Tina Charles is an Offensive Island on HashtagBasketball.com

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WNBA 2018 Season T-Shirt Twitter Giveaway

I will be giving away one (1) WNBA Logo T-shirt from WNBAStore.com, and all you need to do is follow me on Twitter @wnbahoops and retweet the tweet announcing the contest, which will run from Friday evening, May 18, 2018 until it ends Monday morning May 21, 2018 at 11: am Eastern Daylight Time. I will then use a random retweet picker online to choose the winner. I will then get your details via direct message on Twitter on sizing and whether you would prefer a men’s or women’s Tshirt.

2017 WNBA Playoffs Predictions Part 1

The 2017 WNBA Playoffs start tomorrow, and fans should be gearing up for a very exciting postseason.

The first game tomorrow at 8 pm eastern on ESPN is the #7 seed Dallas Wings facing off against the #6 seed Washington Mystics. My prediction? Dallas takes this game because the Mystics are not a cohesive unit just yet. They have had too many injuries and Dallas has been bringing it all together late in the season.

The second game tomorrow night is at 10 pm eastern also on ESPN 2 is the match up between the #8 seed Seattle Storm and the #5 seed Phoenix Mercury. My prediction? Phoenix, although this team is getting older, they still have enough in Taurasi and Griner, a possible MVP this year, to win against the Storm. Seattle have really struggled this year to find a lot of production from anyone outside Lloyd, Stewart, and Bird.

I will update after this first round with more predictions with rounds 2 and 3.

The Season So Far At the All-Star Break

This year’s All Star Game looks like it is going to be a lot of fun, with 9 first time All-Stars making the rosters, ranging from 8 year vet Allie Quigley and 5 year vet Sugar Rodgers, to some of the newest, youngest stars in the league like Seattle’s Breanna Stewart and this season’s breakout player: Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones. This year’s All-Star game is going to be tough to call but I am going with the West to win it. They have the better starting five, especially with Delle Donne out. Either way the game goes though, it’s going to be great seeing all the young players enjoying their first All-Star Game.

And now that the All-Star Game is finally here, let’s look at how the season is going so far for teams and players around the league.

First let’s talk about the Minnesota Lynx. They are an incredible team. They have a net combined offense and defense rating of 13.9. The second best team in terms of net rating, the Sparks have a rating of 7.9. They are leading the league in points per game and assists per game, and are 4th in rebounds per game. They could very easily be one their way to a 4th WNBA title. Sylvia Fowles is going to win the MVP. NOT MAYA MOORE, but SYLVIA FOWLES. Let that sink in. In short, the Lynx have 3 All-Stars and the most talented team in the league. They also have arguably the best coach in the league in Cheryl Reeve. She knows how to get the best out of everyone on the team every game.

What else is big news this season? The Connecticut Sun. They are really showing their collective potential this year and are really impressive with their pace and overall playing this year. Jonquel Jones is most improved and Curt Miller has this team going back to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

But what about the Washington Mystics? Well, they are also vastly improved and have one of the best starting fives in the league. However, Tayler Hill is now out for the season with an ACL injury to her right knee, and Delle Donne is out for a bit with an ankle sprain. They also really need to step it up in the assists dept, but that isn’t surprising given the makeup of the roster.

Speaking of injuries, Brittney Griner is out for a month with a left knee bone bruise that she suffered on July 14th vs. the Lynx. The injury effectively wipes out her chances for surpassing Fowles for the MVP award and hurts the Mercury’s chances come playoff time, even if she’s back in time to play.

Teams around the league that are seeing improvement as of late are the Dallas Wings and the Chicago Sky. Although the Sky still sit second to last in front of the Stars, they not far out of playoff contention. The Liberty and Mercury look like two pretty good teams, but teams that simply won’t have enough come playoff time.

The Seattle Storm continue to grow and improve, pretty much on schedule, but when Sue Bird leaves, they are going to need more than Stewart and Lloyd to lead the team back to WNBA titles.

The Sparks, once again, look like the team most likely to challenge the Lynx in the Finals, and could, with luck like last year, repeat as WNBA champs.

Overall, the league is looking pretty good. There are players of talent and potential on every roster, even if it doesn’t pan out in the standings
. The league needs to promote better, market better, and do a better job on Twitter, but the #WNBALive games are certainly a step in the right direction. Here’s to hoping for a second half of the season just as good as the first.

What makes a WNBA “All-Star”?

The voting has started this week for this year’s WNBA All-Star Game in Seattle on July 22. It’s always an exciting time of the year, as the season is well under way, and teams’ fortunes are starting to take shape. The All-Star Game always has it’s share of players who, according to public opinion, seemingly should or should not have made the ASG roster.  And as I made my first 10 picks yesterday, I had to ask myself, “What makes an ‘All-Star”? Who really deserves to be picked to play in an All-Star Game? Is it really simply the “stars” of the game that I should be voting for?

