assuming she stays healthy. That has obviously been a significant concern in previous years.

So, boringly, I’ll take Maya Moore to repeat. Delle Donne second, McCoughtry third, for what that’s worth. It should be fun seeing them all fight it out.






Well I made most of the arguments for this in the MVP discussion above, so let’s just skip to the picks:


First Team

Skylar Diggins
Angel McCoughtry (yes, I fully expect them to fudge the positional requirements)
Maya Moore
Elena Delle Donne
Brittney Griner


Second Team

Lindsay Whalen
Seimone Augustus
Candice Dupree
Nneka Ogwumike
Tina Charles


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2015 WNBA Season Previews: Tulsa Shock


PG: Odyssey Sims/Brianna Kiesel

SG: Skylar Diggins/Riquna Williams

SF: Karima Christmas/Jordan Hooper

PF: Plenette Pierson/Tiffany Jackson-Jones/Vicki Baugh

C: Courtney Paris/Amanda Zahui B./Theresa Plaisance


Significant additions: Zahui B., Christmas, Pierson.

Significant losses: Glory Johnson, Roneeka Hodges, Jennifer Lacy




At one stage, this looked like a thoroughly positive offseason for the Tulsa Shock. They added two veteran campaigners who both know how to win and how to play hard-nosed defense in Karima Christmas and Plenette Pierson. They lucked into a much better player with the #2 draft pick than they expected, when both Jewell Loyd and Amanda Zahui B. unexpectedly declared. They had Skylar Diggins and Odyssey Sims returning as the most exciting young backcourt in the league, after a season spent working out how they fit together. Then they suddenly found themselves embroiled in yet another mess with one of their young post players. After all the time and energy they’ve wasted chasing after Elizabeth Cambage, this time it was Glory Johnson causing all the drama. First it was the arrest after her fight with then-fiancée Brittney Griner, which led to a seven-game suspension from the league. Then she couldn’t be bothered to show up for training camp on time (or even to call the team to let them know she’d be late). Over a week into camp she deigned to drive to Tulsa from halfway across the country – only to reveal that she’s pregnant the day before the regular season begins. A player who’d been a pleasant surprise for the Shock since they selected her 4th overall in 2012 now won’t play for them this season (maybe ever again), and it leaves a hole in a frontcourt that already had some issues. That wasn’t what they needed on the eve of a season where they’re hoping to finally make the leap into being a truly competitive team.


First the good news, which starts with the backcourt that has the potential to scare the hell out of opponents for years and years to come. Diggins improved dramatically in her second WNBA season, learning how to finish at the basket under pressure and playing a generally far more composed game. She could still improve significantly from outside, but the fact that there’s still so much room for growth only makes her scarier. Sims increasingly took over initiating the offense as last season progressed, taking some of the load off Diggins’s back, and she can be just as electric as a scorer. Very few teams have enough backcourt defenders to handle the pair of them. With Riquna Williams hopefully healthier this year to be the bench sparkplug behind them, and Jordan Hooper and Christmas both happy to fire away from outside when defenses forget about them, there’s plenty of scoring to come from Tulsa’s perimeter this year.


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2015 WNBA Season Previews: Seattle Storm


PG: Sue Bird/Renee Montgomery

SG: Jewell Loyd/Jazmine Davis

SF: Jenna O’Hea/Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis/Alysha Clark

PF: Crystal Langhorne/Ramu Tokashiki

C: Abby Bishop/Quanitra Hollingsworth/Vicky McIntyre

(Yes, I know Bishop’s not a center. Listing Langhorne there seemed equally ridiculous)


Significant additions: Loyd, Mosqueda-Lewis, Montgomery, Bishop, Tokashiki, maybe Hollingsworth.

Significant losses: Brian Agler, Tanisha Wright, Camille Little, Shekinna Stricklen, plus Noelle Quinn and Nicole Powell are gone too.




If the 12-22 season and the dip into the lottery for the first time since 2003 didn’t clue you in, the Seattle Storm’s offseason should’ve gotten the message across – it’s rebuilding time. There was a largely mutual parting of the ways with head coach Brian Agler, with assistant Jenny Boucek sliding over to take the helm of a new era in Seattle. They were given a significant boost when Jewell Loyd declared early for the draft, providing a much better return with the #1 overall pick than it looked like they’d be getting for most of the summer. With that and other pickups, the Storm at least look like they’ll be interesting in 2015, and when you’re trying to rebuild on the fly that’s about all you can ask for.


