5 Things I Think I Know…
After 2/3 of the 2010 WNBA season
By Ben York / @bjyork
A friend of mine, who doesn’t follow the league as closely but still has a vested interest, asked me to give him a quick summary of the 2010 WNBA season so far. Amazingly, two-thirds of the season has passed and just 10-12 games remain for every team before the playoffs begin. Everything in me wanted to give him an articulate response…
Instead, this happened.
“The best way I can describe it so far is…umm…” I eloquently replied. “…interesting.”
If I’m honest, that actually is the best way to describe it. There are players, teams, and coaches who have blown me away and there are others who certainly have not lived up to the hype or expectations the vast majority of us put on them before the season started. Teams I thought would be 5-7 games over .500 at this point in the season are actually 5-7 below it (see ‘Minnesota Lynx’). Players I predicted would be just a “nice” addition have actually been a major difference maker in the team’s collective success (see ‘Katie Smith’).
Maybe I’m thinking too much (that often happens) and all this means is that I’m a complete moron who is bad at predictions. But I feel safe saying there isn’t a self-respecting soul on the planet who, after the loss of Alana Beard for the year, said the Mystics would be 5 games over .500 at this point in the 2010 season.
And that, my friends, is exactly what makes the WNBA so great. I just received word that I’ll have a vote on the 2010 WNBA Post-season Awards (I’ll definitely post who I picked, and why, when voting commences) and these are all things that have consumed my mind in recent weeks. Hence, as we head into the last month of the season, I’m *pretty sure I know the following things.
I think I know that Julie Plank deserves some Coach of the Year recognition.
There’s no doubt that the job Brian Agler is doing in Seattle is phenomenal, but you’d have to be nuts not to include Julie Plank in the Coach of the Year discussion. As a coach, perhaps your most important role or task is getting the team to believe in each other and play as hard as they can every single night – Plank has done exactly that in Washington this year. Not only have they proven to be a team that can compete with anyone, they’ve solidified themselves as a legitimate contender in the East. After losing their best player in the off-season in Alana Beard, for the Mystics to be in this position is nothing short of extraordinary.
I think I know the Indiana Fever is the best team in the Eastern Conference.
And that’s about the only thing I do know about the East. At the beginning of the season I picked Indiana to make it back to the WNBA Finals largely due to their depth and experience. The other teams in the East are either young, compensating for key losses, or just haven’t been that deep in the playoffs before. Indiana has the best defense in the league and scores enough points to get the job done. The Fever has won 4 games in a row and we are starting to see glimpses of the 2009 team that clicked so well together – at exactly the right time.
I think I know the Phoenix Mercury is far better than their 10-12 record.
They’ve lost multiple games by less than 3 points. Diana Taurasi and Candice Dupree have played over half the season nursing nagging injuries. Cappie Pondexter is gone. Any of these scenarios on their own would lend itself to a slower-than-normal start but Phoenix has had the unfortunate task of working through them all at the same time. As the season has progressed and the team continues to gel (and get healthy) the Mercury has won 4 of their last 5 games and lead the league in scoring (again). New addition Kara Braxton should provide some much needed help in the post and I anticipate Phoenix to start getting hot as we head into the playoffs.
I think I know who will be in the Western Conference Finals, but I’m still unsure about the East.
Clearly, the Seattle Storm and Phoenix Mercury have proven to be the best teams in the West; and unless something drastic changes I feel confident that’s how it will be as the season winds down. If Phoenix locks itself in the 2 or 3 seed, I just don’t see a scenario where they won’t be in the Western Conference Finals. Similarly, Seattle is playing too good to be knocked out in the first round. However, it’s a much different story in the Eastern Conference. The Liberty (in last place) is just 4 games back of first place Indiana. Furthermore, only a few percentage points separate the top 3 teams in the East. While I expect Indiana to ride their depth and experience to the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s difficult to predict who they’ll be playing. It wouldn’t surprise me if Atlanta found a way to put things back together, or if the Mystics continue to play so well and go on a run, or if Connecticut and Tina Charles made it that far. Heck, if the Sky continues to get the ball to Sylvia Fowles they just might have a shot…maybe. If the 2010 season has taught us anything so far, it’s that you never know how the East is going to shape up.
I think I know the playoffs will be even better than 2009.
Don’t believe me? Look at the standings! Did anyone think the Minnesota Lynx would be 7-14 right now? What’s more amazing is they could easily go on a 6-8 game winning streak and be the hottest team going into the Western Conference playoffs! The East is so close that jockeying for playoff positioning could continue until the very last game of the season. While the 2009 Playoffs were largely regarded as the most exciting and competitive in league history, I firmly believe the 2010 post-season could be even more enjoyable. There are too many good players and too much parity for every round not to be thrilling. No longer will the semi-finals be a proverbial cakewalk for superior teams. And how fantastic would it be to see a rematch of the 2009 WNBA Finals again? I don’t care who you are or what team you’re a fan of – watching the best offense against the best defense for a second year in a row would be amazing basketball and a huge ratings booster for the league in general. But even if that doesn’t happen, there are multiple storylines for the playoffs that would be extremely compelling – and isn’t that ultimately what you want as a fan?