We are just days away from the 2020 WNBA season to tipoff in Florida at the IMG Academy, and things have never looked so different and surreal for the WNBA. And before any games have even been played, many things have changed, but some things it seems, have stayed the same.
The biggest change is of course the COVID-19 pandemic moving the timeline of the start of the season from May all the way until this weekend, on July 25th. The other biggest change of course the league physically moving every team into what as been dubbed the “Wubble”, the bubble of housing, training camps, and courts where the season will play out in Bradenton, Florida.
Several players have moved teams, Angel McCoughtry has joined the Aces, Seimone Augustus has moved to the Sparks, Skylar Diggins-Smith moved to the Mercury, DeWanna Bonner moved to the Sun, Tina Charles moved to the Mystics, and Jessica Breland went to Phoenix, along with many other players finding new homes.
But with just as many players being traded to or signing with new teams, it seems just as many have opted out of playing due to the pandemic. Renee Montgomery, Liz Cambage, Tiffany Hayes, Natasha Cloud, LaToya Sanders, Chiney Ogwumike, Jonquel Jones, Marine Johannes, and more will all be missing in action this season.
That opens the door for any number of teams to make a run during a shortened but compacted year in which, in my mind, anything could happen. If we look back on the last several years of player development that has occurred, and I have talked about this before, there is a ton of talent on every single roster in the WNBA. The fact the the league only has twelve teams, roster spots are limited and that means every year in the draft very good players get cut and left behind.
At the start of each WNBA season I am somewhat uncertain as to what team is going to step up and make a deep run in the playoffs or actually win a title, all thanks to every team having plenty of talent and potential. And this year could prove to be the most unpredictable of all, thanks to not only the many big names that won’t be playing, but the uncertain nature of the short and compact schedule. With that said, the difference between teams that rise above the others at the end of the season and in the playoffs and those that don’t, would seem to come down coaching staffs, training staffs, front offices, team chemistry and team culture and management. Teams that have played together for several years like the Sun can get to playoffs not only because of their talent, but their experience playing together, and the system put in place by their excellent coaching staff. Other teams are struggling with transitions, like the Lynx and Liberty, and such teams will likely struggle to win games, with younger and less experienced rosters or new coaching staffs.
And thanks to all the uncertainty this season has to offer, I think that there are plenty of storylines to watch this summer and fall.
With the return of Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, can the Seattle Storm can catch lightning in the bottle twice in three season? Most everyone sees them as the pre-season favorite.
Can the Chicago Sky overcome the heartbreak of last year’s botched call exit to the Aces?
Can the Las Vegas Aces themselves win big without Kelsey Plum and Liz Cambage, possibly thanks to the addition of 3 time Finals runner up and former rookie of the year Angel McCoughtry?
Can the L.A. Sparks get back to the Finals thanks to most of their championship winning roster still in place?
Can the Mystics defend their title with most of their starting lineup missing?
Can the Phoenix Mercury get back to winning ways with the addition of Diggins-Smith and a healthy Diana Taurasi?
Can the Dallas Wings become more than a one woman show beyond Arike Ogunbowale?
All these questions have me excited for what no doubt will be a very memorable 2020 WNBA season, and you should be too!