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!
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.