2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: Phoenix Mercury

PG: Samantha Prahalis

SG: Diana Taurasi/Alexis Hornbuckle/Alexis Gray-Lawson

SF: DeWanna Bonner/Charde Houston/(Penny Taylor)

PF: Candice Dupree/

C: Nakia Sanford/Zane Tamane/Avery Warley

Significant additions: Prahalis (college draft), Houston (‘trade’ with Minnesota), Hornbuckle (‘trade’ with Minnesota), Tamane (free agency after being out of the league)

Significant losses: Penny Taylor (ACL injury, out for the season), Temeka Johnson (giveaway trade with Tulsa), Ketia Swanier (free agency to Atlanta), Marie Ferdinand-Harris (unsigned, retired from the WNBA)

—–

Like LA, there are all kinds of questions hanging over this team heading into the 2012 season. Unfortunately for the Mercury, it’s hard to find quite so many answers. They began their offseason by trading starting point guard Temeka Johnson to Tulsa for Andrea Riley, who ultimately didn’t even make the team. Then Penny Taylor blew out her knee playing in the EuroLeague Women Final Eight, ending her WNBA season before it began (along with her Olympic dreams). Free agency produced merely two players from the end of Minnesota’s bench and a backup big from Europe, while point guard hopes now rest on an untried rookie. Even with their typically exciting run-and-gun system and the mercurial talents of superstar Diana Taurasi, is could be a long season for the Mercury. Continue reading

2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: Minnesota Lynx

PG: Lindsay Whalen/Erin Thorn

SG: Seimone Augustus/Candice Wiggins

SF: Maya Moore/Monica Wright

PF: Rebekkah Brunson/Devereaux Peters

C: Taj McWilliams-Franklin/Jessica Adair/Amber Harris

Significant additions: Thorn (free agency from Chicago), Peters (college draft), Championship rings

Significant losses: Alexis Hornbuckle (‘trade’ with Phoenix), Charde Houston (‘trade’ with Phoenix)

—–

You know what makes sense when you win a championship and prove to be one of the better teams in league history? Bringing back everyone who mattered from that team, and going for the repeat. So the Lynx did just that. Early fears that Candice Wiggins might leave through free agency or that Taj McWilliams-Franklin might wish to move on to yet another team ultimately proved unfounded, so the top nine players from last year’s squad return in 2012. And they’ve arguably upgraded the remaining two spots. Injury, complacency, and the big bulls-eye now painted on their back are the only things that look like threats to stop this team from being just as good as they were last year. Continue reading

2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: Los Angeles Sparks

PG: Sharnee Zoll

SG: Alana Beard/Kristi Toliver/April Sykes

SF: DeLisha Milton-Jones/Marissa Coleman

PF: Candace Parker/Nneka Ogwumike/Ebony Hoffman

C: Nicky Anosike/Jantel Lavender

Significant additions: Carol Ross (new head coach, formerly an assistant with Atlanta), Ogwumike (college draft), Beard (free agency from Washington), Coleman (trade from Washington), Anosike (trade from Washington), Zoll (free agency after being out of the league), Sykes (college draft)

Significant losses: Ticha Penicheiro (free agency to Chicago), Tina Thompson (free agency to Seattle), Noelle Quinn (trade with Washington), Jenna O’Hea (with Australian National Team preparing for the Olympics), Natasha Lacy (trade with Washington), LaToya Pringle (trade with Washington)

—–

After several years of mediocrity and inconsistency, the very least we can say about the Sparks heading into 2012 is that they’re interesting. There are so many questions, sub-plots and unknowns surrounding this team that it’s going to be fascinating to see how it all works out. If new head coach Carol Ross can pull all the pieces together, and they stay largely healthy throughout the year, they have the potential to be a powerful and dangerous group. However, even the most devoted Sparks fan has to admit, there’s also the potential here for everything to come crumbling down around them. Continue reading

2012 In-Depth Season Preview: Washington Mystics

PG: Dominique Canty/Jasmine Thomas

SG: Matee Ajavon/Noelle Quinn/Natalie Novosel/Natasha Lacy

SF: Monique Currie

PF: Crystal Langhorne/Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton/(LaToya Pringle)

