Your WNBA Questions Answered, 06/14/2011

Thanks for the questions everyone submitted. This will be a recurring feature, so feel free to leave any more queries you have in the comments below or drop me a line via email or tweet.

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Q. How well would a team made entirely of top Europeans (i.e. Dumerc, Palau, Cohen, Jekabsone, Bibrzycka, Torrens, Viteckova, Gruda, Stepanova, Yilmaz, Verameyenka) fare in the WNBA? (Anon)

A. This question came from someone called Name, with the email address of randomletters@thatresembleemailaddress.com. I have an inkling that those might just be fake, but I like the question so much that I’m going to answer it anyway. In a hypothetical world, where all those players could be acquired and signed by the same franchise, and brought into a full training camp with a half-decent coach, I think that’s a pretty solid team. I’ve been saying that Dumerc could start in the WNBA for a few years now, and a heady point guard is always a good place to build from. They’ve got gunners and scorers on the outside, and Biba already showed she could be a productive WNBA player back when she was about 24 and was still developing her skills. Stepanova is a bit past her prime at this point, but Gruda’s clearly proven she’s useful in the WNBA and Verameyenka would be a rotation big in this league if she wanted to be. That’s a pretty solid group of posts.

So they’re better than Tulsa, right off the bat. But then that’s not hard. I’m not convinced that the Euro team would be a true WNBA title challenger. I don’t think they’d have the star power, the one or two truly elite players, that you typically need in this league to win championships. Also, as we’ve seen with players like Yelena Leuchanka, transferring skills from the European game to the WNBA isn’t always that smooth (even in our hypothetical world where they’re all showing up on time and actually want to play in the US). For Belarus or in European club basketball, Leuchanka’s a featured, star player. In the WNBA, lots of Dream fans didn’t particularly care whether she was going to show up at any point this season. It took Anete Jekabsone-Zogota quite a while to acclimatise to the US game as well. So Team Euros might well be significantly better in their second WNBA season than their first, after that roster got used to the WNBA. It’d certainly be very interesting to see how it played out.

 

Q. Did the Liberty really need to suspend Janel McCarville for the entire season to “clear the cap space so they could make other moves”?

I added this one, because in an interesting blog entry from Mechelle Voepel today, McCarville’s agent used those words to explain why she was suspended by Liberty coach/GM John Whisenant just before the start of the regular season.

First, the rules. There are two kinds of suspension in the WNBA (or two we care about here, anyway). You can be placed on the ‘recallable’ list, where the player is suspended and obviously not paid, but can be activated at any point in the season. The drawback to that list is that the player’s salary figure still counts against the team salary cap for the season, even though she’s not in town or playing for the team. The other list, which McCarville was placed on, immediately suspends the player for the full season, but removes her salary figure from the team salary cap. Note, she can’t play for anyone in the WNBA this season due to the suspension – another team can’t just trade for her and then immediately activate her. She’s done until 2012.

The answer to the question is still ‘no’. New York have acres and acres of cap room. Their roster is made up of three maximum or near-maximum WNBA salaries, one veteran minimum, and seven players still on their rookie-scale contracts. That leaves them far closer to the league minimum salary threshold than the total cap. So New York could have easily placed McCarville on the ‘recallable’ list and still had plenty of room for manoeuvre. So either Whiz wanted to make a point, or by the end of training camp he’d decided that he just wanted to close off any discussion or doubt about whether J-Mac was coming back in 2011. Also, he’d apparently been fining McCarville for every missed day of training camp ($1,000 a day, according to Janel on her twitter account this week), which she clearly wasn’t very happy about. So the chances of her showing up were remote anyway.

I just didn’t like the suggestion that they needed the cap room. They didn’t.

 

Q. Is there any way Indiana can trade for a good enough point guard without giving up a too-valuable current player? Probably not, right? (PUmatty)

A. Problem is, who? I always ask this when people talk about trades in the WNBA, because we’re dealing with only twelve teams and a far more limited talent pool than the NBA. If someone says the Bulls need to go out and find themselves an extra big in free agency or via trade, there are usually multiple potential options that might be available. If Indy decided January/Phillips/Bobbitt/Pohlen doesn’t offer them a good enough option at the point, who could they go out and get, even ignoring what they’d have to give up? Would the likes of Lehning, Canty, Mitchell or Latta really be worthwhile enough to chase after? Good point guards are damn hard to find.

And yes, the other obvious problem is what do you give up? Catchings, Douglas, Davenport and Smith aren’t going anywhere. You can’t really afford to give up Sutton-Brown either, even with her poor performance so far this year, because they’re so short on reliable bigs. So the only option would be the hope that someone would be interested in swapping guards. Lehning would give Indy a different look, a steadier hand that would more closely resemble the style of Bevilaqua from previous years. However, when they’ve already added Harding as the starter, would Atlanta really want another quick penetrating point guard like January rather than the vocal, coach-on-the-floor (and in the locker room) style of Lehning? I don’t see it. Besides a move like that, the only other option would be a free agent, such as the oft-mentioned (by fans on message boards) Sharnee Zoll, who was the last cut by the Storm in training camp. Shannon Bobbitt already seems to have fallen off the end of Dunn’s bench, so she might cut her and try someone like Zoll, but it’d likely be for five minutes a game as a backup, not to take over as the starter.

