2020 WNBA Season Preview: Seattle Storm

There are more important things than basketball, and being anti-racist and pushing anti-racist policies is one of them. Defunding the police is a serious conversation worth having. At a minimum we need to push for bad cops to be fired and not allowed to simply be rehired two towns over. We need reparations and fully integrated schools and neighborhoods, to redress centuries of racist policies that stole wealth from Black people to help white people amass wealth. These are issues I will continue to work on in my city, state, and country.

In less important news, but what this site is for me to talk about, it looks like basketball will be starting up at some point. I have mixed feelings on the wisdom of playing, given how rates of coronavirus appear to be going in the wrong direction in some states, particularly Florida, but the momentum is in favor of both WNBA and NBA playing towards the end of July in Florida. July 24th is the date the WNBA has announced they are aiming for.

There is some chatter about players opting to sit out the season. I will update my preview pieces as we find out which players are not going to play this year.

The Seattle Storm are my pick to win the championship, should a season happen. Seattle never got the chance to defend their championship, and but this is the core of a team that has already shown it can win at the highest levels. It is dependent on Breanna Stewart’s health and ability to return to the player she was in 2018, or something close to it. While Seattle was a bit lucky to win their one playoff game last year against the Minnesota Lynx, their success did augur well for them going forward.

Roster Breakdown:

Notable additions:

Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird (back from injuries) Morgan Tuck. Ezi Magbegor, Epiphanny Prince

Notable Losses: Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Shavonte Zellous.

Draft Picks:

1st round: Kitija Laksa (staying overseas)

Guards: Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd, Jordin Canada, Sami Whitcomb, Epiphanny Prince, 

Wings: Alysha Clark, Breanna Stewart.

Bigs: Natasha Howard, Morgan Tuck, Ezi Magbegor, Mercedes Lewis, Crystal Langhorne

The brilliance of the pairing of Natasha Howard and Breanna Stewart is that both can function as wings and bigs, depending on team needs and the situation. I listed Howard as a big and Stewart as a wing to show how they often play, but either can play inside or outside.

Laksa is a player I was very high on in the draft, really hope to see her next season and see how she plays. Good size and a quick release makes me think she can have success in the WNBA.

Playing Time Breakdown:

Sue Bird is the point guard, assuming she is healthy. Her shooting and passing are still elite. The team has good defenders at all four other positions, so her lack of foot speed on that end at this point is not as big a deal. However, should she be unable to play up to her lofty standards, the Storm have the best backup point guard in the league in Jordin Canada.

Canada and Seattle are a great match. This team is built to accentuate her strengths and minimize her weaknesses. Her major weakness is a lack of shooting, which on most other teams would hurt. But this is a team that can play four shooters around her, and with Canada’s speed, she should be devastating attacking an empty paint as Howard and Stewart space the floor. Her finishing at the rim and floater should improve with more experience. She will reduce their ceiling on offense compared to Bird, but Canada is also a disruptive defender who can rack up steals without gambling too much.

Jewell Loyd is an excellent defender and a good offensive player, though she has room to go as a consistent offensive player. She has a tendency to disappear at times in games. Her ability to attack the rim comes and goes, but part of gaining experience is becoming more consistent. Going into her 26 year old season, right on the cusp of her prime, she is only going to get better. Especially as she gets to be a second or even third option again, a more natural fit for her.

Alysha Clark is an excellent fit for this team. A prototypical 3 and d wing, she is very good at her role on this team. As long as the Storm never ask her to create her own shot or a shot for someone else, she is a good contributor. She has even improved her passing, so long as she is attacking a closeout and not starting from scratch. Defensively she competes against anyone and is a key part of the Storm’s success.

Breanna Stewart is the best player in the WNBA when fully healthy. Elene Delle Donne is excellent, but I give the slight edge to Stewart. The beauty of Stewart’s game is that she gives you the offensive skillset of a 6’4” small forward with the rim protection of a center. While she is not the shooter that EDD is, she is a good shooter, and she is a better passer and defender. EDD has improved both aspects of her game, but I would still take Stewart. Stewart is also five years younger, and still improving.

Natasha Howard was overmatched as a primary offensive creator on last year’s team at times, but it was impressive that she was as effective as she was. Now she will be able to take a step back from having to create so much of her own offense, while still having that experience to draw on. She will have to defend opposing centers again, rather than Mercedes Lewis, but that will give her a speed edge on the other end. The reigning defensive player of the year, I can’t wait to watch her and Stewart fly around on defense once again.

Howard is a good example of why teams give chances to athletes who need their skill level to catch up. She has improved her shooting and ball handling, and you can’t teach the things Howard can do athletically. Of course, sometimes the shot never comes around, which is why scouting is hard.

If we get top 3 WNBA player Breanna Stewart, Seattle is my choice to win another championship. Other than Bird, their best players are entering or are in their prime, whereas other teams are relying on older players to hang on. This season, should it be able to be played and with most of the best players, should be an exciting one with two teams acting as defending champions. If not this year, here’s hoping we get a healthy Mystics-Storm playoff series at some point.