C: Michelle Snow/Ashley Robinson

Significant additions: Canty (free agency from Chicago), Currie (missed vast majority of last season through injury), Lacy (trade with Los Angeles), Novosel (college draft), Quinn (trade with Los Angeles), Robinson (trade with Seattle), Snow (free agency from Chicago), Wisdom-Hylton (claimed off waivers from Chicago)

Significant losses: Alana Beard (free agency to Los Angeles), Marissa Coleman (trade with Los Angeles), Nicky Anosike (trade with Los Angeles), Kelly Miller (free agency to New York), Victoria Dunlap (trade with Seattle), DeMya Walker (free agency to New York)

—–

You know what’s strange – I actually see the logic here. It’s easy to rag on the Mystics and head coach/general manager Trudi Lacey. This team was a disaster last year. They failed to retain the coach and general manger that produced their best ever season in 2010, and everything went downhill from there. Constant comments about injuries and blatant nonsense about how young the squad was did them no favours with their remaining fans, and when the season finally ended after just six wins all year, it was a blessed relief. But Lacey’s moves in the offseason made sense. The organisation finally cut ties with former franchise player Alana Beard, having had enough of paying her to be injured. Then they retained the three players that emerged from last season with any credit – Crystal Langhorne, Matee Ajavon and Monique Currie – and turned over practically every other spot on the roster. Isn’t that what you ought to do after a horrendous year? Keep the few positives, and change everything else that you can? Lacey’s also built herself a much more experienced, veteran squad, which fits the players she seemed to favour last season. Yes, it’s probably going to be more than a one-year process to resurrect this team from the depths it plumbed last season, but what she’s doing makes some sense. Continue reading

2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: New York Liberty

PG: Kelly Miller/Leilani Mitchell

SG: Cappie Pondexter/Essence Carson

SF: Nicole Powell/Alex Montgomery

PF: Plenette Pierson/DeMya Walker

C: Kia Vaughn/Kara Braxton/Kelley Cain/(Quanitra Hollingsworth)

Significant additions: Miller (free agency from Washington), Walker (free agency from Washington), Cain (college draft)

Significant losses: Hollingsworth (with Turkish National Team for Olympic training and qualifiers), Ta’Shia Phillips and Sydney Colson are gone as well (if you want to stretch ‘significant’)

—–

You’ve gotta love Liberty fans. A bizarre draft pick (in a draft everyone said was horrible), and a couple of poor performances in preseason (for a coach whose system is notoriously hard to adapt to) and the sky is falling. Admittedly, dropping into the lottery is a lot more appealing this year than in most seasons. But it’s a little early to give up on a team that went 19-15 last season – while learning Whisenant’s system – and brings back pretty much every significant part of that team. In an Eastern Conference where it’ll be a surprise if anyone runs away, they still have every chance to be competitive. And as with every other season, when Cappie Pondexter’s on your team you’ve got a shot to win any game you show up for. Continue reading

2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: Indiana Fever

PG: Briann January/Erin Phillips

SG: Shavonte Zellous/Jeanette Pohlen

SF: Katie Douglas/Roneeka Hodges

PF: Tamika Catchings/Erlana Larkins

C: Tammy Sutton-Brown/Jessica Davenport/Sasha Goodlett

Significant additions: January (returning from a serious knee injury after missing most of last season), Hodges (trade with San Antonio), Larkins (free agent after being out of league since 2009), Goodlett (college draft)

Significant losses: Tangela Smith (trade with San Antonio), Shyra Ely (injured), Shannon Bobbitt (cut)

—–

Yes, as you can see from the squad listing above, I’ve bowed to popular opinion and indications from the Fever themselves and moved Tamika Catchings to the 4. I hate it, and we’ll examine why below, but it does at least add an interesting wrinkle to the outlook for this Fever squad. It’s pretty close to being the same bunch as last year, who sometimes seemed a little old, a little slow, and a little thin once you looked past Catchings and Katie Douglas. But that team still went to a deciding game in the Eastern Conference Finals, and barring an injury to Catchings might’ve gone further. With what looks like a shift in position for their best players, are they primed to adapt and improve, or take a step in the wrong direction? Continue reading

2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: Connecticut Sun

PG: Renee Montgomery/Kara Lawson

SG: Kalana Greene/Tan White/Allison Hightower

SF: Danielle McCray

PF: Asjha Jones/Kelsey Griffin

C: Tina Charles/Mistie Mims/Chay Shegog

Significant additions: Nobody. Oh alright, Mims (free agency after being out of the league), Shegog (college draft)

