With training camps underway across the WNBA and the preseason schedule tipping off on Saturday afternoon, it’s time for WNBAlien to take a look at what everyone got up to in the offseason. From trades to free agent signings, draft selections to injuries, Olympic absentees to the battles for roster spots, this is your team-by-team catch-up for what you might’ve missed over those long months between W seasons. We’ll also take a look at what each team might still be trying to work out during training camp before the real games begin on May 18th. Sticking with WNBAlien tradition, it’s Eastern Conference first, in alphabetical order, then the West.
Current Roster certainties and virtual certainties:
PG: Lindsey Harding/Ketia Swanier
SG: Armintie Price/Coco Miller
SF: Angel McCoughtry/Tiffany Hayes
PF: Sancho Lyttle/Cathrine Kraayeveld
C: (Erika de Souza)/Yelena Leuchanka
Fighting for the remaining one or two spots: Courtney Paris, Aneika Henry, Laurie Koehn (I’m not going to be listing every random training camp invitee for every team)
It’s not been the greatest of offseasons for the Dream. It started with assistant coach Carol Ross being stolen away by the Sparks to take over in LA, followed by backup point guard Shalee Lehning announcing that the knee injury that ended her 2011 season would in fact mark the end of her WNBA career, and backup post Alison Bales also deciding to retire from the WNBA. Brazilians Erika de Souza and Iziane Castro Marques will spend at least the first half of the season with the Brazilian national team preparing for the London Olympics. Erika was re-signed and is expected in Atlanta following the Games; Castro Marques remains an unrestricted free agent.
Free agency didn’t exactly result in a deluge of additions or improvements either. Coco Miller and Armintie Price were re-signed, but the much hoped for improvement at shooting guard never materialised (a restricted free agent offer sheet to Washington’s Matee Ajavon was matched by the Mystics). However, the University of Connecticut’s Tiffany Hayes fell to them at #14 in the college draft, which was a welcome stroke of luck, and she could see a lot more playing time on Atlanta’s thin perimeter than many of the players taken above her. Free agency did see the addition of point guard Ketia Swanier – who’ll certainly keep the energy up when Lindsey Harding needs a breather (although probably not the efficiency) – and post Cathrine Kraayeveld, who can ably replace Bales and contribute some outside shooting. After a year away from the WNBA, Belarussian center Yelena Leuchanka also returns to deepen the post rotation and help cover the hole left by de Souza until late August.
There are unlikely to be too many decisions to make for head coach/general manager Marynell Meadors in training camp. Given how thin the post rotation looks without de Souza, Courtney Paris looks the most likely player to fill the 11th spot on the roster. Someone like Miller, Swanier or even Hayes could be expendable if an unexpected guard came into camp and excelled, but that looks unlikely. The Dream have enough cap room that they could temporarily suspend de Souza until she arrives post-Olympics and keep a 12th player, but I’m not convinced that they’ll bother. Chances are that they’ll try to survive with 10 until Erika arrives.
Finally, given that this is the first time a WNBAlien entry has been made since the draft, allow me a brief rant. Anyone who follows me on Twitter or elsewhere can probably guess what’s coming. The only draft pick Atlanta had remaining after taking Hayes was at #32, where they selected Frenchwoman Isabelle Yacoubou. Who’s 26 years old. For those who don’t know, overseas players become eligible to be drafted in the year they turn 20, and no one can be eligible for more than two drafts. Hence Yacoubou hasn’t been eligible to be drafted since 2007. It horrifies me that people are running these supposedly professional organisations and can be this blithely ignorant of basic rules or too lazy (or stupid) to google a player’s name to check her birthdate. This wasn’t some kid from a tiny African country who little is known about – this is a mainstream French player, who played on the EuroLeague Women champion Ros Casares team alongside Lauren Jackson, Maya Moore, Sancho Lyttle and Ann Wauters this season. If she had been eligible, she’s have gone 25 picks higher in this draft, where various teams took wild stabs in the dark on foreign prospects. It’s an absolute embarrassment that Meadors made this pick (later voided by the league, obviously, for being hideously illegal), and I don’t care how pointless third round WNBA draft picks typically are. That’s no excuse for doing something quite so asinine.