WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: Tulsa Shock

Current roster certainties or virtual certainties:

PG: Temeka Johnson/Ivory Latta

SG: Scholanda Robinson

SF: Kayla Pedersen

PF: Glory Johnson

C: (Elizabeth Cambage)

Fighting for so many freaking spots it’s not even funny: (in alphabetical order) Vicki Baugh, Chante Black, Karima Christmas, Shanna Crossley, Amber Holt, Lynetta Kizer, Jennifer Lacy, Jene Morris, Riquna Williams.

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Well here’s the bright side – the Shock finally hired a coach who might know what he’s doing. Respected Indiana Fever assistant Gary Kloppenburg takes over, and all you can say is good luck Klopp. The first move he made was positive, sending loose cannon Andrea Riley (who could easily have been cut anyway) to Phoenix for veteran point guard Temeka Johnson. Any upgrade in talent is a good thing when you’re as bad as this Tulsa team was last year.

Unfortunately, a lot of things haven’t gone Klopp’s way early in his tenure. Continue reading

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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

WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: San Antonio Silver Stars

Current roster certainties and virtual certainties:

PG: Danielle Robinson/Tully Bevilaqua

SG: Becky Hammon/Jia Perkins/Shenise Johnson

SF: Shameka Christon

PF: Sophia Young/Danielle Adams

C: Tangela Smith/Jayne Appel

Fighting for the final roster spot: Porsha Phillips, Ziomara Morrison, Latoya Williams, Loree Moore, Ify Ibekwe

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It was a strange offseason for the Silver Stars. They added some veteran talent, potentially improved their depth significantly, got lucky in the draft in the eyes of many – and yet unless a longshot or two comes through, failed to address their key weaknesses from a year ago.

San Antonio signed Shameka Christon, a player in a very similar situation to Alana Beard in LA. An All-Star level small forward back in her New York days, Christon hasn’t played in the WNBA since suffering an eye injury early in her 2010 season with Chicago. A knee injury then kept her out of the 2011 season, and unlike Beard there aren’t even any overseas numbers or performances to judge her fitness from. If she can return to something like her former self, it’ll be a nice pick up, but it could take some time. Shenise Johnson, thought to be the second-best player in this draft class by many, fell to the Silver Stars at #5 and may be ready to help the team quicker than Christon. A combo-guard/wing wasn’t really what this team needed, but head coach/GM Dan Hughes obviously felt she was too good to pass up once she dropped down the board. A trade also brought in Tangela Smith from Indiana, swapped for gunner Roneeka Hodges. Smith had a poor year for the Fever last season, but San Antonio will be hoping she can at least provide some veteran know-how and a little help for them in the post.

Because that’s where this team’s issues lie, and in fact where they’ve lain for quite some time – they don’t have much size or presence in the paint, and their rebounding is horrendous. Continue reading

WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: Phoenix Mercury

Current roster certainties and virtual certainties:

PG: Samantha Prahalis

SG: Diana Taurasi/Alexis Hornbuckle

SF: DeWanna Bonner/Charde Houston

PF: Candice Dupree

C: Nakia Sanford

Injured: Penny Taylor

Fighting for the remaining three roster spots: Andrea Riley, Alexis Gray-Lawson, Krystal Thomas, Zane Tamane, C’eira Ricketts, and a whole host of other people.

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Remember when I said Atlanta had a pretty poor offseason? Well Phoenix’s was probably worse. They kicked it off by trading their starting point guard, Temeka Johnson, for wild (and wildly inaccurate) gunner Andrea Riley. The one defensible reason behind that move was that it opened up plenty of extra cap space, but an effort to spend that cash on restricted free agent Erin Phillips didn’t work out when Indiana matched their offer sheet. The Mercury settled for the consolation prize of Minnesota’s Alexis Hornbuckle instead (who really isn’t anybody’s idea of a point guard). Many people expected them to be in the running for the other Lynx guard on the market, Candice Wiggins, but they apparently decided she wasn’t worth the risk or the money. When Phoenix eventually decided that there weren’t any point guards left worth signing, they used some more of that cap space on another former Lynx, forward Charde Houston, finally completing the most obvious match for player and system that this league has ever seen. A no-conscience shooter who can’t defend to save her life joins a high-octane, high-volume offensive team that doesn’t play any defense anyway – a match made in Heaven.