One of the best examples of the uncertainty of who does or does not belong on an ASG roster this year is Maya Moore. Do I have to vote for her simply because of name recognition? Or do I leave her out because she is not shooting nearly as well as seasons past? She is in the top ten in steals, assists, and 3 point percentage, but beyond that, her teammate Sylvia Fowles is having a far better season, and the best season of her career. She is also doing it by shooting a clear 30 percent better than Moore is.

But does Maya Moore get left out because a player like Kayla McBride or Tiffany Hayes is averaging 3 or 4 points more per game? Does stardom come down to a career of excellence or should it come down to season by season performance?  I think from a traditional sense, Maya Moore should be an All-Star this year, because she is one of the biggest, if not the biggest star the league has.  And in the end, my opinion doesn’t really matter, because Maya Moore will no doubt be in the All-Star Game this year simply because of that fact. But as I start looking at this season’s stats, as I look over this year’s league leaders, I still have to really think about whether I should pick someone who’s having a better year individually than Moore, even when her team is clearly far and away the best team in the league. But at the end of the day, that’s the fun and excitement of All-Star voting. You get to have your say about who you think deserves to play in All-Star Game, whether the stats back you up or not.

WNBA Trade Season: The Delle Donne Blockbuster and more

We are just a couple of months away from the 2017 Draft, and we have seen some very interesting trades happen so far this offseason. The biggest is of course the trade that has sent Elena Delle Donne to the Mystics.

Is this the biggest trade in WNBA history? Some say yes, others say no. My opinion is that on paper, yes this is the biggest trade in league history, but time will only tell if it really has the impact on the Washington Mystics that they hope it may have. Delle Donne is an MVP player that can do it all, score from inside and out, pass, rebound, block shots, and she is the most efficient player from the free throw line. There are few players in the league, if any, that can impact the entire game like Delle Donne does. But the Mystics have to hope she can stay healthy and fit in and play well with a whole new group of teammates.

Did Chicago get a fair deal out of the trade, getting Stefanie Dolson and Kahleah Copper as well as the second pick in the draft this year? I think they fared about as well with this deal as they could have hoped for, especially considering the position they were in. Delle Donne is arguably the best player in the league, and she really forced her way out of Chicago. She publicly and openly voiced her displeasure for playing for the Sky, ostensibly to the point that the Sky had no other option but to trade her. Dolson and Copper are both very good, young players, and both still have plenty to prove to the rest of the league. Add in the #2 pick and I think the Sky have a real opportunity to create a better team atmosphere, as well as continue to build a young core of real talent, especially with a player like Imani Boyette in the front court. However, if the rumors are true, it’s going to take some real ownership/front office changes if the Sky want to keep the talent like Boyette from leaving.

The next biggest trade is the three team deal that sends Carolyn Swords to Seattle, with Washington getting Seattle’s 6th and 18th picks in the draft, while New York gets center Kia Vaughn and guard Bria Hartley. The short term winner of this deal is Seattle, getting a proven, defensive center in Swords, who can really help Breanna Stewart in the front court. The long term winners could be the Mystics, with an uncertain draft class this year, Washington’s picks could go either way, and with adding Delle Donne, they are now much closer to getting to, and making a real push in the playoffs. New York is probably the team that fares the worst in this trade, as Bria Hartley finds herself in a crowded back court minutes wise, but injury to anyone else could make her role on the Liberty more prominent. They did get a veteran center in Vaughn, who should help Tina Charles shoulder the rebounding and defensive load.

The third biggest trade is Danielle Robinson going to Phoenix in exchange for Isabelle Harrison and the Mercury’s fifth pick. This certainly gives the Mercury one of the best back courts in the WNBA, with the retirement of Penny Taylor, Danielle Robinson serves as a great compliment along side Diana Taurasi, as well as Taurasi’s possible long term replacement when she retires as well.

The last moves I need to mention are Erika De Souza going to San Antonio and Plenette Pierson going to the Minnesota. With the De Souza signing, the Stars are getting a much needed bolster at center, and De Souza is in a town that seems will be a better fit all around. Plenette Pierson going to the Lynx is an interesting move, because you have to wonder whose minutes she’ll be taking, and if that means a player like McCarville has to be let go, my bet is that Minnesota is willing to do to make room for Pierson.

It has been a very exciting offseason thus far, and we can only hope the draft brings as much interest and that excitement and interest really carries into the start of the season. Will any more big trades happen? It’s hard to say, but this offseason, at this point, nothing would surprise me.

 

2016 Playoffs Preview

The new format for the 2016 playoffs adds a bit of uncertainty to the postseason, and that will be especially evident in the first two single elimination rounds. And even in the semifinals or finals, we will see some very exciting games as well and some upsets. Let’s take a look at each team and see what they might do this postseason.

