Lots more picks today, so let’s get going.
Coach of the Year
Well they gave it to Brian Agler last year, which probably means he’d have to go 34-0 to win it again this season. The last person to retain this award was Van Chancellor, which should tell you something. It usually comes down to who can push their team to exceed expectations, whatever the reason behind that success, which makes me lean towards Cheryl Reeve in Minnesota. Whether you think she’s a good coach or not, that roster should finally make the playoffs, which will likely draw the attention of the voters. Pokey Chatman would have a chance if she could achieve something similar in Chicago, but that seems less likely due to the holes on her roster. After that, it comes down to which teams you think might win a whole lot of games. Although if John Whisenant can take the Liberty back to the playoffs after losing his two starting posts for nothing, he should probably be in the discussion as well.
CotY Pick: Cheryl Reeve
Backup pick, if I were allowed: Whisenant
Cheeky left-field pick: Jellybean Bryant, after Gillom gets the boot in LA
Most Improved Player of the Year
I say it every year – predicting this award is a complete crapshoot. Someone in their second season in the WNBA is usually a decent bet, now that the ‘someone who got the hell out of Charlotte’ rule has broken down (the Sting have sadly been gone too long). The problem is that the 2010 draft was so thin that there aren’t many options. Tina Charles was too good already as a rookie, and Monica Wright probably won’t play enough minutes this year to illustrate improvement. Appel’s already injured again, which leaves us with Kelsey Griffin and Epiphanny Prince. Spending most of her minutes as a power forward instead of at the 3 should help Griffin feel more comfortable, but a healthier Asjha Jones might limit her time on the floor. So I’ll take Prince, who apparently isn’t going to EuroBasket with Russia, and has Jia Perkins out of her way in Chicago. She’ll get lots of minutes, lots of shots, and with Vandersloot in town she won’t even have to play much point guard.
Other players who might have an extra chance to shine this year include Kia Vaughn in New York, and whoever ends up with most of the point guard minutes in Indiana. Whether that includes anyone who’s good enough to earn the award, however, is open to question. Plus, remember: crapshoot.
MIPotY Pick: Epiphanny Prince
Backup picks, if I were allowed: Griffin, Vaughn
Well I said it was a crapshoot pick: Marion Jones (stranger things have happened, right?)
Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award
Who the hell knows?
KPSA Pick: Taj McWilliams-Franklin, because everyone loves Mama Taj
Backup Pick, if I were allowed: Sheryl Swoopes, as a re-retirement present
Comedy Pick: DeLisha Milton-Jones. Apparently she’s really nice, off the court.
All-WNBA First Team
All-WNBA Second Team
(apologies to the likes of Langhorne, Taylor and Charles)
All-Defensive First Team
All-Defensive Second Team
(yeah, slight fudging with the positions. In both teams. Sue me)
All-WNBA Rookie Team
(and don’t forget that Jenna O’Hea counts as a rookie in LA, so she might sneak in here too)
Regular Season Predictions
1. Indiana Fever – not great, but still very good, and I’m not convinced by a lot of their competition.
2. Atlanta Dream – McCoughtry hurt to start, plus fitting in Harding, plus losing Lyttle midseason. Knocks them barely down to second, which shows how good they can be.
3. Connecticut Sun – a developing Charles, a healthy Jones, and some weakened competition pushes them into the playoffs.
4. New York Liberty – Cappie and Whiz’s system keeps them in the postseason.
5. Chicago Sky – yet another year of futility due to youth and holes.
6. Washington Mystics – proved me wrong last year, but I’ve got them back here again. Lang and Nicky down low isn’t enough when there’s so little on the outside.
1. Seattle Storm – much as I worry about their health, I can’t find anyone I want to move up.
2. Minnesota Lynx – stupidly high for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in eons, but again – who else?
3. Los Angeles Sparks – Parker’s really that good.
4. Phoenix Mercury – if they barely sneak in here, does Gaines stay employed?
5. San Antonio Silver Stars – Becky, Sophia, and no rebounding whatsoever. Good luck, Mr. Hughes.
6. Tulsa Shock – if you can find anywhere to gamble on this, bet the house.
Indiana 2-1 New York: Cappie and the white-line not enough
Atlanta 2-1 Connecticut: Dream just have too many weapons
Seattle 2-0 Phoenix: Assuming the Storm are mostly healthy, we’ve seen this story before
Minnesota 1-2 Los Angeles: Upset. Sometimes youth has to learn some lessons
Indiana 2-1 Atlanta: Partly because I can’t be so boring as to predict a repeat, partly because Catch must be ready to shank someone for a ring by now. And, say it with me everyone – I still don’t trust Meadors.
Seattle 2-0 Los Angeles: Parker not enough of a difference to bridge the chasm we saw last year. Y’know, if Seattle are healthy.
Seattle 3-2 Indiana: Sorry Tamika. Just don’t think you’ve quite got the help.
In other news…
Tulsa’s Amber Holt broke her thumb, and is reportedly out for 4-6 weeks. According to the Tulsa World they’ll be starting Swoopes in her place, despite Sheryl not even playing in Tuesday night’s game. It’s not like they’ve got many alternatives when Andrea Riley and Marion Jones were the other ones on the possibles list (yikes).
Meanwhile, with Alana Beard still suffering from her ankle sprain, Ta’Shia Phillips suffering her own ankle injury in practice on Tuesday, and Monique Currie still un-waived despite being out for the season, the Mystics fell below the nine-player minimum and became eligible for an emergency replacement player. They signed Kerri Gardin to fill that hole earlier today, and she should be in uniform for tonight’s game against Atlanta. Adds a vet to their three-rookie bench at least, but replacement players are never all that useful. They have to waive her as soon as either Beard or Phillips is ready to play.
Washington @ Atlanta, 7pm ET, live on ESPN2
Minnesota @ Seattle, 10pm ET