2019 WNBA Pre-Season Power Rankings

The 2019 WNBA Season is underway this week with our first group of preseason games featuring the Liberty taking on China, the Mystics taking on the Lynx, and the Sparks taking on the Mercury. Now that the draft is over and moves and roster cuts continue to happen, let’s rank each team as they head into what looks to be a very interesting and uncertain WNBA season. This is a tough list because almost every team should be ranked in a tie for 4th place given all the talent and potential each roster has going into the season.

1. Washington Mystics

The Mystics are looking to make back to back trips to the WNBA Finals in 2019 after being swept last year by Seattle. With Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Toliver, LaToya Sanders, Emma Meesseman, Natasha Cloud, and plenty of other young talent, I expect them to get there. Delle Donne has to stay healthy, and Meesseman has to contribute off the bench immediately. The team needs to rebound better and get more assists, and they have to continue to be the best free throw shooting team in the league. If they can do everything they were doing at the end of the last year, they will be a strong contender to make the Finals once again.

2. Los Angeles Sparks

The Sparks got Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike on the same team. They traded Odyssey Sims for Alexis Jones. They got Tierra Ruffin-Pratt in free agency. They lost Essence Carson to Phoenix. They probably won’t get Liz Cambage. But this roster is still one of the most talented in the league. Candace Parker, Chelsea Gray, who they just re-signed, Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike, the newly drafted Kalani Brown, Alana Beard, and Jantel Lavender look to bounce back from a somewhat disappointing season in 2018 and get back to the WNBA Finals. They have a new head coach in long time NBA star Derek Fisher. They made have some ups and downs as they adjust to a new coach, but I believe with this roster, they have a great chance this year at another title run.

3. Connecticut Sun

Still young and full of talent with a great coaching staff, the Sun are also looking to bounce back from a frustrating 2018 season. Jonquel Jones has to return to form, and the team will need to continue to be the fastest offense in the league. If they can continue where they left off in 2017, they will be back in the playoff hunt, hopeful to get over their past playoff disappointment.

4. Seattle Storm

The Seattle Storm surprised everyone by jumping leaps and bounds forward in the play of their young stars Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart. They won the off-season by trading for Natasha Howard who turned into the Most Improved player of the year along side Stewart. Key players like Alysha Clark and rookie Jordin Canada played important roles starting and coming off the bench. And leading the Storm was the always amazing, ageless wonder Sue Bird. Her play during the regular season and heroics and leadership in playoffs were some of the most important factors in bringing Seattle it’s third WNBA title. Unfortunately Breanna Stewart got hurt overseas and will miss all of 2019. Without her, the Storm will really need to conjure up something special to repeat what they did last year.

5. Phoenix Mercury

No Taurasi? No problem. DeWanna Bonner, Yvonne Turner, Briann January, and rookie Sophie Cunningham can step up with Griner in the post to continue to be a force in the Western Conference. Taurasi will be back just in time to continue to push the Mercury into yet another playoff run. Maybe….

6. Atlanta Dream

Another team loaded with talent yet missing their best player, the Dream hope they can continue to improve and win games without Angel McCoughtry. With a roster of Elizabeth Williams, Brittney Sykes, Renee Montgomery, Tiffany Hayes, and Alex Bentley, the Dream should be able to continue to find ways to win with transition play and hard defense.

7. Chicago Sky

Like the rest of the league, the talent is there on the roster for the Sky. The question is whether or not it translates to wins in 2019. Cheyenne Parker is breaking out, as is Diamond DeShields. Recent addition Kahleah Copper, last year’s other rookie Gabby Williams, and veteran post Stefanie Dolson should all be ready to help their two backcourt leaders in always underrated Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley improve and get back into playoff contention. Alaina Coates could be another important young player to have a breakout season for Chicago, as could rookie Katie Lou Samuelson from Connecticut. Rookie Chloe Jackson could see minutes behind Vandersloot or Quigley, but only time will tell.

8. Las Vegas Aces

A’ja Wilson, Kayla McBride, Kelsey Plum, Moriah Jefferson, and new #1 draft pick Jackie Young. The Aces are another team with a really good looking young roster brimming with potential. But like the Sky, the Sun, and even the Dream, Las Vegas is a team that can really go either way this season. Veterans like Dearica Hamby, Tamera Young, and new trade addition Sugar Rodgers will look to provide leadership on and off the court for a team that missed the playoffs by just a few moments in the final game against the Wings last season.