But then came the Mercury’s moment in Hell. Continue reading

WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: Minnesota Lynx

Current roster certainties and virtual certainties:

PG: Lindsay Whalen/Erin Thorn

SG: Seimone Augustus/Candice Wiggins

SF: Maya Moore/Monica Wright

PF: Rebekkah Brunson/Amber Harris/Devereaux Peters

C: Taj McWilliams-Franklin/Jessica Adair

Fighting it out to try to make some kind of impression in camp: Julie Wojta, Kayla Standish, Queralt Casas, and plenty of filler.

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This one’s almost as dull as Connecticut. When you waltz through the regular season 27-7, then drop just one playoff game on your way to the first championship in franchise history, you understandably don’t want to change much. They cored Taj McWilliams-Franklin just in case she might’ve been affected by another bout of wanderlust, allowing them to re-sign their evergreen starting center. Rather more surprisingly, restricted free agent Candice Wiggins was also re-signed, despite widespread expectations that someone would throw a large contract at her that the Lynx wouldn’t want to match. The offer never seemed to materialise, so Wiggins decided to stick around and go for the repeat.

The only players from last year’s squad that are no longer in Minnesota are Alexis Hornbuckle and Charde Houston, and considering they were essentially the 10th and 11th players on the roster it’s no great loss. Continue reading

WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: Los Angeles Sparks

Current roster certainties and virtual certainties:

PG: Sharnee Zoll

SG: Alana Beard/Kristi Toliver

SF: DeLisha Milton-Jones/Marissa Coleman

PF: Candace Parker/Nneka Ogwumike/Ebony Hoffman

C: Nicky Anosike/Jantel Lavender

Fighting for the final roster spot: Ashley Shields, Khadijah Rushdan, Tyra White, Darxia Morris, anyone another team cuts who can vaguely play the point

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New coach, several new players, and hopefully for Sparks fans, the start of a new era in LA. The combined shambles under Jen Gillom and Joe Bryant last season has been consigned to history, and the reins have been handed over to former Atlanta assistant Carol Ross. As a nice little bonus for Ross, the Sparks beat the odds and ended up with the #1 pick in what most people saw as a one-player draft (at least they did once Griner, Delle Donne and Diggins chose to stay in school). That allowed LA to add Stanford’s Nneka Ogwumike, an extremely talented forward who should be able to help immediately. Eventually, they also accomplished the important task of re-signing centerpiece star Candace Parker to a new contract. Continue reading

WNBA Offseason Overview/Preseason Preview: Washington Mystics

Current roster certainties and virtual certainties:

PG: Dominique Canty/Jasmine Thomas

SG: Matee Ajavon/Noelle Quinn

SF: Monique Currie

PF: Crystal Langhorne

C: Michelle Snow/Ashley Robinson

Fighting it out for the remaining three spots: Natalie Novosel, Natasha Lacy, Kerri Gardin, LaSondra Barrett, LaToya Pringle, Laura Harper, Ashley Walker

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At least there are some new names in DC, even if the general quality isn’t much different from last year. They let former franchise player Alana Beard walk after growing tired of paying her to be injured; shipped wing Marissa Coleman to LA for Noelle Quinn in the hope that both could benefit from a change of scenery; dumped Nicky Anosike on LA in a separate deal, this time for fringe backups Natasha Lacy and LaToya Pringle; sent last year’s first-round pick Victoria Dunlap to Seattle for backup center Ashley Robinson; and signed over-the-hill point guard Dominique Canty and consistently inconsistent veteran big Michelle Snow as free agents. And breathe. You certainly can’t accuse head coach/general manager Trudi Lacey of being inactive in trying to improve this team after the debacle last season. Continue reading