#8 Phoenix at #5 Indiana

Both these teams are going to need to find consistency on both of ends of floor, and contributions up and down the lineup if they want to win. Phoenix’s Brittney Griner is going to have to stay out of foul trouble and step up offensively. Candice Dupree is also going to have to contribute more, but the team as a whole needs to improve steadily on defense. The Phoenix bench is going to have really improve. Indiana, on the other hand, is really looking at Briann January, Shenise Johnson, and rookie Tiffany Mitchell to lead a Tamika Catchings-less team in future seasons. But they also are going to show they can play on the big stage and compete against basically every other team in the playoff field, especially any Western Conference team. I know they got to the Finals last year, but this year, everything is different. The same can be said for the Phoenix Mercury. This year is looking far different than their championship season of 2014. Who wins this game? I’m going with the road team Mercury to step up big time and show they can still win in the playoffs. They’ve improved as the season has gone on. But they can’t have an off night, like they have had plenty of during the regular season.

#7 Seattle Storm at #6 Atlanta Dream

Seattle Storm is the sleeper pick of the playoffs, at least in these first two rounds. The Storm are led by AP Rookie of the Year Breanna Stewart, last year’s Rookie of the Year Jewell Loyd, and the sure fire play from Sue Bird. Sue Bird is the veteran leader who is leading the league in assists and playing like she is still in her prime. She should never retire. Much of the rest of the Storm roster are young, relatively inexperienced, but they are very, very dangerous. They need more out of Mosqueda-Lewis and Tokashiki off the bench. They need to rebound better as a team, and they need more points from everyone in the line up.

Atlanta have been a pretty consistent team, but that consistency has been pretty much a kind of mediocre consistency that I can’t feel confident about. They are led by MVP Candidate Angel McCoughtry, who continues her stellar play. They found a gem of a trade in AP Sixth Woman of the Year Elizabeth Williams, guard Tiffany Hayes, and pretty good bench play from Sancho Lyttle and rookie Bria Holmes. Unfortunately for Atlanta, they will be without Tiffany Hayes due to technical foul accumulation. With Hayes out, and with Seattle’s young core coming into the playoffs with plenty of momentum, I actually give Seattle the slight edge in this game, but it’s still a tough one to call.

#4 Chicago Sky 

I wanna call the Chicago Sky the team that is first in offense and last in defense, but I technically can’t do that. However, I will say they have shown a real resolve without last year’s MVP and team leader Elena Delle Donne. Since she went down for the rest of the season with a thumb injury on September 7th against the Mystics, they beat the Liberty, the Lynx in overtime, and the Sun. Although they did lose the regular season closer to Seattle on Sunday, I won’t be surprised to see them continue to persevere and win at least one game in these playoffs. Beyond that, I have no idea what this team is capable in the playoffs without their best player.

#3 New York Liberty

Tina Charles had a MVP worthy season, Sugar Rodgers was a Most Improved Player candidate, Shavonte Zellous was a Sixth Woman candidate, and Epiphanny Prince is back in the lineup after missing most of the season with her ACL injury. Unfortunately, New York has had a spell of new injuries, including Charles and Prince, and will be missing Shoni Schimmel and Kiah Stokes during the playoffs. Even with a health lineup though, the Liberty just don’t seem to always get enough offense, and they may really hurt them in the semifinals. Defensively, they are stellar, but defense is not going to be enough to beat a team like the Sparks or Lynx this year. I’d love to see them win a title after all these years of postseason disappointment, but I still think they are missing a piece or two on offense to win it all.

#2 Los Angeles Sparks

What a turn around for Los Angeles this season. Brian Agler is the AP’s pick for Coach of the Year, and AP MVP Nneka Ogwumike had what is essentially the most efficient shooting season in professional basketball history. Candace Parker is as stellar as ever, while the rest of the starting lineup and much of the bench have really come together as team. They have struggled a bit during the post-Olympic break, but I think the rest before the semifinals will help them regroup and prepare well. They can beat anyone in field, but they are going to have to rebound more if they want to win it all. They have plenty of talent, so it will be very interesting to see what happens, say, in a 5 game playoff series with a certain other team….

#1 Minnesota Lynx

Do I even have to say it? Do I even have to spell out how good this team is? Because I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t have to write about how Sylvia Fowles won the AP Defensive Player of the Year, how Maya Moore is still an MVP caliber player, or how they have a bench good enough to beat just about anyone else’s starting lineup. I don’t have to tell you they just beat their own franchise record for win at 28. I don’t have to tell you that this team does everything well, and right now they rank 2nd in points scored, points allowed and assists, while also ranking 4th in rebounds. I know those are not advanced stats, but they are telling, nonetheless. This team only lost 6 games this season, and only back to back losses came when they lost 3 in row to the Sparks, Mystics, and the Liberty. This team won it all last year and they only look better now. The Lynx will probably be on their way, with home court advantage, to a record tying 4th WNBA Title this postseason.

Well, that’s it. That’s the 2016 Playoff Preview. I can’t believe the playoffs are already here, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I will. Cheers!