PG: Odyssey Sims/Brianna Kiesel
SG: Skylar Diggins/Erin Phillips
SF: Karima Christmas/Aerial Powers/Jordan Hooper
PF: Glory Johnson/Plenette Pierson
C: Courtney Paris/Theresa Plaisance/Ruth Hamblin
And thanks to the Zahui B trade, that’s it. They’re still young enough to easily carry 12 players, although no longer with the ludicrous amounts of cap space that they had during multiple years in Tulsa.
Significant additions: Johnson’s back from pregnancy, Phillips arrived in a trade with LA, and Powers was the #5 pick in the draft. Most importantly of all, assuming she’s actually back in one piece, Diggins returns from tearing her ACL early last season. Oh, and they’ve added a new city, name, and hideous colour-scheme, too.
Significant losses: Riquna Williams was sent to LA in the Phillips trade, they gave up on Amanda Zahui B after just one season, and Vicki Baugh was cut as well, placing extra pressure on the remaining post players. The name and city of the Tulsa Shock are also no more, obviously.
After half a decade in the mire of terrible basketball, the Tulsa Shock finally dragged themselves into the realm of respectability last season. Even after Skylar Diggins blew out her knee after nine games, and with fellow star guard Odyssey Sims battling injury herself all season, they managed to claw their way to enough wins for their first playoff appearance since leaving Detroit. Unfortunately for fans in Oklahoma, all that was accomplished while everyone already knew they were on their was to Dallas. But with a new city and fanbase behind them, this young squad has the chance to continue to grow and develop, and start chasing down the league’s true powers.
Of course, their chances in 2016 are heavily dependent on the health of that scarily talented backcourt. Diggins says her knee is ready, and the Wings reportedly expect her to play from the start of the regular season, but neither she nor Sims appeared in the preseason. If they’re both 100%, Diggins and Sims present a two-headed monster for opposing defenses that’s very hard to handle. Neither is really a point guard, but between them they can run the offense, score from anywhere, and drive at will. Few teams have two backcourt defenders that they’re comfortable assigning to offensive talents like that.
Elsewhere things are a little more questionable, and while they improved last season, this team still had the worst defense in the WNBA. Karima Christmas and Plenette Pierson were solid veteran additions, and Christmas has the help of rookie Aerial Powers now to deepen the options on the wing. Pierson will be hoping that she doesn’t have to carry quite so much of a load inside thanks to Glory Johnson’s return from having twins (although Johnson will miss the first seven games due to the suspension she’s yet to serve for her domestic violence incident with Brittney Griner). Assuming she’s physically ready, Johnson’s an important piece for the Wings, a physical presence at power forward who gives them a slightly nasty edge they don’t get from anyone else. Courtney Paris has become a solid center in this league, and a decent enough defender to at least survive. The rim protection is limited, and there’s no proven depth behind the Pierson/Johnson/Paris trio, but they’ll be hoping that continuity and Johnson’s return can raise the defense to at least be mediocre.
Best Case Scenario
It’s the first issue with almost every team in the league, but more than most this team needs health. Pierson’s had knee issues for years, Diggins and Sims both had issues last year, and their depth isn’t great. Assuming the key pieces stay out of the treatment room, scoring shouldn’t be an issue. Even last year, without Diggins for 25 games, they were one of the better offensive teams in the WNBA. So the best case is that Fred Williams finally sorts out their defense. If that ever happens, this is potentially a very powerful team. Young and hungry, with the progress made last year behind them, a step up to the league’s elite isn’t impossible. Hell, if you want a crazy, real best case scenario, maybe the bright lights of Texas entice Liz Cambage to show up after the Olympics, giving them that extra big piece in the middle. But don’t hold your breath.
Worst Case Scenario
We pretty much covered it above. If injuries strike, they could be in trouble. Diggins might not actually be ready, Johnson might need more time, Pierson might break down etc. Other than that, maybe they’re still a piece, or a coach, away from crafting a viable team defense out of this group. Some of it’s just organisation and work ethic (like the awful help defense, or the lazy work in transition), but sometimes it’s the personnel.
This team should be fun. That electric backcourt, the grit and grind of Pierson and Johnson inside, the speed and energy they can always inject into their games. At the very least it should be another year of progress in their first year in Dallas. If everything clicks, the talent’s there now to challenge virtually anybody.