The 2019 WNBA Off-Season

There are simply too many story lines, players, and teams to be excited about heading into the 2019 WNBA off-season. But let’s take a quick dive into some of the recent headlines and look ahead to January when teams can start to trade and sign new players.

1. Who can the Dallas Wings add in Free Agency?

With the signing of new head coach Brian Agler, the questions surrounding this talented Wings team begin to really mount. Will Liz Cambage return? She has stated it isn’t a priority, so it looks as though we will all be in another wait and see mode for the next weeks or months to find out if she will actually return to the Wings or not. But with or without Cambage, the Wings will need to add more star power to the lineup if they want to compete with the rest of the league. My thought is that they need to sign a high quality player like Tina Charles. If they can’t sign someone significant, they are going to have to draft smart at the #5 pick.

2. Can the Aces step forward and get into the playoffs?

The Las Vegas Aces missed the playoffs by a single loss to the Wings at the end of last season. They once again have the #1 pick in the draft and will need to add a real starting center or someone who can score on the wing. I still like this team to take a step forward and beat another team to the final playoff spot, likely Chicago.

3. Will Emma Meesseman come back to the Mystics?

Meesseman missed all of 2018 with Belgium international duty. She will likely miss a big part of the season for Euros in July. Will she come back mid-season to Washington to try to help them get back to the Finals? I would love to see her and Delle Donne on the floor together next season just to see exactly what they could do, especially late in the season and into the playoffs. But I am not sure how committed the Mystics will be to her, or vice-versa.

4. Can Minnesota re-tool and win again with their aging core?

The window for another WNBA title is likely still open as long and Fowles and Maya Moore can play at a high level. They both had down years last season, but if they can make some moves in free agency and really pick the right player at #6, I say anything is possible.

5. Will the Seattle Storm repeat in 2019?

With the best player in the WNBA last season in Breanna Stewart, the best trade in Most Improved Player Natasha Howard, and with the outstanding play of Jewell Lloyd, Sue Bird, Alysha Clark, and the rookie Jordin Canada, the Storm have the starting players to continue to win games in 2019. But so many other teams have plenty of amazing talent as well. Teams like the Lynx, Sparks, and Mercury could easily bounce back and retake the WNBA throne. Up and coming teams like Dallas, Connecticut, or the Mystics could also breakout, just like Seattle did last season to win it all. It will be a very tough task for the Storm to repeat as WNBA Champions in 2019, just ask the Lynx how tough it is to repeat…

Those are just a few of the storylines I wanted to briefly look at heading into free-agency in January. As free-agency heats up I will update with another look at some more exciting WNBA storylines.

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Twitter’s Favorite Players to Watch 2018

I ran an informal question poll on Twitter the weekend after the 2018 season ended and asked, “Who was your favorite WNBA Player to watch in 2018?” I was happy to see a lot of folks respond and give their opinions on who they enjoyed watching the most this season. I wasn’t surprised but many of the answers, I was more surprised by the number of players that didn’t get mentioned, even once. First let’s look at the list, broken down simply by each player and the number of votes (or times someone mentioned them in a response) that player received. Bear in mind that many respondents mentioned more than one player, as the general consensus seemed to be that it was simply too difficult to name only one player as their favorite to watch. Second, we’ll talk about some of the players I was surprised that no one voted for, and why that may be. I will be updating the list periodically if more votes come in, but it has stayed fairly consistent numbers wise. There have been 87 responses so far, but remember that some responses contained more than one player.

The List

15 votes – Elena Delle Donne
15 votes – DeWanna Bonner
12 votes – Liz Cambage
10 votes – Natasha Howard
10 votes – Diana Taurasi
09 votes – Sue Bird
09 votes – A’ja Wilson
08 votes – Brittney Griner
08 votes – Breanna Stewart
07 votes – Tiffany Hayes
07 votes – Kristi Toliver
07 votes – Ariel Atkins
07 votes – Natasha Cloud
05 votes – Candace Parker
04 votes – Kia Nurse
04 votes – Courtney Vandersloot
03 votes – Allie Quigley
03 votes – Alysha Clark
03 votes – Chelsea Gray
03 votes – Diamond DeShields
02 votes – Kelsey Mitchell
02 votes – Maya Moore
02 votes – Gabby Williams
02 votes – Courtney Williams
02 votes – Kelsey Plum
02 votes – Kayla McBride

Alyssa Thomas, Brittany Boyd, Azura Stevens, Tiffany Mitchell, Briann January, Sugar Rodgers, Seimone Augustus, LaToya Sanders, Lindsay Whalen, Renee Montgomery, Alex Bentley, Angel McCoughtry, Sami Whitcomb all received one (1) vote.

So there it is. At the top you’ve got two of best players in the league, Elena Delle Donne, and DeWanna Bonner getting the most votes. They are both very dynamic scorers on two very talented teams, so it is not surprising to see either of them at the top of the list. Many of the players on the list are long-time fan favorites, players with WNBA titles, All-Stars, but there are also a lot of really young players, rookies and younger vets alike who people are excited about. That bodes well for the future of the WNBA, as fans can follow a player for many years and become more invested in that player’s success and career as time goes on. The 7 rookies who got votes certainly all got talked about a lot on Twitter and around the league all season long, so it will be fun to see how they continue to improve and play next season as well.