So to sum up, no, probably not. Chances are, the Fever are going to have to stick with January and Phillips as their primary point guard options all season, and try to make it work. I don’t think that’s impossible at all, but it may require a bit more tweaking of the offense to let Douglas and Catchings initiate things even more than they already do.

 

Q. Do you expect Candice Wiggins to be back in Minnesota next season? She’s been awful as a backup point guard so far, and obviously minutes at the 2 (as well as the 1) are hard to come by in Minnesota. It wouldn’t make much sense for either party. (Sasquatch)

A. I don’t think Wiggins is going anywhere. They’re fully aware of her skills in Minnesota, and value her highly because of them. I don’t think she’s been that terrible so far this year, although she hasn’t always looked entirely comfortable as a point guard, but the team are 3-1 so something’s working okay. She and Wright are there for the energy and defense they can bring off the bench as much as anything, and she’s always going to offer that.

Also, more than practically any other team, the Lynx are aware of how easily injuries can derail a season. Right now, if any of Whalen, Augustus or Moore got hurt, Wiggins would start. That’s a nice ace in the hole to have on your bench should the need arise. And unless there’s another unexpected and significant cut to the salary cap (which seems unlikely seeing as the cap went all the way back up to its CBA-prescribed level this year), they’ll have room to pay her in the offseason when she comes off her rookie-scale deal.

 

Q. What kind of a deal should New York try to work for J-Mac in the off-season? Too early to tell?

In a similar vein, should Minnesota try dealing Charde Houston to someone who might use her? Phoenix perhaps? But how does that work if the Mercury having nothing they want? (norwester)

I think, for McCarville, you let the season play out before you worry about it. Obviously, before the season started, you’d have said that New York would likely be searching for a post player. But Breland and even Hollingsworth have started out looking serviceable, so maybe they wouldn’t have to be quite so targeted. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up being a trade straight up for a draft pick – at which point the question simply becomes how high a pick anyone is willing to give up.

As for Houston, I’ve been saying they should trade her for ages, possibly years. Lynx fans keep telling me that she’s an important part of the squad, friends with everyone, willing to play the bench role and not complain, and so on and so on. But I’m not in Minnesota, and I’m not a dedicated follower of every tweet sent out by the family of Lynx players. I’m just calling it based on what I see on the floor. And she doesn’t fit on this squad any more. She’s a ballstopper on a team that has legitimate scoring options at four other spots on the floor. She’s a horrible defender for a coach who came out of the womb stressing defense. She’s coming off her rookie contract at the end of this season, and I wouldn’t want to pay her more than rookie-scale.

So yes, I’d trade her, if there was much of a market. She’s always seemed ready-made for Phoenix’s run-and-gun system, because there are lots of available shots and they don’t play any defense anyway, so she’d fit right in. Nakia Sanford, signed by the Mercury in the offseason, would also be a far better fit in Minnesota, so maybe there’s something workable around that. You also wonder about Connecticut, considering Houston played for UConn and the Sun seem to love collecting former Huskies. Even Tulsa, who can always use offense (and Nolan Richardson apparently enjoys gunners without any semblance of conscience, considering Andrea Riley continues to get minutes).

Minnesota already have two first-round picks in the 2012 draft (they got Washington’s in the Anosike deal), not that they need yet more kids on the roster, so maybe Roger Griffith feels like he doesn’t really need yet more picks. But if the option was there, I’d absolutely cash Houston in for practically anything that seems like it could be of use, either this season or in the future.

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Thanks for the questions everybody. Sorry I couldn’t answer absolutely all of them, but I have to be at least a tiny bit selective. Dani, I did see your question about restructuring the salary cap, and I’ll tackle that in a future edition. It’s just such a complicated prospect that I need time to work on the answer (even though it’s something I’ve been thinking about for years). I’ll get back to it, I promise.

WNBA Today’s back tomorrow, hopefully significantly earlier in the day than this is being posted.

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3 comments on “Your WNBA Questions Answered, 06/14/2011

  1. Damian says:

    I like JMac because she’s one of those post who can make no look passes to their teammates but I also like for her to attack the basket other than settling for jumpshots.

  2. Norwester says:

    I got a question answered! Thanks for the thoughtful analysis overall. I’ll look forward to the salary cap discussion too, because it seems like almost anything would make more sense than how they have it now.

    Hey, Jmac, the Storm will have a hole next year at the post. Liberty can have Krystal Thomas. 😉

  3. […] comments at the end of this piece or anywhere else you can get ahold of me. The first edition was here, if you want some idea of what sort of issues I tackled last time around. Anything about the league […]

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