The 12 Players to Watch in 2019

As the season gets underway, let’s take a look at one player from each team you should keep an eye on during the season, whether they are a perennial MVP candidate, a brand new rookie, or an up and coming sophomore star.

1. Brittney Griner, F/C Phoenix Mercury

With Diana Taurasi gone for much of 2019, Griner has yet another chance to prove she is capable of carrying Phoenix by herself into another deep playoff run. If she can actually develop an outside game, which she appears to be doing this off-season, and continue to dominate defensively in the paint, her offense and her health will be key to another chance to win an MVP trophy.

2. Elizabeth Williams, F/C Atlanta Dream

The Atlanta Dream are full of exciting, fun to watch players, so it is hard to choose just one to be on the lookout for. But Williams stands out to me as a player to watch this season because she will need to step up offensively if the Dream want to make it back to the playoffs and have a chance to win more games throughout the season. Strong in the post defensively, she should have a good opportunity to get back to averaging double digits scoring this season.

3. Cheyenne Parker, F Chicago Sky

Parker should continue to rise up towards stardom as she has a cast of talented teammates that are a mix of youth and experience. If she continues to produce offensively, she will find more starting minutes. She can be an anchor and an asset next to Stefanie Dolson who will also need to step up her game if the Sky want to win. Narrowly missing the 6th woman of the year award last year, don’t surprised if Parker is in contention for Most Improved Player this year.

4. Odyssey Sims, G Minnesota Lynx

The Lynx are a team in transition. They have a lot of the old guard now missing, but they have made one of the bigger moves of the off-season in trading for Odyssey Sims from the Sparks. Sims and Skylar Diggins-Smith were an outstanding backcourt for the Tulsa Shock/Dallas Wings, but she lost her footing after moving to Los Angeles, never quite fitting into that roster. Can she revive her career on a new team and in a new city? She’ll be the player to watch on a Lynx team hoping to replace her former rival Lindsay Whalen as the point guard of the foreseeable future in Minnesota.

5. Teaira McCowan, C Indiana Fever

The Fever need new star power, and they need it fast. McCowan has the personality and the talent to make an immediate impact, not unlike A’ja Wilson did last year for the Aces. It will be interesting if McCowan can adjust to the WNBA, and if she does, watch out, because she will be a force in the post on both ends of the floor.

6. Myisha Hines-Allen, F Washington Mystics

The second year player out of Louisville could have a breakout sophomore season. With Emma Meesseman back, the Mystics will be likely tinkering with the starting lineup throughout the year, so don’t be surprised to see Hines-Allen with more opportunities, not only to start games, but more minutes off the bench as well. She will add depth to a strong squad as the Mystics look to get back to WNBA Finals.

7. Jackie Young, G Las Vegas Aces

In the WNBA, you always have to watch to see what the #1 pick can do in their rookie season. What Jackie Young will be hoping to do is play well enough to get starting minutes and lead this team to a playoff berth. She is a versatile guard, and the Aces should be able to fit her into their system. How it will all play out with Kelsey Plum and the rest of the team is going to very interesting this year. There is plenty of talent out in the desert, especially with the starting rotation, and you can’t help but wonder if Coach Laimbeer will get it just right to have this team winning more games in 2019.

8. Jonquel Jones, F Connecticut Sun

All eyes in Connecticut should be on Jones and whether or not she can get back to the starting lineup and lead this Sun team to playoff success. The talent and coaching are all there, but the Sun seemed to hit a roadblock in their rise up the ranks in the WNBA. Jones will have to continue to be the inside-out all around player that they need on both ends. Already an amazing rebounder, consitency will be key for her on the offensive end as she looks to lead the fastest team in the league towards playoff wins.

9. Kia Nurse, G New York Liberty

Nurse had an interesting rookie season, she played in all 34 games, starting in the final 7 games of the season. She averaged a good 20 minutes per game, and often came off the bench early and scored efficiently. She had several breakout, high-scoring games early on in the season, went through a real lull in the middle, and then found her groove again at the end of the year. She could be the absolute future of this franchise, so it will be very exciting to watch what she does in her second year.

10. Arike Ogunbowale, G Dallas Wings

Selected 5th overall by the Wings, Ogunbowale hopes to prove that she can shine not only in college and on the biggest stage in the Final Four, but in the pro ranks as well. She will be lead by new head coach Brian Agler, who is hoping she will be strong enough to start in a rotation without Skylar Diggins-Smith at the beginning of the season. With Cambage likely out for the year, the Wings are looking at Glory Johnson to start at center, so Arike and the rest of the back court will need to gel quickly and be able to shoot the three and play and outside to inside game. If she can adjust to the WNBA, she can be a star, but may be a rough go with the roster as it stands at the start of the season.

