2019 Season Midpoint Review

Logopit_1563512002451We are halfway through the season and thus far, it has been a pretty wild ride. Looking back on my preseason predictions, I am reminded as to why I don’t like predictions: because I am terrible at them. But we press on! We press on into the All-Star break and we have all sorts of questions in our minds. “Who will win MVP?”, “Who will win Rookie of the Year?”, “Who is the best team in the league?” and perhaps most troubling of all, “Will there be any players left to suit up for the playoffs uninjured?”

Seriously, if we are going to talk about anything, let’s talk about how players from across the league just seem to keep getting injured, week in and week out. Even when we knew players that were going to be out for much or all of the year before it started, we have continued to see players go down for significant amounts of time. Sancho Lyttle, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Jewell Loyd, Asia Durr, Elena Delle Donne, the list goes on with so many players out with injuries throughout this year. You cannot help but feel for players who get her and have to miss games for their teams. I hope the second half of the season is healthier for everyone across the league.

Now, besides injuries, there has been a fair amount of off the court drama, with players embroiled in domestic disputes, etc. I will only say that I hope the WNBA can come to some sort of consensus on dealing with these matters the right way. I would hope that when concerns are raised, that teams, management, and league leadership listen to those involved and that they take appropriate action. One of the very first articles I wrote for this site was how I felt that the WNBA could be at the forefront of dealing with off the court issues the right way, to lead by example and to show other sports leagues how to handle different issues on and off the court. I talked only briefly about how the league could try to really openly and honestly deal with off the court issues, and how they needed to be prompt in dealing with said issues. Some will say they have not done a very good job this season with the issues that have arisen, while others will say we shouldn’t speculate or give too many opinions on matters we don’t fully understand or have the whole story on. I would agree that as fans, we should wait for the whole story before forming opinions or commenting one way or the other. My only hope is that the league does it’s best, in a timely manner, in any and every situation to help ANYONE affected by any situation involving the league, its employees, its personnel, and its players.

So beyond injuries and off the court drama what has actually been happening on the court in the WNBA this year? Let’s break it down by category:

THE BEST TEAMS: Washington Mystics (9-6) and Las Vegas Aces (11-6)

The Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics look like the two best teams in the league.

For the Aces, Liz Cambage, A’ja Wilson, and Kayla McBride are averaging 15 points a game each and will all be All-Stars on their home court next week. The Aces are the #1 team in the league in rebounds and assists. They are the highest defensive rated team in the league. The Washington Mystics are the best shooting team, they score the most points per game, they are second in steals and blocks. They are first in turnover average, and third in assists. They also commit the least amount of fouls per game.  The Mystics and the Aces have the best plus-minus ratings in the league. It will be interesting to see if both teams can stay healthy and continue to play well until the end of the season. The Mystics want another shot at the title, they want to return to the Finals. The Aces are a young, hungry team proving that they are ready to take on the entire league. They have 3 of the best players in the league right now, but ratings-wise the Mystics absolutely have a complete roster of some of the best offensive players in the league this year. Delle Donne, Toliver, Meesseman, Hawkins, Cloud, Sanders, Powers, Walker-Kimbrough all have an offensive rating of 104 or higher. That means 9 of the top 12 offensive ratings belong to Mystics players. That is tough beat, but maybe the Aces top-rated defense can do just that come playoff time.

THE BEST PLAYERS: Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Howard, DeWanna Bonner, Jonquel Jones

I’m not going to quote a bunch of stats in this section. I’m too tired. But you probably already know, Delle Donne is playing extremely well this season. Howard is breaking out into a bonafide MVP candidate, Bonner is the low key MVP because she is putting up nutso numbers on a team that had more or less struggled without their leader Diana Taurasi. Jonquel Jones is a standout on the boards and is currently the most efficient player in the WNBA. Someone like Tina Charles or Liz Cambage could go nuts the rest of the season and leapfrog everyone to take the award, but that seems unlikely.

However, I have no idea who will ultimately win the MVP award. Howard will be possibly embroiled in off the court issues, Delle Donne may not be healthy, Bonner may be overlooked because of the Mercury’s overall record, and Jonquel Jones may take a dip with her numbers. Like I said at the beginning of the season, we simply cannot predict what is going to happen in 2019. This is a season of incredible uncertainty that has made for a challenging if not exciting and very interesting MVP race.

THE MOST IMPROVED PLAYERS: Odyssey Sims, Mercedes Russell, Kia Nurse, Jordin Canada

This is one of the hardest categories to try to choose an overall winner of. My vote right now is Odyssey Sims, not only because of her stats but because of that fact that I was personally rooting for her to have some kind of career revival with her move to Minnesota. Mercedes Russell looks like a player who was not going to last in the league as a rookie in 2018. As LWPRODUCTIONS pointed out on Twitter, she has totally transformed her game this season and looks ready to be a solid player for the surprising Storm as the season goes on. Like Russell, Kia Nurse is another second-year player who looks like she is here to stay. She was one of my favorite rookies last year, but she, unsurprisingly had an up and down year stats wise. She looks more solid and more ready to take some of the offensive load that has been weighing down Tina Charles for several seasons. Jordin Canada is another player that has seen more minutes due to injuries in Seattle. She is having a breakout year but that comes as less of a surprise because was such a dynamic force for UCLA in college. All of these players are deserving of the Most Improved Player award, but we will have to wait to see how it all plays out at the end of the year.

