2013 WNBA Season Previews: Seattle Storm

 

PG: Temeka Johnson

SG: Tanisha Wright/Noelle Quinn

SF: Shekinna Stricklen/Alysha Clark

PF: Tina Thompson/Tianna Hawkins/Cierra Bravard

C: Camille Little/Nakia Sanford

 

Significant gains: Temeka Johnson, Noelle Quinn, Tianna Hawkins.

Significant losses: Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird, Katie Smith, Ann Wauters (plus Ewelina Kobryn and Svetlana Abrosimova aren’t coming back either). Yeah, ouch.

 

Well if you thought those teams with just one All-Star missing were in trouble, welcome to Seattle. Star post and three-time league MVP Lauren Jackson is taking the season off to rest and finally try to fix all the pieces of her body that needed putting back together. That news was followed up with the announcement that point guard Sue Bird would be having surgery to remove a cyst from her knee, and would also miss the entire season. So the two rocks that this franchise has been founded on for over a decade are both out for the year. They’ve survived without Jackson before for long stretches, and even without Bird for a few games here or there, but a Storm team without either of them just isn’t going to be the same. Winning basketball games is going to be a lot more difficult, too.

 

Give some credit to Brian Agler and the Storm franchise though – this is far from a tank job from opening day. If that was the plan, they wouldn’t have gone out and signed two veteran perimeter options in Temeka Johnson and Noelle Quinn, who’ll join Tanisha Wright in the backcourt rotation. Johnson has the unenviable task of trying to replace Bird, but after a solid season last year in Tulsa she should do a reasonable job. She can run a team, she can hit from long range, and while her defense won’t excite anyone that’s no different from Bird. Quinn will take over the Katie Smith role from last season, playing anywhere required around the perimeter. She’s big for a wing, which Agler will like for defensive purposes, and she’ll make a few shots from outside. She’ll also probably be happy to have escaped Washington, so who knows, maybe that’ll give her a new lease of life. Wright will probably be asked to take on more responsibility with Bird and Jackson gone, and if she were healthy she would probably be capable of that. It feels like quite some time since we’ve seen Wright truly at 100%, featuring combo-guard skills that allowed Bird to play off the ball, and shutdown defense on the opposition’s best guard. If Wright’s in one piece, she’ll be one of the leaders of this team – but at some stage it may make sense to shut her down and let her rest next to Sue on the sidelines.

 

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2012 In-Depth WNBA Season Preview: Seattle Storm

PG: Sue Bird

SG: Tanisha Wright/Katie Smith

SF: Camille Little/Shekinna Stricklen/Alysha Clark

PF: Tina Thompson/Victoria Dunlap

C: Ann Wauters/Ewelina Kobryn/(Lauren Jackson)

Significant additions: Wauters (free agency after being out of the league through choice), Thompson (free agency from Los Angeles), Stricklen (college draft), Dunlap (trade with Washington), Clark (free agency after being out of the league)

Significant losses: Lauren Jackson (missing first half of season to train with Australian National Team), Swin Cash and Le’coe Willingham (trade with Chicago), Ashley Robinson (trade with Washington)

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Being consistently good can be a problem in US sports leagues. The lack of high draft picks that results means that teams can get old before your eyes, without the young talent being added to replace them. Storm head coach/general manager Brian Agler decided that he needed to do something about that this offseason and made a big move, giving up important veterans Swin Cash and Le’coe Willingham to acquire the second overall pick in the draft. The trade was partly made in the hope that one of the highly-touted college juniors (Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins) would declare for the draft, which ultimately never occurred, leaving it looking a far more risky move. Still, the move also created the cap room for him to re-stock with other veterans, and even without star post Lauren Jackson for the first half of the season the Storm should be very competitive once again. Continue reading

WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: Seattle Storm

Current roster certainties or virtual certainties:

PG: Sue Bird

SG: Tanisha Wright/Shekinna Stricklen

SF: Katie Smith

PF: Camille Little/Tina Thompson

C: (Lauren Jackson)/Ann Wauters

Fighting for the remaining three roster spots: Silvia Dominguez, Victoria Dunlap, Ewelina Kobryn, Alysha Clark, Allie Quigley, Lindsay Taylor

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Storm head coach and general manager Brian Agler pulled off an unusual feat this offseason – he traded away two established veterans for the #2 pick in the draft, and yet still managed to make this roster even older than last year. Sending Swin Cash and Le’coe Willingham to Chicago for the #2 made some sense – Seattle’s roster needed freshening up, needed some youth to build with for the future, and the cap space created allowed other moves to be made. But after everything played out, you can’t help feeling that Agler made the trade expecting at least one of the highly regarded college juniors – Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne or Skylar Diggins – to declare for the draft. If any of them had, Seattle would’ve got either that player or Nneka Ogwumike from the trade, rather than the decidedly raw Shekinna Stricklen from the University of Tennessee. Stricklen has physical gifts that obviously appealed to Agler, but watching some of her college games reminded me of Amber Harris – great size and mobility for her position, but you wonder if her head will ever catch up to her body.

The Storm also made another move that created yet more cap space, sending defensive center Ashley Robinson to Washington for forward Victoria Dunlap. All this extra cash allowed Agler to take care of his own house – re-signing Sue Bird, Tanisha Wright and Katie Smith – and then go shopping. Continue reading

WNBAlien 2011 Previews: Seattle Storm

PG: Sue Bird(/Wright/Smith)

SG: Tanisha Wright/Katie Smith(/Snell)

SF: Swin Cash/Ify Ibekwe/Belinda Snell

PF: Camille Little/Le’coe Willingham

C: Lauren Jackson/Ashley Robinson/Krystal Thomas

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Head Coach: Brian Agler

Significant additions: Smith, maybe Snell or Ibekwe if either can get off Agler’s notoriously short bench.

Significant losses: Svetlana Abrosimova (maybe not for the whole year), Jana Vesela, and Erin Phillips (sort of). Young Aussie big Abby Bishop isn’t coming this year either

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So, the team that romped through the 2010 WNBA regular season, losing only six games all year before sweeping seven straight in the playoffs, brings back the top six in their rotation and adds an all-time great to the bench. You can see why Vegas had the Storm as their overwhelming favourite to repeat as champs in 2011. Continue reading