May Sabrina Ionescu go from one of many high faculty groups within the nation, Pac-12 champion Oregon, to the last-place workforce within the WNBA? Proper now, that is the place her new workforce, the New York Liberty, tasks in our first energy rankings of what we hope would be the 2020 WNBA season.
The WNBA draft is over, and the Liberty added six picks, led by No. 1 Ionescu. Whereas it appears unlikely all will make the roster, it nonetheless can be a younger workforce making an attempt to ascertain an id below new coach Walt Hopkins. Possibly the Liberty will shock us, but it surely could possibly be a season of rising pains for Ionescu and her teammates.
How will the remainder of the league shake out? Here is how the groups look on paper now.
Final yr: 26-8, WNBA champions
There’s concern about 2019 season MVP Elena Delle Donne’s again, which required offseason surgical procedure. And about whether or not 2019 Finals MVP Emma Meesseman, like different gamers from abroad, will return to the USA this yr.
However the Mystics now even have a 3rd star publish participant in 2012 MVP Tina Charles, who possible can be rejuvenated by a reunion with coach Mike Thibault and the prospect to play for a workforce going for a repeat, as she has but to win a WNBA title.
Level guard Kristi Toliver has gone again to Los Angeles, and Washington will miss her on the perimeter. However the Mystics obtained used to enjoying with out her for stretches final season attributable to harm.
Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins type a powerful backcourt, and no less than one of many rookies drafted would possibly make the workforce. It is onerous to duplicate chemistry from a earlier championship season, however Washington has a superb shot at doing that.
Final yr: 18-16, misplaced in second spherical
Two key gamers who missed the 2019 season are anticipated to return: ahead Breanna Stewart, the 2018 MVP who had an Achilles tendon tear, and level guard Sue Chook, who was out after knee surgical procedure. They’re at totally different ends of their careers — Stewart is 25 and Chook 39 — however each introduced a lot to the 2018 championship season, and the 2 UConn merchandise will proceed to play nicely collectively. Different gamers from that title workforce, akin to forwards Natasha Howard and Alysha Clark and guards Jewell Loyd and Jordan Canada — who had been the Storm’s high 4 scorers in 2019 — are again.
Middle Mercedes Russell, now getting into her third yr like Canada, took a step ahead final season. The Stewie and Chook accidents derailed what would have been a powerful run at a repeat final yr, and the Storm can be desperate to recapture that championship feeling once more.
Final yr: 22-12, misplaced in semifinals
The Sparks have expertise, however the problem is whether or not they recuperate from final yr’s playoff meltdown and have a extra cohesive unit below coach Derek Fisher in his second season. The problems of 2019 in the end price longtime common supervisor Penny Toler her job after a locker room outburst was revealed, and he or she has since filed a lawsuit that challenges her firing and alleges some franchise soiled laundry. Two veteran guards coming in would possibly assist relax any lingering points. Kristi Toliver returns after three seasons in Washington; she helped the Sparks win the 2016 title. And longtime Sparks nemesis Seimone Augustus — in one of many shockers of the offseason — got here to Los Angeles after not coming to an settlement with Minnesota, the place she has spent her profession and gained 4 titles.
They be a part of the likes of publish gamers Candace Parker and Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, and level guard Chelsea Grey. Defensive stalwart Alana Beard has retired, however she was restricted by harm final yr. The Sparks may have a very deep and versatile workforce. However chemistry, which has been a sore spot for previous Sparks groups, too, is one thing they will have to enhance on from 2019.
Final yr: 23-11, misplaced in Finals
Multi-dimensional ahead DeWanna Bonner going from Phoenix, the place she spent her profession, to Connecticut was one of many greatest strikes of the offseason. Level guard Briann January additionally joins the Solar from the Mercury. Forwards Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas and level guard Jasmine Thomas are key gamers again from the 2019 workforce that pushed Washington to Sport 5 within the WNBA Finals. However two different starters from that workforce, Shekinna Stricklen and Courtney Williams, are gone to Atlanta.
The Solar reveled in being underestimated final yr, and so they will not even thoughts if there are doubters once more this season, as that appears to gasoline them.
Final yr: 21-13, misplaced in semifinals
After spending her WNBA profession to this point with Atlanta, guard/ahead Angel McCoughtry is now with Las Vegas. She missed final season whereas recovering from a knee harm, and he or she’ll be desperate to show that at age 33 she will nonetheless be an impression participant. The factor is, the Aces do not want her to be the identical high-volume scoring participant she was with the Dream. Middle Liz Cambage won’t return this season from Australia — she’s at present not listed on the Aces roster — however A’ja Wilson continues to blossom right into a star. And fellow ahead Dearica Hamby took massive strides to have her finest season final yr, highlighted by her steal and halfcourt shot that beat Chicago within the playoffs.
Determining how the items match collectively for the Aces — have they got dependable 3-point taking pictures to assist with spacing? — could possibly be attention-grabbing, however coach Invoice Laimbeer has been doing this a very long time.
6. Chicago Sky
Final yr: 20-14, misplaced in second spherical
The Sky seemed like they had been headed to the semifinals — till Hamby’s massive shot. It was a disappointing finish to a fairly good season for the Sky, who’ve an older backcourt with Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley, however a rising star in wing Diamond DeShields, who led them in scoring final yr. From Dallas, they obtained a rim protector in Azura Stevens, who was injured most of final season and remains to be looking for her recreation. And so they hope for continued improvement from ahead Gabby Williams, who was Stevens’ teammate at UConn.
