2015 WNBA Season Previews: Connecticut Sun

 

PG: Chelsea Gray/Jasmine Thomas

SG: Alex Bentley/Kelly Faris/Inga Orekhova

SF: Alyssa Thomas/Shekinna Stricklen

PF: Camille Little/Kayla Pedersen/(Chiney Ogwumike)

C: Kelsey Bone/Elizabeth Williams

 

Significant additions: Little, Stricklen, Gray, J.Thomas, Williams.

Significant losses: Chiney Ogwumike, Katie Douglas, Allison Hightower, Kelsey Griffin, Renee Montgomery.

 

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Ugh. That’s a lot of turnover, and a lot of losses, for a team that was pretty terrible already for the majority of last season. Chiney Ogwumike, last season’s Rookie of the Year and the leading sign of hope for this franchise, hurt her knee overseas and required microfracture surgery in January. They have some hope that she’ll play this season, but they absolutely should not rush her back. Veteran wing Katie Douglas decided that her back just wasn’t ready to stand up to another WNBA season, and called it quits on a successful career. Allison Hightower, who’s been blighted by injuries for a few years now, will miss the entire season due to knee surgery, while backup post Kelsey Griffin was released after a hip injury that also required surgery. The Sun have added a few pieces via trades and the draft, but Anne Donovan has shown few signs in recent years of being able to coax her teams into becoming more than the sum of their parts. If she fails in that endeavour again, this team is destined for their third trip to the lottery in her three years in Connecticut.

 

There are still some pieces on this team that could make them interesting and dangerous on any given night. There’s a youthful perimeter, where they’ll be hoping that Alyssa Thomas will make a leap after an inconsistent rookie season. She’s clearly got skills, with unusual size and strength for a perimeter player who can handle the ball, but her lack of a jump shot was a big issue in her first season. Hopefully she’s been working on that. Scoring guard Alex Bentley won’t have to play as much at the point this year, with mediocre-but-reliable Jasmine Thomas picked up in a trade, and Chelsea Gray making her debut after missing the 2014 season due to injury. They also have Shekinna Stricklen, acquired in a trade with Seattle, to offer some size and shooting from the perimeter. None of them are stars – although the Sun hope that Alyssa Thomas and Gray might approach that status some day – but there’s some talent there. It’s just a case of how much they can produce on a nightly basis, and whether Donovan can find the right mesh between them.

 

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2015 WNBA Season Previews: Chicago Sky

 

PG: Courtney Vandersloot/Jamierra Faulkner

SG: Cappie Pondexter/Allie Quigley/Jackie Gemelos

SF: Tamera Young/Betnijah Laney

PF: Elena Delle Donne/Jessica Breland/Clarissa dos Santos

C: Cheyenne Parker/Sasha Goodlett/Victoria Macaulay

 

Significant additions: Pondexter, and hopefully Parker.

Significant losses: Sylvia Fowles and Epiphanny Prince

 

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After the quiet of Atlanta, now we move on to the storm of Chicago. They’d already made one of the biggest transactions of the offseason, swapping shooting guards with New York to bring in Cappie Pondexter for Epiphanny Prince. Then around the draft news finally broke that star center Sylvia Fowles had asked for a trade, and wouldn’t be playing in the league at all unless her request was fulfilled. It later emerged that Minnesota appeared to be her desired destination. Sky head coach and general manager Pokey Chatman decided that she didn’t like any of the offers on the table for Fowles, and would rather let her sit on her couch and rot than trade her for whatever she could get. That leaves Chicago with a talented roster that still looks threatening, but a big hole in the middle and only question marks to fill it with.

 

First let’s start with the good news. That begins with Elena Delle Donne, who spent the entire offseason in the US rather than overseas like most of the rest of the league, and appears to have recovered from the various injuries she was fighting through by the end of last season. Her well-documented battles with Lyme disease always make her something of a health risk, but when she’s on the court she’s an unguardable offensive force who can score from anywhere and rack up points in a hurry. They’ll need her to take on a heavier load with Fowles out, but the offense may open up a little without a star post constantly demanding the ball down low. If she plays 34 games, Delle Donne in an MVP candidate.

 

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2015 WNBA Season Previews: Atlanta Dream

 

We’re back again for another year, and with the 2015 WNBA season tipping off on Friday night it’s time for the usual slate of WNBAlien team-by-team previews. As tradition dictates, we go in alphabetical order, with the Eastern Conference up first. Please enjoy, and feel free to comment, argue, praise or criticise. You can use the comment section below, or tweet at @RichardCohen1.
 
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PG: Shoni Schimmel/Samantha Logic

SG: Tiffany Hayes/Matee Ajavon/Erica Wheeler

SF: Angel McCoughtry/Roneeka Hodges

PF: Sancho Lyttle/DeLisha Milton-Jones

C: Erika de Souza/Aneika Henry/Nadia Colhado

 

Significant additions: Logic, they hope, and a little shooting from Hodges.

Significant losses: Jasmine Thomas, Celine Dumerc (at least for a while) and maybe Lyttle for a few weeks.

 
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Amid a surprisingly eventful and newsworthy WNBA offseason elsewhere, our previews begin with a team that have done very, very little. The Dream have created some question marks around who’s going to be running the offense and how well it will be done, but otherwise they’ve essentially brought back the group that finished 19-15 last season atop the Eastern Conference, before being upset in the first round of the playoffs by Chicago. In some ways it’s understandable, because the Dream have been one of the most dangerous teams in the East ever since Angel McCoughtry arrived in town. But it’s a little disappointing that they didn’t do more to strengthen their squad and excite their fans for the 2015 season.

 

The core of the team that’s still in place means Atlanta should remain one of the best teams in the East, assuming they stay healthy. McCoughtry’s the driving force, an athletic rim-attacker who still forces too many shots under pressure from outside, but can often carry the offense herself. Tiffany Hayes has developed into a strong running mate for McCoughtry on the other wing, while the post pairing of Sancho Lyttle and Erika de Souza remains one of the strongest in the league (albeit starting to look a tiny bit long in the tooth). Last season under Michael Cooper they pushed the ball even more than in previous years, leading the league by a mile in pace, and there’s no reason to expect them to change. They’ll be aggressive defensively, flying around for steals and trying to break out, and they’ll run the other way at every opportunity.

 
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