Sue Bird is still in town as the only holdover from the Storm’s championship teams. The prospect of ever seeing her running mate Lauren Jackson in a Storm jersey again diminishes every year, but Bird herself appears to be in better shape than she was last season, and will help Boucek mould this young squad. They added a backup for Bird in Renee Montgomery, who’ll have her inevitable bursts of scoring surrounded by a lot of misses and occasionally driving her coach crazy. Loyd should slide right into the starting spot vacated by Tanisha Wright, and can learn on the job. She’s a superb athlete who can create her own shot in a similar style to Deanna Nolan, although it may take her a little time to adapt to facing pro athletes who can stick with her and make her life difficult. At the other wing spots the Storm have plenty of shooting in the form of Jenna O’Hea and rookie Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who should help stretch the floor. Mosqueda-Lewis is going to have some trouble surviving defensively in the pros, but she can certainly shoot.


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2015 WNBA Season Previews: San Antonio Stars


PG: Danielle Robinson/Sydney Colson/Brittany Hrynko

SG: Kayla McBride/Jia Perkins

SF: Alex Montgomery

PF: Sophia Young-Malcolm/Dearica Hamby

C: Jayne Appel/Danielle Adams/Kayla Alexander


Significant additions: Hamby and Montgomery.

Significant losses: Becky Hammon, Shenise Johnson, what’s left of Shameka Christon (and Astou Ndour isn’t coming this year either).




The rebuilding process continues in San Antonio, but without a lot of additions this season. Leader and face of the franchise Becky Hammon is now gone, spending her time coaching San Antonio’s men’s team rather than playing for the women’s. The Sophia Young-Malcolm that we saw last year was a shadow of her former self as she attempted to return from her serious knee injury. So it’s up to the youngsters to step up. Danielle Robinson and Kayla McBride are a dynamic young backcourt, Danielle Adams can still produce points inside and out, and there are high hopes for first-round draft pick Dearica Hamby. But with Hammon gone, Dan Hughes is going to have a job on his hands moulding this group into a challenger in the tough Western Conference.


Even without Hammon’s talents, the Stars are a fun and exciting team on the perimeter. Robinson is lightning quick and has developed into a reliable mid-range shooter, while McBride settled in as her rookie season progressed and can light it up from outside. Jia Perkins re-signed and will be her usual spark-plug self off the bench. They added Alex Montgomery to help fill the small forward spot in a trade with New York, and while she won’t excite anyone she can hit an open jumper and she has the length to fit in nicely on the defensive end. Robinson shouldn’t be forced to guard too many players at least six inches taller than her any more.


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2015 WNBA Season Previews: Phoenix Mercury


PG: Leilani Mitchell/Tiffany Bias

SG: Monique Currie/Noelle Quinn/Tess Madgen/(Marta Xargay)

SF: DeWanna Bonner/Shameka Christon/Alex Harden

PF: Candice Dupree/Mistie Bass

C: Brittney Griner/Cayla Francis


Significant additions: Mitchell, Currie, Quinn and Christon if you want to be generous over ‘significant’. Maybe Xargay once she arrives.

Significant losses: Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor, Erin Phillips, Griner for seven games, and the Shay Murphy/Anete Jekabsone-Zogota/Ewelina Kobryn group from the end of the bench are all gone too.




Most teams, when they win a championship, try to bring back as much of that team as possible for another run the next year. Unfortunately for Phoenix, Diana Taurasi announcing that she was skipping the 2015 WNBA season in order to make significantly more money overseas put a big dent in that idea. Penny Taylor has also played a key role in every Mercury championship team, and will also be missing this season. So this squad was already going to look very different in 2015. Then came the arrests for Brittney Griner and her wife Glory Johnson, which led to a seven-game league suspension that she is presumably going to serve to start the season (although the possibility of an appeal still seems to be floating around). It’s not been the offseason the Mercury would’ve wanted after all their success in 2014, but there’s still enough pieces in Phoenix for them to be a dangerous team – just not as dangerous as last year.


At the center, quite literally, of their chances in 2015, is Griner. While Taurasi made their offense tick last season and they’ll miss the playmaking and shooting of both her and Taylor, the major improvement that Phoenix made in their championship year was on the defensive end. They went from a team that had been a defensive disaster for years under Corey Gaines to the best defense in the league under Sandy Brondello, with Griner’s size and threat in the middle the key element. While they’ll lose some of the chemistry that’s always important to building a team defense with Taurasi and Taylor out, neither of those two are exactly known for their defensive skills, so player-for-player there shouldn’t be much drop-off. They added veterans like Monique Currie, Noelle Quinn and even Shameka Christon in the offseason, all perimeter players will some size and length who can switch constantly just like they did for much of last season. While Griner is suspended they could look pretty awful, but once she’s back there’s every reason to believe that they can be one of the best defensive teams in the league once again.


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2015 WNBA Season Previews: Minnesota Lynx


PG: Lindsay Whalen/(Anna Cruz)/Jennifer O’Neill

SG: Seimone Augustus/Monica Wright

SF: Maya Moore/Tricia Liston

PF: Rebekkah Brunson/Devereaux Peters/Reshanda Gray

C: Asjha Jones/Damiris Dantas


Significant additions: Hopefully Jones and Cruz, maybe eventually Gray.

