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!

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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.

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.