What’s New in the WNBA for 2016, plus now-traditional Last Second Predictions

 

What’s New

The most important thing that’s different for the WNBA’s 2016 season is that the league blew up their playoff system in the offseason, and balanced out the regular season schedule at the same time. Conferences have essentially been made irrelevant, as each team will now play every other team three times, plus one extra game against a local-ish opponent to get the total up to 34 as in other recent years.

The teams with the best eight records make the playoffs and will be seeded in order, regardless of ‘conference’. #5 hosts #8 and #6 hosts #7 in single-game elimination matchups in the first round. Then for the second round they re-seed and #3 hosts the lowest seed remaining, #4 hosts the other, in another pair of single-elimination games. They re-seed again, so #1 faces the lowest seed remaining, and #2 meets the other team left, in best-of-five semi-final matchups (2-2-1 format, as in recent WNBA Finals). Then the WNBA Finals will still be best-of-five, again 2-2-1.

The main impact of this is that the regular season becomes more important, because teams will fight to avoid the potential pitfalls of those single-game playoffs. It also means that if everything goes to plan, the two best teams will meet in the WNBA Finals, when easily the largest audiences are paying attention to the league. If one conference is weak, we won’t all be sitting there knowing that one of the Conference Finals is essentially deciding the title, before an ugly sweep in the showcase event. I’m not a big fan of everyone playing 34 games apiece only to have your season decided by one night, as will be the case four times in the opening couple of rounds. But it should be exciting, and the US is certainly enraptured by the NCAA tournament every year. If the WNBA can capture even a slice of that, this plan will be seen to have worked.

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There are two slight rule-tweaks for this season. Firstly the WNBA has brought in FIBA’s rule where the shot-clock will be re-set to only 14 after an offensive rebound, not all the way to 24. The only time you’re likely to notice or care is late in games, where an offensive board for the team in front has always been incredibly helpful in running down the clock. That advantage is slightly diminished now. The second change is that everything that used to be allowed in the final minute of a fourth-quarter or overtime now applies to the final two minutes. Things like being able to advance the ball with a timeout, or any foul putting your team automatically into the penalty. Expect teams and/or referees to screw that up at least a couple of times early in the season. Sadly they’ve done nothing to fix the interminable reviews and endless confusion surrounding the clear-path foul rule.

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The WNBA have changed the name of their streaming service LiveAccess to WNBA League Pass for no particular reason. But you can now buy single games, or a single-team season passes, or follow links from the WNBA’s social media accounts to watch games. That stuff’s new.

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Predictions


Most Valuable Player

It seems like a glaringly obvious choice, but I’m going with Candace Parker. It’s obvious because of the recent furore around her being left off the Team USA squad for the 2016 Olympic Games, which has led a lot of people to expect her to come out all guns blazing for the WNBA season. I lean towards her more because she’s the one superstar who’s currently scheduled to have a month of rest in the middle of the season, rather than be flying down to Rio. Maya Moore was my secondary choice, purely because she’s in her prime and could put up even better numbers this year, and because history says it’s very hard to win this award two years in a row. Combined with her chequered health history, that pushed Elena Delle Donne down my list, but if she plays something close to 34 games she’ll be right in the mix.

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WNBA 2014 Last Minute Awards and Season Predictions

 

MVP

It seems like a relatively short list of candidates this year, compared to usual. Someone like Tina Charles or Tamika Catchings might be in the fold again if their teams do surprisingly well, but otherwise I see five likely possibilities: Elena Delle Donne in Chicago; Angel McCoughtry in Atlanta; Maya Moore in Minnesota; Candace Parker (again) in LA; and Diana Taurasi in Phoenix.

 

Parker and maybe Taurasi are likely to see their raw stats fall a little due to extra help around them, which would diminish their chances. By contrast, Moore and Delle Donne are starting the season on teams with injury problems, which could lead to more shots and improved raw production. McCoughtry’s efficiency might improve slightly if Michael Cooper can restrain her wilder tendencies.

 

I’ll take Maya Moore. So close to the award last year, still improving as a player, and with Brunson hurt to start the year she could be taking even more shots this season. McCoughtry second choice because her team should probably win more games than Delle Donne’s if Fowles is out for a while.

 
Defensive Player of the Year

Fowles missing the start of the season and Catchings getting older means we might end up with a brand new winner in this category. Brittney Griner’s a possibility if Brondello harnesses her, and because she’ll pile up blocks and voters like stats. But my guess is that they’ll decide it’s Angel McCoughtry‘s turn, and she’ll have the steal numbers to entice the voters. Note: this is who I think will win, not who I’d vote for – the number of plays McCoughtry takes off, and the fact that the Dream have always kept her away from the tougher assignments, would keep me away from voting for her unless there’s a new attitude this year.

