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

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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.

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.