11. Jewell Loyd, G Seattle Storm

Loyd will be without the MVP half of her dynamic duo in Breanna Stewart this year. She now has to step up and help Sue Bird lead this team every single game. She will look to the league’s 2018 Most Improved Player Natasha Howard to feed the ball to inside, and she herself will need to continue to work her way into the paint and find ways to score and get to the free throw line. This lineup was one of the best, if not the best three point shooting team last year, and if Loyd can continue to improve in all the little areas of her game, the Storm still have a chance to repeat what they did last year in winning the WNBA title.

12. Chiney Ogwumike, C Los Angeles Sparks

It’s a good thing Chiney moved to L.A. with her sister, because she has a flair for drama. Off the court, on the court, these sisters know how to stand out, and if they can find their rhythm together, and play well without Candace Parker to start the season, they can find themselves at the top of the league. Folks around the league will be keeping watch on Chiney as she hopes to finally get to the WNBA Finals. Can she play well with an all new, star-studded cast? Can she stay healthy and provide points in the paint night in and night out? Only time will tell if this trade will have actually paid off for Chiney and the Sparks.

The 2018 WNBA Draft Preview

I know that people love mock drafts. I enjoy them as well. But I also think drafts, as far as who gets chosen when, and the career any given draftee may have is often a crapshoot. For any league that holds a draft, we all know about the #1 pick or first round busts and the third or fourth round steals and surprises. The disappointment of fans when a highly successful player out of college or high school never lives up to their first round pick potential is all too real. But so is the player that comes out of the late rounds to eventually become an All-Star or a leader on a championship caliber team. With that in mind, I am not going to tell you who I think gets drafted first or third or 15th in this draft, I am going to tell you I am most excited to see potentially getting drafted and coming into the WNBA.

Victoria Vivians – 6’1″ Guard, Mississippi State

First, I am really excited to see Victoria Vivians in the WNBA. I like her as a shooter, I like her as good sized guard rather than a slightly undersized forward. I like what she can bring as a good rebounder, because she has really improved her rebounding and I think that is something that she can continue to do as the next level. She won’t be leading the league in rebounds, but she won’t be simply a scorer in this league either.

Jordin Canada – 5’6″ Point Guard, UCLA

I want to see Jordin Canada in a WNBA uniform. I want to see her continue to prove how good she can be. Is she short? Yes, but that shouldn’t stop her from being able to be successful as a confident, exciting leader on a WNBA team. She is very good on both ends and I like her odds at the pro level. She is a player that is highly competitive and WANTS to win.

A’Ja Wilson – 6’5″ Center, South Carolina

A’Ja Wilson is one of the seemingly no brainer picks of this draft, and of course is projected by many to go #1. I am most excited for her to be on an WNBA roster because I think she could be like many of the franchise changing players we have seen the last several years. Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Candace Parker, Brittney Griner, and Breanna Stewart are just a few examples of players that we have seen come into the league and make an immediate impact on their respective teams. A’Ja Wilson can do that for the Las Vegas Aces or Indiana Fever.

Maria Vadeeva – 6’3″ Forward, Dynamo Kursk

Maria Vadeeva is an overseas prospect that could be selected in the first round. She has been playing with WNBA talent in the Euro League, and she is going to be boom or bust, in my opinion for whoever drafts her. With her length and determination, as well as her ability to fill up the stat sheet; she could end up like another Russian basketball player you may have heard of named Andrei Kirilenko. I am most intrigued to see if a team does draft her, will she come play in the WNBA?

Wildcards Baby!

I want to end with just a few of the projected late round players who I am most intrigued to see, 1) if they get drafted, 2) if they make a roster and 3) if they have an impact short or long term in the league. First is Katelynn Flaherty of Michigan. She can really shoot, and she won the 3 point contest last week. But is she one dimensional? Can she improve and impress in other areas enough to make it to a team?

Second wild card is Shakayla Thomas from Florida State. Can she improve in other areas besides her scoring to be a WNBA talent? She is 5’11”, so she going to have to work hard if she wants to stay in the paint in the pros. But I like her, she is a tough, versatile player who might just make it.

Lastly is Natalie Butler of George Mason. A transfer from UConn, she is a rebounding machine and I would love to see her come into the league and play a role off the bench for a team that needs size right now. What are the chances she makes it? Odds aren’t great, but that’s why I have her as a wildcard.

Are there plenty of players in this draft who I didn’t mention who could go either way in the WNBA in the coming years? Heck yes. There are too many talented players and not enough roster spots in the WNBA. And I am not only excited about these particular players, I am just really excited to see what this draft class as a whole can do at the professional league level.