 

All-Defensive First Team

Armintie Herrington
Tanisha Wright
Angel McCoughtry
Tamika Catchings
Brittney Griner

 

All-Defensive Second Team

Allison Hightower
Briann January
Candace Parker (again, who I expect, not who I’d vote for)
Jayne Appel
Tina Charles

 

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Priming for Opening Night in the WNBA: New Rules, a New Line, and Prediction Time

 

Yes, the long offseason is finally over, and tonight the real WNBA games begin with the Indiana Fever visiting the San Antonio Silver Stars. If you haven’t checked them out already, WNBAlien’s team-by-team previews are all available to give you an in-depth look at how the 12 squads are shaping up:

Atlanta Dream

Chicago Sky

Connecticut Sun

Indiana Fever

New York Liberty

Washington Mystics

Los Angeles Sparks

Minnesota Lynx

Phoenix Mercury

San Antonio Silver Stars

Seattle Storm

Tulsa Shock

 

So What’s New?

Well if you’ve ended up here, you’re probably well aware of the ultra-hyped new rookie class that’s entering the league. They’re obviously new. We’ve also had coaching changes in New York, Connecticut and Washington since the end of last season. But you can read all about that and the various roster changes in the individual previews. What has the WNBA altered for 2013 on a more basic level?

 

Every year the league tinkers with something minor like the replay rules, or the timeout logistics. This year the Competition Committee and the Board of Governors went a little further. The first change is evident even before the ball goes up – you’re going to have to take a step back to make three-pointers this season. A couple of years ago FIBA pushed their three-point line back – a move which was desperately necessary for the men’s game where the FIBA three-pointer had become a mid-range jumpshot. The women’s game didn’t particularly need a longer line, but FIBA likes their rules to be virtually universal, so the ladies had to get used to it as well. This left the WNBA with the shortest three-point line in the world game, which seemed a little silly for the strongest women’s league around (even if the WNBA distance was closer to where it ‘should’ be for optimum women’s basketball). So the WNBA have decided to fall into line, so to speak.

 

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WNBAlien speaks! And some other people you might’ve heard of chime in too…

Full, in-depth season previews are coming soon, but until then you can check out Hoopfeed’s Dishin & Swishin podcast here: http://www.hoopfeed.com/content/2012/05/17/dishin-swishin-51712-podcast-a-roundtable-preview-of-the-2012-wnba-season/

It’s a WNBA Preview Roundtable featuring your favourite WNBAlien correspondent, along with ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel, former WNBA executive Angela Taylor, Seattle Times writer Jayda Evans, and respected women’s basketball journo Mel Greenberg. All wrangled together by regular host David Siegel.

Hope everyone enjoys, and keep checking back here for all the build up to tomorrow night’s opening tip-off to the regular season.

WNBA Today, 06/09/2011: Predicting the Awards, Part the Second

Lots more picks today, so let’s get going.


Coach of the Year

Well they gave it to Brian Agler last year, which probably means he’d have to go 34-0 to win it again this season. The last person to retain this award was Van Chancellor, which should tell you something. It usually comes down to who can push their team to exceed expectations, whatever the reason behind that success, which makes me lean towards Cheryl Reeve in Minnesota. Whether you think she’s a good coach or not, that roster should finally make the playoffs, which will likely draw the attention of the voters. Pokey Chatman would have a chance if she could achieve something similar in Chicago, but that seems less likely due to the holes on her roster. After that, it comes down to which teams you think might win a whole lot of games. Although if John Whisenant can take the Liberty back to the playoffs after losing his two starting posts for nothing, he should probably be in the discussion as well.

CotY Pick: Cheryl Reeve

Backup pick, if I were allowed: Whisenant

Cheeky left-field pick: Jellybean Bryant, after Gillom gets the boot in LA Continue reading

WNBA Today, 06/07/2011: Predicting the Awards, Part the First

Seeing as I didn’t get to them before the season started, and we’ve got a spare day, time to throw out some wild guesses as to who might go home with the hardware at the end of the season. Before anyone makes like Diana and whines, I know that it’s cheating to predict this stuff after the first weekend of games. I apologise. But I don’t own a time machine and can’t wipe my memory, so there’s not a lot I can do about it. Assuming I’m still writing this thing in a year’s time, I’ll try to make sure that everything’s done before the opening tip next season. Meanwhile, you’ll just have to live with it. If you want to check out how I did last year, 2010 predictions can be found here


Most Valuable Player

Got this one right last season. A healthy Lauren Jackson coming into the season on one of the best teams in the league was too hard to ignore, which begs the question, why not go with her again? Continue reading