9. Minnesota Lynx

Yet another team that will miss their star player with Maya Moore sitting out the season, the Lynx dynasty looks headed for a rebuild. Brunson may or may not be back, and Lindsey Whalen has retired. Sylvia Fowles and Seimone Augustus are, as Kelsey Plum so succinctly put it “old”. But you can’t buy wisdom and experience, and youthful additions Lexie Brown from the Sun and Odyssey Sims from the Sparks are looking good in training camp. The Lynx Dynasty as we knew it may be close to over, but with this front office and coaching staff, you cannot count this team completely out.

10. Dallas Wings

New head coach Brian Agler has question marks staring at him in his first season in Dallas. The biggest one is will Liz Cambage ever play for the Wings again, and second when will Skylar Diggins-Smith be back after giving birth in the off-season? Beyond that, that still have the veteran strength of Glory Johnson and young stars like Allisha Gray and Azura Stevens to continue to make progress towards winning in the regular season and winning in the playoffs. Rookies Arike Ogunbowale and Megan Gustafson will also help to add depth to a team that needs help on both ends of the floor.

11. Indiana Fever

Ever since Tamika Catchings retired, the Fever have been in a continuing rebuild. With last year’s rookie standout Victoria Vivian’s out with an ACL injury, the Fever are going to need a boost of offense if they want to try to turn things around this season. Rookie Teaira McCowan from Mississippi State should be the answer for the size under the basket they have been desperately needing the past couple of years, while Kelsey Mitchell and Tiffany Mitchell will need to continue to develop and grow in the backcourt. The future is there for the Fever, but it is still in the future. Playoff hopes are dim at the start of this year.

12. New York Liberty

A new owner in Joseph Tsai certainly seems to brighten the future for the New York Liberty. After last season’s dismal performance however, any news seems like good news. The Liberty will continue to play home games at the unfit Westchester County Center , which drove down attendance and only made things worse for a team seemingly at the beginning of a real transition under new Coach Katie Smith. Last year’s rookie gem Kia Nurse will now team up with fellow guard Asia Durr, and Tina Charles will only hope that Durr can take some of the offensive load of of her back. No team in the league depends on a single player more than the Liberty do with Tina Charles. But it’s not just Durr she’ll be hoping to have contribute more; rookie Megan Huff and other young players Kiah Stokes, Bria Hartley, Amanda Zahui B, and Brittany Boyd will all need to step up their games if they want to start winning more games and get back to the top of the Eastern Conference.

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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.

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 Season So Far: Week 3

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Here is a quick rundown of what is happening around the league right now at the start of Week 3.

#1. The Connecticut Sun are #1. They are #1 in points, rebounds, assists, field goal %, 3 point field goal %, and they are doing it as a team. No one player is dominating this team. Everyone is simply playing together very, very well.

#2. The Minnesota Lynx are struggling early. They are sitting at 2-5 and have a net rating of -3.2. They are 10th in points per game. They simply look out of it at the moment. But they have the personnel and the talent to turn things around. With that said, this could be an early season sign of the end of one of the best dynasties in league history.

#3. Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd are the best duo in the league, and two of its best players right now. In the immortal words of MF Doom, “Check them stats, then you’ll know where I’m at,” Stewart and Loyd are 2nd and 3rd in points per game behind Tina Charles. They are showing the league exactly what everyone thought they could become when they were drafted #1 and won Rookie of the Year in back to back years.

#4. Liz Cambage is back and she is as good, if not better than advertised. Cambage could be the Wings new savior. If she can continue to average 20 points and 11 rebounds like she is doing, along with leading the league in blocks, she can best players like Tina Charles, Jonquel Jones, Brittney Griner, Nneka Ogwumike, and Sylvia Fowles in the post and compete for MVP while she does so.

#5. This Rookie class is looking really good. Las Vegas’ #1 pick A’ja Wilson is playing well despite her team’s record, averaging 21 points per game which is tops among all rookies, and is pulling down 7.7 rebounds per game. New York’s Kia Nurse is the second best player for the Liberty at the moment, averaging 18 points per game after scoring a huge 34 points her last game. Indiana’s Kelsey Mitchell is averaging 18 points a game and is shooting 43.5% from the 3-point line. Chicago’s Diamond DeShields is also playing well, and is averaging 15 points and 5 rebounds per game. Indiana’s Victoria Vivians and Seattle’s Jordin Canada aren’t putting up as impressive as the players above, but they are still getting in pretty good minutes and will look to improve as the season progresses.

