Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Previewing the 2012 WNBA season: The Western Conference

Published on May 16, 2012

By [sp-authors]
 
Los Angeles | Minnesota | Phoenix | San Antonio | Seattle | Tulsa

Los Angeles Sparks

The Keys to Success

New Los Angeles coach Carol Ross outlined the keys to success for the team in an interview with Hoopfeed.com earlier this month. She is determined to make the Sparks more aggressive on both ends of the floor. They need to work harder on defense and be more cohesive. She brings over two decades of coaching to the table including being an assistant for the Atlanta Dream plus college stints at Ole Miss and Florida. With veterans DeLisha Milton-Jones and Ebony Hoffman along with a healthy Candice Parker buying into Ross’ philosophy, the Sparks have a strong chance of avoiding underperforming this season.

Player to Watch

Rookie Nneka Ogwumike, who had a stellar preseason, has already made her mark on the team and will no doubt be in the running for Rookie of the Year. It will be fun to watch the former Stanford player go up against veterans in the league with her outstanding athleticism coupled with her high basketball IQ.

The Pressure is On

Former Washington Mystics player Alana Beard has the most question marks over her head coming into the season for the Sparks. After missing two summers due to a severely injured left ankle, the Sparks gambled with signing the 5-11 guard. However, before her injury she averaged 16.2 points per game over her first six seasons for the Mystics. Will she be able to return to form for the Sparks? Back to Top

Minnesota Lynx

The Keys to Success

Good health is important to every team, but the starting five on this team all have a connection that makes losing any one of them for an extended period of time devastating. If they can stay healthy and Reeve can reduce the regular season minutes for the ageless McWilliams-Franklin, and the chronically sore Brunson, the pieces are in place.

Turnover free minutes from Thorn and Wiggins at backup point guard will help, and improved offense by Harris and Adair, or rookie Devereux Peters, will be an improvement.

Let’s face it though; we’re reaching for things when the biggest keys are health and bench production.

Player to Watch

Maya Moore was banged up during her rookie season and is still acclimating herself to professional basketball. After a WNBA championship followed by another championship in Europe, it should be exciting to see what else Moore can do and improve on during this season. It was virtually impossible for her to live up to the hype that came with her out of college, but this year we will see if she is destined to become the perennial All-Star expected of her.

The Pressure is On

The rest of the WNBA! How do you keep up with this team? Okay, seriously, Candice Wiggins needs to step into the role of being the first player of the bench and be ready to give rest to Whalen and Augustus. She signed a new, big contract this offseason, and the Lynx are expecting starter’s production out of their top bench player. With Wright and Thorn on the team, Reeve will not hesitate to sit Wiggins if the production is not there. Back to Top

Phoenix Mercury

The Keys to Success

While the Phoenix Mercury knew they would start the season without Australian forward Penny Taylor due to her Olympic commitments, her ACL injury incurred in overseas play nixed the chances that she would return after the London Games break. The Mercury has to figure out how to compensate without Taylor who averaged 16.7 points per game in 2011. And while adding Andrea Riley and rookie Samantha Prahalis fits well in the team’s uptempo style, Phoenix has to shore up their defensive prowess especially against the defending champion Minnesota Lynx and revamped West foe Los Angeles.

Player to Watch

Rookie Prahalis is an ideal fit for Phoenix. The fiery point guard known for her flashy no-look passes loves to run and should easily adapt to the Mercury. With the loss of former starting point guard Temeka Johnson to Tulsa, Prahalis has a chance to make her mark in the league this summer.

The Pressure is On

In 2009, forward Chardé Houston was an All-Star playing for the Minnesota Lynx and averaged 13.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. But by the end of that season, the Lynx petered out after a hot start and missed the playoffs. Rinse and repeat for 2010. With a diminished role on last year’s championship team, coming off the bench Houston had a season average of 2.9 points and 1.7 rebounds per game. Her arrival in Phoenix gives her a chance to become a key player to help lessen the loss of Taylor for the season. Back to Top

San Antonio Silver Stars

The Keys to Success

With a mixture of seasoned veterans, including new team member Tangela Smith acquired from the Indiana Fever in the offseason, and young scoring and rebounding machines Shenise Johnson and Danielle Adams, the Silver Stars hope to live up to their potential after a three-year stretch of subpar years.

