2013 WNBA Season Previews: Connecticut Sun

 

PG: Kara Lawson/Renee Montgomery

SG: Allison Hightower/Tan White

SF: Kalana Greene/Kelly Faris

PF: Kelsey Griffin/Mistie Mims

C: Tina Charles

(plus SG Johannah Leedham or SG Natasha Lacy, and PF Ashley Walker or C Latoya Williams, pending final cuts)

 

Significant gains: Faris and Leedham/Lacy – so not much. Ann Donovan on the bench, if you happen to be a fan.

Significant losses: Asjha Jones, Danielle McCray, and Mike Thibault if you prefered him to Donovan.

 

Much like Atlanta, there’s been very little turnover in Connecticut since last year – bar the one big hole that’s opened up. Power forward Asjha Jones is taking the season off to rest a variety of injuries, leaving a glaring issue in the post alongside last season’s league MVP Tina Charles. The front office made a change on the sidelines, replacing long-time head coach Mike Thibault with Ann Donovan, in the hope that she could take them to the championship that always eluded her predecessor. But whoever’s in charge, covering the gap left by Jones isn’t going to be easy.

 

Ever since Tina Charles was drafted and created a two-way debate between herself and Chicago’s Sylvia Fowles for the title of ‘best center in the world’, she’s had a nice balance with Asjha Jones. In a lot of ways their offensive skills overlap, both possessing the ability to finish inside and hit a mid-range jumper, but they managed to become a complementary pair rather than get in each other’s way. That’s gone now. Charles will still be a prominent force, but defenses will be able to collapse on her even more than before. The remaining options aren’t great. At all. Kelsey Griffin has been in the league for three years now, is yet to shoot over 36% for a season, and is still just as undersized to play the 4 as she’s always been. Mistie Mims was a solid contributor as a 4/5 backup last year, but she’s limited offensively and distinctly slower than Jones. Mims is one of those players you love on your team as a 15 mpg backup, but scares the hell out of you as a 30 mpg starter. The one potential option who could replace Jones without much drop-off is French post Sandrine Gruda, who hasn’t been seen in the WNBA since 2010. She’ll be with the French national team through EuroBasket Women, which ends on June 30th, but there’ve been some signs that she might have interest in joining the Sun after that. If so, she’ll be welcomed with open arms. Because without Gruda – unless Griffin or Mims make a big leap – it’s going to be a case of papering over the cracks all season alongside Charles.

 

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2013 WNBA Season Previews: Chicago Sky

 

PG: Courtney Vandersloot/Sharnee Zoll

SG: Epiphanny Prince/Eshaya Murphy

SF: Elena Delle Donne/Tamera Young

PF: Swin Cash

C: Sylvia Fowles/Carolyn Swords/Ruth Riley

(plus SG Allie Quigley or PF Michelle Campbell, pending a final cut)

 

Significant gains: Elena Delle Donne, Sharnee Zoll might be significant if they’re lucky.

Significant losses: Sonja Petrovic, Le’coe Willingham and Ticha Penicheiro are all gone, but none will be missed much on the floor.

 

There was only one significant change for the Chicago Sky over the offseason, but it was a doozy. The #2 pick in the draft produced Elena Delle Donne, a 6-5 scoring marvel from the University of Delaware, providing yet another ray of hope for the Sky that they might finally become a contender in the WNBA. Beyond that, this is the same group of players and the same coaching staff that flattered to deceive last year before tailing off and missing the playoffs yet again.

 

It feels like we’ve all been saying this for years about the Sky, but if they can put all the pieces together they ought to be a very good basketball team. Shooting guard Epiphanny Prince was in the midst of a breakout season last year before injury slowed her down, but if she can touch those heights again she becomes one of the scarier perimeter scorers around. In the post, center Sylvia Fowles has been a remarkably efficient scorer ever since she was drafted – whenever they can get her the ball – and remains a powerful defensive presence around the rim. However, she had injury problems last year as well (not for the first time) and followed it up with a very disappointing season in Turkey. With Prince blossoming and Delle Donne joining up, maybe some of the pressure will come off Fowles and she can work through the season without so much weight on her shoulders. Her ability to stay in one piece is almost as important to the Sky as head coach Pokey Chatman figuring out smarter ways to feed her the ball.

 

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2013 WNBA Season Previews: Atlanta Dream

With the start of the WNBA season arriving on Friday, it’s time for the annual in-depth WNBAlien season previews. As tradition dictates, it’s the Eastern Conference first, in alphabetical order. Enjoy!

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PG: Jasmine Thomas/Alex Bentley

SG: Armintie Herrington/Courtney Clements

SF: Angel McCoughtry/Tiffany Hayes/Anne Marie Armstrong

PF: Sancho Lyttle/Le’coe Willingham

C: Erika de Souza/Aneika Henry

 

Significant gains: Jasmine Thomas, Le’coe Willingham, Alex Bentley (all stretching the term ‘significant’).

Significant losses: Lindsey Harding.

 

Last season was a tumultuous one for the Atlanta Dream. There was all kinds of drama surrounding star player Angel McCoughtry, which precipitated a midseason change at head coach. Then after a decent run to close the regular season they were dumped out of the playoffs by Indiana, despite winning the opening game on the road. Rather than the trade which seemed inevitable when the Dream were imploding last year, McCoughtry was quietly re-signed in the offseason, retaining their key piece and avoiding an ugly rebuilding job.

 

However, there was one remaining kick in the teeth from the Marynell Meadors era still lurking in the shadows waiting to damage the Dream this offseason. The core designation in the WNBA is like the ‘franchise tag’ in the NFL – it allows each team to ‘core’ one player, preventing her from leaving the team as a free agent. However, when you’re cored and sign a multi-year contract, you remain the team’s core player for the length of that deal (unless you’re traded or retire). After the 2011 season, Meadors used the core designation on post player Erika de Souza, then signed her to a multi-year deal. So when point guard Lindsey Harding became an unrestricted free agent this offseason, the Dream could do nothing to prevent her from testing free agency. And she decided the sunshine and glitz of Los Angeles was preferable to staying in Atlanta. It leaves a glaring hole in Atlanta’s lineup at the point.

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