Significant losses: Janel McCarville, Tan White.




Until late in the offseason, Minnesota were quietly going about their business, becoming most people’s favourites for the 2015 championship by virtue of not losing any key pieces, unlike their usual rivals. Then they joined in with some of the league-wide melodrama. Janel McCarville informed them that she wouldn’t be playing in 2015, which left a hole in the post that was swiftly papered over with the acquisition of Asjha Jones from Connecticut (although exactly how much they’ll get from Jones remains to be seen). Meanwhile the Sylvia Fowles mess in Chicago tangentially touched on the Lynx when it emerged that Minnesota was her preferred destination, which could’ve led to a shake-up on the roster. But no Fowles trade materialised, so the core of this team remains the same, and as threatening as ever. They have a few things to work out down low, but with a perimeter like theirs they’ll still win plenty of games while figuring out the answers.


While some are starting to whisper about the age of the Lynx core, there’s no reason to expect their performance to fall off a cliff any time soon. And with 2014 MVP Maya Moore in her prime – or arguably still improving – the vets have a pretty useful youngster to help carry them along. The shooting and all-around scoring ability of Moore and Seimone Augustus, combined with the drive and leadership of Lindsay Whalen at the point, continues to be the heart of this Lynx team. They could never quite seem to get fully healthy last year, which eventually cost them against a squad as strong as Phoenix, but if they’re in one piece come playoff time they’ll score on anyone. Cheryl Reeve does a nice job organising her team and placing them in a position to succeed, but she’d be the first to admit that a lot of it comes down to pure talent. The Whalen/Augustus/Moore group is likely the best perimeter trio the WNBA has ever seen.


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2015 WNBA Season Previews: Los Angeles Sparks


PG: Erin Phillips/Temeka Johnson

SG: Kristi Toliver/Andrea Hoover/Ana Dabovic

SF: Alana Beard/Jennifer Lacy/Farhiya Abdi

PF: Nneka Ogwumike/(Candace Parker)

C: Jantel Lavender/Marianna Tolo/Jennifer Hamson


Significant additions: Phillips, Johnson, Tolo, maybe Hamson, Lacy, and/or Dabovic, and definitely new head coach Brian Agler.

Significant losses: Candace Parker for an unknown period of time, Toliver for a more known period of time, Armintie Herrington, Lindsey Harding, Sandrine Gruda, Candice Wiggins, and the elite coaching skills of Penny Toler.




Our first Western Conference team leads us right back into what sadly became one of the main themes of the WNBA offseason – players missing time. Diana Taurasi drew most of the initial attention by announcing she was skipping the 2015 season entirely, before LA’s Candace Parker semi-followed suit. Parker is sitting out to start the season, and hasn’t set any particular date to return. The Sparks say they’re expecting her to join them at some point, but don’t know when that might be. So for now, new head coach Brian Agler has to work with what he’s got – and that’s still a pretty talented group. In fact in some ways, while he’d obviously like to add a superstar like Parker into the mix, it might be easier for Agler to put his imprint on this team without her around. They’ll be smart and organised, and getting everyone to collectively buy in to his defensive schemes could be smoother without a star who can often be sleepy on that end of the floor. What this team is going to look like this year is one of the more interesting WNBA sub-plots heading into the season.


Between the players that were already there and those that Agler and general manager Penny Toler have added, this is a veteran squad with a big front line. They’ve had problems in the past working out how to mesh Parker, Nneka Ogwumike and Jantel Lavender, either platooning them or being forced to figure out how to play with one of them at small forward. Parker sitting out seemed to simplify that, except that a lot of their depth is still on the interior. Marianna Tolo is technically a WNBA rookie, but the Aussie post has plenty of international experience and should be ready to contribute right away. Jennifer Hamson missed the 2014 season to stay in school and play volleyball, but could also be a defensive presence in the paint even as a rookie. Even veteran forward Jennifer Lacy may be a more natural fit at the 4 rather than the 3. So in preseason we’ve seen Ogwumike playing plenty of small forward in big lineups. She has some range and the mobility to defend players at that spot, but it could take away from her impact as an interior scorer and rebounder. The opening weeks of the season will see Agler playing with lineups while he tries to figure out what works.


Part of the reason that Agler’s been shifting Ogwumike around is that this team isn’t remotely deep any more. Outside of Parker, they didn’t lose anyone you’d call a star in the offseason, but they lost enough pieces that the roster looks distinctly thinner – especially while Kristi Toliver’s in Europe representing Slovakia at EuroBasket Women 2015 for the opening month of the season. Alana Beard is back, and will once again be forced to play plenty of small forward unless Farhiya Abdi has finally become the player the Sparks have been waiting on for a couple of years (and she hasn’t shown many signs of that progress in the past). They’ll also be hoping that when Toliver returns she’s closer to the mercurial but explosive scorer from previous years, rather than the miserable and passive player that came back from Europe last season.

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