It is interesting to see that not a single vote came in for Jewell Loyd, Tina Charles, Sylvia Fowles, Nneka Ogwumike, Chiney Ogwumike, Rebekkah Brunson, or Skylar Diggins-Smith, who were all All-Star selections this season. I began to wonder like a player like Skylar Diggins-Smith or Tina Charles didn’t get a vote, and I came up with some ideas. One, for a player like Tina Charles, she was the best player on one of the worst teams in the league this season. Yet her teammate Kia Nurse got 4 votes. Maybe people were just more excited to watch a young rookie make her way through the league, and maybe her style of play would be considered more fun or exciting compared to Tina’s low post up game. And if it was simply about the standings, no one should have voted for Kelsey or Tiffany Mitchell. But again, those are two young players that maybe a few more people are excited to watch RIGHT NOW, as opposed to a veteran like Charles. But what about Skylar Diggins-Smith, she is one of the best guards in the league, can make great plays, and she is fun to watch. My reasoning for her not getting any votes on this list is that she was likely overshadowed by her new teammate, Liz Cambage, who put up record-setting numbers and drew a lot of eyeballs to the Wings with not only her play but her reactions to what was happening on the court, whether it was a big shot or foul she was upset about. Similarly, Jewell Loyd is not short or talent or creating excitement on the court, but she was likely put in the back off people’s minds when they thought of who they liked watching on the Storm this season, as Howard had a breakout year as Most Improved, Stewart was the MVP, and Bird is an all-time fan favorite. Players like Sylvia Fowles, last season’s MVP, seems likely to have also been overshadowed by her own teammates, but also it may come down positional play as well, like Charles, Fowles is a less flashy, grind it out in the paint and score buckets type of player. She may simply not strike someone as their favorite player to watch, even though she is one of the best in the league. Brittney Griner is a similar player, and maybe she got more votes because a lot of fans’ responses simply included the Mercury as the big three of Bonner, Taurasi and Griner. Same thing occurred with Mystics fans, who mentions Delle Donne along with Toliver or Natasha Cloud in the same response.

And when you think of it, when you think of how much talent is in the league, it is hard to think of just one single player you could say was your favorite player to watch this season. In the same way, it is easy to think of one player and then totally overlook so many other exciting, talented, and fun players across the league. Like I said, I was quite happy to see so many responses include more than one player.

The 2018 Playoffs Predictions!

The regular season absolutely flew by this year and the playoffs start tonight! This year’s single elimination games feature some HUGE names and some of the WNBA’s biggest stars, so it’s bound to be even better than last year.

First up it’s the Dallas Wings at the Phoenix Mercury at 8:30 pm eastern time. Dallas barely made it into the playoffs after losing 8 games in a row, firing their head coach Fred Williams, and just beating the Aces on Friday night to take the 8th and final spot. They have been riding high on the amazing offense and defense of the nearly unstoppable center Liz Cambage and the stellar leadership of point guard Skylar Diggins-Smith. They have great young talent as well and veterans with players like last year’s rookie of the year Allisha Gray and vet Glory Johnson. But something has really changed for this team in the last month or so. Can they get a win on the road against the legend of Diana Taurasi, who is playing like she is ten years younger? Can Can age out duel one of the league’s best post players in Brittney Griner? And can the Wings’ wings stop DeWanna Bonner? My guess is that they will fall short, but it will be a close game, and the Mercury will really need to be their best to get a win, even with their amazing home fans cheering them on.

Up next tonight is one of the biggest rivalries in WNBA history, the two teams that have played each other in the Finals for the past two years, the Minnesota Lynx take on the Sparks in Los Angeles at 10:30 pm eastern time. This game will feature some of the most talented players the league as ever seen, and even in a down year, I expect Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen (in what could be her last playoff game ever) Sylvia Fowles, Brunson, and Augustus to give it their all in what is their last season all together. However, the Sparks have arguably just as much talent and have had the better year so far. MVP candidate Candace Parker continues to lead a team of stars along with Nneka Ogwumike (who may not be healthy or at 100%), reigning defensive player of the year Alana Beard, suddenly starting Riquna Williams, Chelsea Gray, Odyssey Sims, Essence Carson, and Jantel Lavender. As they’ve had the better year, and they are playing at home, I think the Sparks come out on top of another close, very physical game. Don’t be surprised if we see one or more the ejections tonight!

As far as round two goes, I see the Mystics and Sun really motivated, rested and moving on with wins into the semi-finals. I think the Mystics are hungry and will beat a tired Sparks team. I think the Sun are also very ready for revenge against the Mercury from last year’s loss in the second round. But in the semi-finals, I think the Dream’s defense gets it done against the Mystics strong offense, and I think the Sun come up short against the #1 seeded Seattle Storm.

In the Finals, the Dream simply won’t have the offensive firepower to compete with Seattle’s offensive and defensive balance. The Storm have simply been phenomenal this season. They were near the top of the league in almost every statistical category, and I expect them to continue to play just as well come their turn in the playoffs. Seattle is my pick to win their third WNBA championship, capping off an amazing season by Breanna Stewart, Natasha Howard, Jewell Loyd, Sue Bird, Alysha Clark and the rest of this 2018 Storm squad.