THE BEST ROOKIES: Napheesa Collier, Arike Ogunbowale, Asia Durr

I think people are realizing that Collier was the steal of the draft. I think I’m realizing it just now typing it. I think the only person not realizing it is Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve because she knew all along and that’s why Minnesota drafted her. Ogunbowale has been pretty darn impressive at times in her rookie season, but I just don’t like her shooting percentages and would love her to pass first and shoot second. Asia Durr can be the 3rd or 2nd go-to scorer on a New York Liberty team that really needs a 2nd or 3rd go-to scorer behind Charles and Nurse. I like all three of these players. People must think I have some deep, strange bias against Arike, but I just like Collier’s all-around game in the first half of 2019. I would like to see other rookies like McCowan, Kalani Brown, and Jackie Young have a more lasting impact on their teams in the years to come, and I think like some of the Most Improved players we talked about earlier, they could certainly have breakout sophomore efforts and go on to have very good WNBA careers. I wish nothing but the best for this rookie class because it was so full of talent you couldn’t help but want to cheer for every single rookie that made a team in 2019.

CONCLUSION

I have enjoyed the season so far, and I hope you have as well. I haven’t been able to follow as closely as I have in years past, but it has been a very interesting year all around the league, and I hope the second half is as wild and fun as the first. Everyone make sure to tune in to the All-Star Game in Las Vegas on July 27th! As always, thank you for reading!

 

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Saturday 25 May 2019

Want to know what to be watching out for in the WNBA this year? Which players are going to have breakout seasons and really shine? Who’s going to take up the MVP mantle? Which rookie will meet or exceed expectations? Which younger veteran will have a career year? Which veterans will surprise the heck out of everyone and lead their team to a deep playoff run? Which team is going to take home a championship trophy? The answer to all these questions is the same: Everyone and anyone!

You cannot predict what is going to happen this year, at all. NOBODY has a clue as to whether or not the Phoenix Mercury or the Las Vegas Aces or the Seattle Storm or the Washington Mystics or the Connecticut Sun or the Atlanta Dream or any else is going to win it all this year.

No one has a clue as to whether or not Brittney Griner, Liz Cambage, DeWanna Bonner, Tiffany Mitchell, Courtney Vandersloot, Elena Delle Donne, Nneka Ogwunike, A’ja Wilson, Jonquel Jones, Jewell Loyd, Sylvia Fowles, Tina Charles or any number of players will win the MVP award. If they knew they’d have already placed their bets.

Who’s going to be the best defender this year? Will Alana Beard win ANOTHER DPOY? What about Griner? Well heck, don’t forget Fowles or Meesseman or Elizabeth Williams or Jonquel Jones or Natasha Howard or A’ja Wilson or about 10 other players that could come out of nowhere to take the award. I HAVE NO IDEA, but neither does anyone else if we are all being honest.

Who’s going be Coach of the Year? Brian Agler could really take a Wings team that people have been writing off in the off-season and get to the playoffs, but so could Cheryl Reeve and the Lynx, so could James Wade and the Sky, but they might just as soon give it to Curt Miller or first year coach Derek Fisher. Heck the Liberty could get their stuff together and have Katie Smith winning the thing. But so could Pokey Chatman, Nikki Collen, and basically any coach in the league at this point.

And that is ALL exactly why this season is going to be amazing and completely unexpected and unpredictable. Because everything that has happened this off-season has been unexpected and unpredictable. Oh, Breanna Stewart’s out for the season, but wait, so is Sue Bird?? Anyone see that coming? How about the Sparks getting rid of Brian Agler and hiring Derek Fisher of all people? Anyone predict that before it happened? How about Chiney Ogwunike working a deal to leave Connecticut and join her sister on the Sparks? Wouldn’t have dared dream that one up. How about Liz Cambage actually getting traded to the LAS VEGAS ACES?? After everything else that was happening, you called that trade, eh? That was a surefire bet right? How about the league hiring an actual commissioner and getting advanced stats on THEIR WEBSITE FINALLY? Wouldn’t have put money on that if my life depended on it. But guess what? It all happened and now the season is starting this weekend and we all should be jumping for joy and just how wild and crazy and unpredictable and insane and fun this season is going to be! I can’t wait to see who the most improved player is, or who 6th woman of the year, or LOOK AT THIS ROOKIE CLASS?! WHO IN THE WORLD is going to be Rookie of the Year??? IT COULD BE SO MANY DIFFERENT PLAYERS!

So please, buy the dang WNBA League Pass, it costs as much as you were going to spend on breakfast this morning. Please buy tickets and go to games if you live near teams. Buy merchandise from the WNBA team stores. Shout out and retweet you favorite people, teams, and players on Twitter and Instagram every game. Watch all the teams. Watch every award race. Read the stats. Support the WNBA because it’s going to be more fun and crazy than you can even imagine this year!

2019 Season Predictions

If you follow me regularly you know I hate predictions due to their fickle, insane nature. But here we are. Best of luck to every single player and team this year. It is going to be a wild ride.

Here are my predictions for the 2019 Season:

MVP: Elena Delle Donne

Champions: Phoenix Mercury

Rookie of the Year: Katie Lou Samuelson

Most Improved: Odyssey Sims

Defensive Player: Brittney Griner

6th Woman: Emma Meesseman

Coach of the year: Nikki Collen

Some back up choices just to make it fun:

MVP: Liz Cambage

Champions: Atlanta Dream

Rookie: Alanna Smith

Most Improved: Kelsey Plum

Defensive Player: Ariel Atkins

6th Woman: Alex Bentley

Coach of the year: Brian Agler

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 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.