All things considered, the start of the 2018 has been a very good one. Excitement around and about the league certainly feels to be on rise, and there are a myriad of story lines that make each team interesting in different ways. Let’s hope for great a June with some fun basketball!

Photo by MontyLov on Unsplash

The 2018 Guide to WNBA Team Hashtags

A team’s hashtag on twitter should not be difficult to figure out. A fan of the team should be able to see it used often enough by the official Twitter account of a team that it is obvious that that is the hashtag the team has chosen to use throughout the season. You need something fans can remember, but you also need something that makes sense, and isn’t going to be used by a bunch of random people that have nothing to do with your team. With that said, some teams did well with choosing their hashtags for this season, while others didn’t do so hot. Let’s break it down team by team.

Chicgao Sky is #Skytown

This is a good hashtag, that is unique and localised, and is fairly recognisable as it also contains the team’s name. Thumbs up to Chicago!

Indiana Fever is #GoFever

This is simple, to the point, unique to the team, and easy to remember. This should just be the default Indiana Fever hashtag every year. Thumbs up to Indiana!

Las Vegas Aces are #ALLIN

This is an example of where a team tried to use a hashtag that fits the general idea of the team, but is too broad and used too often elsewhere on Twitter to stand out as unique to the team. I have to hope they come up with something more unique next season. Sorry Aces!

Connecticut Sun is #OrangeInvasion (They also are using #GetSun)

The Sun have done the best job of really promoting this hashtag often and in fun ways, going around town and getting the mascot involved with fans around town, and the fans themselves have caught on and are using the hashtag. The Sun win the award for best job promoting a fun, unique hashtag the fans have embraced!

New York Liberty is #ShowUp

At first glance, this is not a great hashtag, as a few other random people are using it, as would be expected. But the Liberty have got a fun feature that when you use #ShowUp, show and up capitalised, a little Statue of Liberty emoticon gets added to the end. That is a smart move and the Liberty get a thumbs up for using the hashtag often so far this season.

Washington Mystics is #SticsSZN

Washington has embraced the awful yet timely SZN Twitter trend, and they are using it fairly often. It is unique to the team, although a bit confusing if you aren’t already familiar with the team name. All in all a pretty good team hashtag for this season.

Phoenix Mercury is #BeHeard

Another example of a hashtag that at first seems to generic to work, but the Mercury have promoted it enough that the word is out and the team account and fans are using it regularly. It is a good, strong message, so the Mercury get a thumbs up!

Seattle Storm is #WeRepSeattle

Unique, local, and something the team and its fans can rally behind. This is an example of a great hashtag! Thumbs up to the Storm!

Los Angeles Sparks is #GoSparks and #All4LA

Like the Fever’s hashtag the #GoSparks is simple and unique, to the point, while the #All4LA is unique, but unless they promote it really well, won’t quite catch on. I think the Sparks did well by seemingly going with more than one hashtag at the beginning of the season.

Dallas Wings is basically #WatchMeWork or #LetsFly

One fan claimed the Wings hashtag for the season is #LetsFly, and Liz Cambage is the only real tweet I can find with the #LetsFly hashtag being used. Dallas’ latest tweets seem to have no real hashtags used, but occasional they do use the WNBA’s hashtag of “WatchMeWork which has evolved into #WatchUsWork. Either way, Dallas should have done better in picking a unique hashtag coming into this exciting new season for the team.

Atlanta Dream is #OneDream

Atlanta has done a good job promoting this hashtag, but so have a lot of other random sports teams on Twitter. If they keep promoting and using it, they will do okay, but something a bit more specific to the team would have been better.

Minnesota Lynx is #GetUp

The Lynx win the award for the most generic hashtag possible. And despite doing a press release telling everyone that this is in fact the hashtag for the Lynx this season, it has not caught on, and is being used by anyone and everyone across twitter, and they are not promoting the Minnesota Lynx when they use it, unfortunately. Despite promoting it well so far, I have to give this hashtag a thumbs down for being too generic and overused.