Eagle-eyed readers will notice that I’ve already looked at six players from Atlanta and only five from Minnesota, so the Dream already have an edge in this area. From Game 2 onwards, either Castro Marques or de Souza will bolster Atlanta’s reserve corps, depending on which lineup Marynell Meadors decides to go with. Although if Izi goes back to playing the way she has off the bench for most of the season, she won’t be adding much.
In terms of pure talent, Minnesota would appear to have more in reserve, but they haven’t exactly been proving it for most of the season. Alexis Hornbuckle, Charde Houston and this year’s 4th overall pick in the draft Amber Harris will probably see very little time in this series. Monica Wright may receive some opportunities to impress, especially if Cheryl Reeve tries to counter Atlanta’s small lineup, but she’s struggled to produce in limited chances this season. The bulk of the backup minutes are likely to go to Candice Wiggins and Jessica Adair. Wiggins plays both guard spots and has developed herself into something of a dead-eye shooter from three-point range. Rather than running around off all the screens and taking pullup jumpers like Augustus and Moore, she’ll come off the bench and fire away from outside when the ball is kicked to her. She can add an extra element to the Lynx offense in the same way that Castro Marques sometimes can for Atlanta, although Wiggins has proven herself far more consistent from the perimeter.
Adair has fought her way to the front of the queue as Minnesota’s first-choice backup post, despite the more heralded options of Houston and Harris. She’s a big, strong player, and she’s made the effort to work herself into far better physical condition. She’ll spell both Brunson and McWilliams-Franklin, and maintain the constant Lynx rebounding threat that the Dream are going to have to deal with throughout this series.
Last year, Atlanta went deep into their bench and used nine players for decent minutes nearly every night. This year, once Meadors eventually found a settled starting five about a month into the season, almost all the production has come from the starters. Harding’s backup Shalee Lehning blew out her knee to take their options down to 10, Sandora Irvin and Courtney Paris have barely played in the last month of the season, and even Coco Miller has largely disappeared off the end of Meadors’s rotation. That leaves whichever of Castro Marques and de Souza is left in reserve once the latter returns from Colombia, and giant backup center Alison Bales. She’s proven herself an adequate backup, and her outside shooting and familiarity with point guard Lindsey Harding from college sometimes bears fruit, but she’s unlikely to be a big part of any success the Dream have in this series.
It’s hard to give either side much of a margin here when both teams only go about six and a half players deep. They’ve both got one scorer who might explode on any given night (assuming de Souza re-takes her starting spot once she returns), and one serviceable big who can give the starters some rest. I call that a tie.