The Sky added ahead Ruthy Hebard, the No. Eight decide within the draft, who may present a powerful low-block presence on offense. Chicago’s fear, although, is being a superb however not good-enough workforce: capable of make the playoffs, however not a championship contender.
Final yr: 15-19, misplaced in first spherical
Guard Diana Taurasi turns 38 in June, but it surely nonetheless feels a lot of the weight of the Mercury is on her. She was restricted to 6 video games final season due to accidents. Through the USA Basketball faculty exhibitions, she mentioned she was feeling higher however did not need to push issues. A wholesome Taurasi remains to be a weapon, each with how she performs and the arrogance she brings her teammates on court docket.
Middle Brittney Griner is again after one other good season. However the three gamers who adopted her on the Mercury in scoring common final season — Bonner, Leilani Mitchell and January — have gone elsewhere. Nonetheless, there are some new faces, akin to guards Skylar Diggins-Smith and Bria Hartley and posts Jessica Breland and Kia Vaughn, who deliver expertise. Not one of the rookies who made the workforce final yr — Sophie Cunningham, Brianna Turner and Alanna Smith — made a lot of an impression, though accidents factored into a few of that. We’ll see if they will do extra of their second season.
Final yr: 8-26
The Dream went from a hard-fought semifinal collection loss to Washington in 2018 to final place in 2019. There’s nowhere to go however up, and Atlanta made plenty of roster strikes to attempt to try this. McCoughtry, the face of the franchise after being drafted No. 1 in 2009, is gone, however she did not play final season whereas recovering from surgical procedure. So the Dream have already got gotten used to her not being on court docket. Three of Atlanta’s high 4 scorers from final season return: guards Tiffany Hayes and Renee Montgomery and publish participant Elizabeth Williams.
Williams and Stricklen from Connecticut, and ahead Glory Johnson from Dallas are amongst these veterans added to the combo. And within the draft, the Dream picked dynamic scoring guard Chennedy Carter at No. 4. This might all go OK with the Dream establishing a brand new id and grabbing a playoff spot — or it could possibly be chaotic with much more individuals who need the ball than are keen to move it.
Final yr: 18-16, misplaced in first spherical
Augustus, who was drafted No. 1 in 2006, is gone. Middle Sylvia Fowles, who’s 34, is the final remaining starter from the Lynx’s most up-to-date title workforce, in 2017. There isn’t any certainty when or if ahead Maya Moore will return to the WNBA from her felony justice advocacy, however she will not be again this season. The Lynx are restocking with new blood, which has to occur in all sports activities. That course of may maintain the Lynx out of the playoffs this season for the primary time since 2010.
They obtained a fantastic pickup final yr with WNBA Rookie of the 12 months ahead Napheesa Collier. They add two good draftees this this yr, No. 6 Mikiah Herbert Harrigan and No. 16 Crystal Dangerfield, at energy ahead and level guard. However Minnesota’s main scorer final season, guard Odyssey Sims (being pregnant) won’t return this yr. Two gamers who could possibly be contributors — wing Karima Christmas-Kelly and ahead Jessica Shepard — are coming off knee accidents that pressured them to overlook most of final season.
10. Indiana Fever
Final yr: 13-21
There’s motive to consider the Fever are popping out of the woods after the problem of shedding franchise icon Tamika Catchings to retirement in 2016. It has been a tough climb again, however Catchings helps direct that now as common supervisor, and he or she has a brand new coach in veteran mentor Marianne Stanley, who has seen and carried out all of it within the WNBA. That features, lastly, a championship as a Mystics assistant final season.
Final yr, it damage to not have wing Victoria Vivians (ACL) after she’d had a strong rookie season. In the meantime, the Fever are ready to see if guard Kelsey Mitchell, the No. 2 decide in 2018, can go from a fairly good scorer to an elite one. Ahead Candice Dupree was the workforce’s second-leading scorer behind Mitchell and is without doubt one of the league’s most reliable veterans. However she’ll be 36 later this yr. Getting ahead Lauren Cox within the draft offers the Fever a superb younger energy ahead to mix with final yr’s decide on the identical No. Three spot, middle Teaira McCowan. The playoffs is perhaps a stretch in 2020, however there needs to be progress.
11. Dallas Wings
Final yr: 10-24
The Wings are in reset mode, and so they know there can be rising pains. However the draft — with first-rounders Satou Sabally, Bella Alarie and Tyasha Harris — was simply what Dallas was searching for by way of including expert gamers who can assist change the final perspective with the Wings. Brian Agler, in his second season in Dallas, has gained championships in Seattle and Los Angeles, and he needs to attempt to do the identical with the Wings. That can take a while, however Dallas could make steps this yr.
Katie Lou Samuelson, the No. Four decide by Chicago final yr, is getting a recent begin. She averaged simply 7.6 minutes per recreation with the Sky and was traded. The Wings hope she will stay as much as her 3-point taking pictures potential and assist house out their offense. She’ll now be a part of final yr’s No. 5 decide, Arike Ogunbowale, who was a powerful candidate for rookie of the yr however needed to deal with the ball an excessive amount of for the Wings. She should not must play the purpose this yr.
Final yr: 10-24
The Liberty had the busiest draft evening, and after Ionescu going first and wing Megan Walker ninth, they took less-expected draft selections with two Louisville teammates: guard Jazmine Jones and ahead Kylie Shook at Nos. 12 and 13. And so they obtained one other decide in a commerce, No. 10 Jocelyn Willoughby.
It is positively a brand new period for New York, led by Ionescu, and it needs to be attention-grabbing watching the way it all comes collectively. However with this many younger gamers — nevertheless many who finally ends up being — it is prone to be a fairly difficult season.