Significant losses: Also nobody, unless you count Jessica Moore (currently out of the league)

—–

Should I just refer you to everything I wrote about them last year? Head coach Mike Thibault apparently spent the offseason sitting on his couch knocking back a few cold ones, because as far as he’s concerned, this team is already good enough. In fairness, they are one of the younger teams in the league, and they did finish last season tied for top spot in the Eastern Conference. But it’s always risky to stick with the status quo and expect improvement from within when everyone around you is at least trying to bring in new pieces and improve. Especially when you were swept out of the first round of the playoffs with your best player being essentially shut down. Continue reading

2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: Chicago Sky

PG: Ticha Penicheiro/Courtney Vandersloot

SG: Epiphanny Prince/Shay Murphy

SF: Swin Cash/Tamera Young/Sonja Petrovic

PF: Ruth Riley/Le’coe Willingham

C: Sylvia Fowles/Carolyn Swords

Significant additions: Cash and Willingham (trade with Seattle), Penicheiro (free agency from Los Angeles), Riley (free agency from San Antonio), Petrovic (trade with San Antonio)

Significant losses: Michelle Snow (free agency to Washington), Erin Thorn (free agency to Minnesota), Cathrine Kraayeveld (free agency to Atlanta), Dominique Canty (free agency to Washington).

—–

Big changes in Chicago, as head coach/GM Pokey Chatman proved that you can get a lot done in the offseason even when you’re in Russia coaching a different team at the time. In her first year in charge last season, the Sky were ultimately just as mediocre as they’ve been for their previous four season, and missed the playoffs yet again. The endless turnovers and poorly chosen shots drove Chatman nuts, so she’s kept her young backcourt and a couple of backups – along with, of course, superstar center Sylvia Fowles – and brought in a swathe of veterans with winning pedigrees to build around them. It’s a gameplan that makes a lot of sense, and has many people predicting big things for the Sky in 2012. At the very least, the Sky will be hoping to finally make their debut appearance in the WNBA postseason. Continue reading

2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: Atlanta Dream

PG: Lindsey Harding/Ketia Swanier

SG: Armintie Price/Laurie Koehn

SF: Angel McCoughtry/Tiffany Hayes

PF: Sancho Lyttle/Cathrine Kraayeveld

C: (Erika de Souza)/Yelena Leuchanka/Courtney Paris/Aneika Henry

Significant additions: Swanier (free agency from Phoenix), Kraayeveld (free agency from Chicago), Leuchanka (returning after year off), Hayes (college draft)

Significant losses: de Souza (Brazilian National Team for first half of the season), Lyttle (unconfirmed absence midseason to join Spanish National Team), Iziane Castro Marques (currently with Brazilian National Team, remains WNBA unrestricted free agent), Shalee Lehning (injured and retired from WNBA), Alison Bales (retired from WNBA), assistant coach Carol Ross (left to take head coach position in Los Angeles)

—–

Well just reading that list above doesn’t paint a pretty picture, does it? The Dream have fought their way into the WNBA Finals both of the last two years, and went into the offseason hoping to build on the squad and break through that final hurdle. But it’s not going to be easy, and the first half of the season looks like it could be about staying in contention rather than trying to build a lead. Their perimeter rotation and depth looks like it might be weaker than last year, while the loss of center Erika de Souza to Olympic duty for the first half of the season – and potentially her frontcourt partner Sancho Lyttle to EuroBasket qualifiers with Spain – will seriously weaken their interior. Still, two years in a row this team have managed to find a way into the playoffs, then proven that seeding doesn’t necessarily count for much. Betting against them might not be smart. Continue reading

WNBAlien speaks! And some other people you might’ve heard of chime in too…

Full, in-depth season previews are coming soon, but until then you can check out Hoopfeed’s Dishin & Swishin podcast here: http://www.hoopfeed.com/content/2012/05/17/dishin-swishin-51712-podcast-a-roundtable-preview-of-the-2012-wnba-season/

It’s a WNBA Preview Roundtable featuring your favourite WNBAlien correspondent, along with ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel, former WNBA executive Angela Taylor, Seattle Times writer Jayda Evans, and respected women’s basketball journo Mel Greenberg. All wrangled together by regular host David Siegel.

Hope everyone enjoys, and keep checking back here for all the build up to tomorrow night’s opening tip-off to the regular season.