While they managed to earn playoff berths in 2009 and 2010, they did so with sub-.500 records and never made it past the first round.

Rebounding has been the team’s Achilles heel. The addition of Smith and Johnson plus a healthy Adams should help them perform better than last year when they finished as the worst rebounding team per game in the league.

Player to Watch

Danielle Adams was arguably well on her way to Rookie of the Year last season, outscoring and outrebounding eventual winner Maya Moore until she had to sit out after a right foot injury in late July. The team struggled without the post player from Texas A&M who was the June 2011 Rookie of the Month after averaging 14.3 points and 4.60 rebounds per game. This year, she has been the light of the team’s preseason in their two losses to Indiana. It remains to be seen whether the second-year player can avoid injury and put in performances like the 32-point game she had against Atlanta early last season.

The Pressure is On

General manager and head coach Dan Hughes. After handing over the head coach reigns in 2010 when Sandy Brondello took over assisted by her husband Olaf Lange, Hughes returned to the sidelines last year. The team had a great start, going 7-3 but still languish in mediocrity at best. The pressure on Hughes to harness the team’s new talent and squeeze more out of the returners to get the Silver Stars over the regular season sub-.500 doldrums. Back to Top

Seattle Storm

Keys to Success

Bird is still the best point guard in the game and Seattle still does not have a backup for her. She makes everyone on the court better and she wants the ball in her hands, especially in crucial situations. That is what makes her the best. Her task this year is to integrate Wauters and Thompson into the mix. Neither can run like Cash was able to on the break though, so it will be interesting to see if Seattle has to slow things down more frequently, or Stricklen, who is great in the open court, gets a chance.

The team has a tough opening half of the season, with eleven of the seventeen pre-Olympic break games on the road. They need to somehow stay close with the rest of the division because the good news is when Jackson returns in August, they have the entire month at home. They also have three of their last four at home.

Player to Watch

Katie Smith and Tina Thompson both received a lot of criticism last season, as they suffered perhaps their worst offensive numbers of their storied careers. What is left in the tank for the two veterans? Obviously Agler thinks there is enough for the Storm to make a run at the title. They will need to provide minutes and productivity for the Storm to succeed.

The Pressure is On

Really, there is not a lot of pressure on anyone with this team. Is that a good thing?

They have probably the best fan support in the league, a tremendous ownership group, and outstanding management. They have won titles, and have two of the most popular players in the world in Bird and Jackson. Sometimes though, pressure is needed to turn coal into the diamond. Where will it come from? The Storm will have find that inner drive and push to get this team back to the top. Back to Top

Tulsa Shock

The Keys to Success

It is a new day for the Tulsa Shock, a team that ended the last two years with the worst record in the league. With former Indiana Fever assistant Gary Kloppenburg in his first year as a WNBA head coach and six new players on the roster, Tulsa has a laundry list of things it needs in order to have a successful season. First is chemistry. With so many new players, the absence of Australian center Elizabeth Cambage to Olympic training and Tiffany (Jackson) Jones to pregnancy, plus a new staff, the Shock needs to come out of the gate as a cohesive unit.

Player to Watch

With an end-of-the season two-game suspension that started with her team’s play in the NCAA tournament, former Miami star Riquna Williams hurt her chances at becoming a 2012 first round draft pick, even though she averaged 16.6 points per game her senior year. While her fellow Hurricane Shenise Johnson went to San Antonio at No. 5, Williams had to wait until nearly midway through the second round before Tulsa picked her at No. 17. In preseason play Williams had 17 points in a 91-89 loss to Atlanta and 10 points in an 86-60 win over Atlanta. The Shock appears to have fared well in their choice of a talented player who seems to have recovered from an unfortunate end to a college career.

The Pressure is On

This is a no brainer. Gary Kloppenburg. While it seems that the only way for Tulsa to go is up, the least popular city among WNBA players, is now stocked with a young, talented roster at every position. Surely, they can win more than three games this year. Back to Top

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  1. [...] has is Previewing the 2012 WNBA season: The Western Conference and the The Eastern Conference. There’s also the Dishin & Swishin podcast: [...]

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