12 Days, 12 Previews: Atlanta Dream
Five keys to a successful season.
The WNBA’s 15th season begins June 3rd and SLAMonline is counting down the days with in-depth previews of all twelve teams.
Prior to the start of each WNBA season (and NBA season for that matter), every writer and blogger in the country compiles extensive (by “extensive” I mean “wordy,” and by “wordy” I mean “tired”) previews analyzing the upcoming year, team by team. It’s just a fact of life. Almost as certain as death and taxes.
The problem, however, is they all look, feel, and say the same exact thing every year (copy and paste). You, the reader, deserves far better. Thus, we’re going through each team discussing five specific things they’ll need for their 2011 campaign to be considered a success.
More importantly, we want this to be interactive – be sure to post your thoughts in the comment section below.
Five Keys to the Season: Atlanta Dream
By Ben York / @bjyork
5. Balance: The Dream ranked 2nd in the league in scoring in 2010 (85.4 ppg) but also forced opponents into a field-goal percentage of just 43.5 (5th in the league). This comes from having a dynamic mix of players; scorers like Angel McCoughtry, posts like Erika de Souza and Sancho Lyttle, and the best supporting cast in the league with Iziane Castro Marques, Armintie Price and now Lindsey Harding.
The Dream is probably the deepest team in the league, position by position. They had four players (all returning, by the way) who averaged over 12 points per game. The addition of Lindsey Harding (we’ll talk more about her below) solidifies the backcourt which is something they sorely needed throughout the playoffs last year.
4. Free-Throws: A major reason why the Dream ended up beating the Liberty in the Eastern Conference Finals was how often they got to the line. In 2010, the Dream led the league in free-throw attempts at an average of 24.8 per night, making over 17 of them.
This is a huge weapon for the Dream. Not only does it create chaos for the defense, it makes up for their below-average three-point shooting which was last in the league in 2010 at just 3.9 made three’s per game. Getting to the line is absolutely essential for the Dream to continue to build upon the momentum they generated in 2010.
3. Turnovers: The Dream turned the ball over an average of 16.5 times per game in 2010, second-to-last in the league (Tulsa Shock, 17.3). With the Dream’s high-octane offense, turnovers will naturally be a little more than teams who are more methodical. However, turnovers absolutely killed them in the WNBA Finals last year and allowed the Storm to come back from a double-digit deficit in Game 3.
2. Lindsey Harding: Not only is Harding efficient at distributing the ball (a career average of 4.0 apg), she is also a prolific scorer (career average of 11.0 ppg on 41 percent shooting). Having the point guard position shored up is probably the Dream’s most significant move of the off-season.
In the 2010 WNBA Finals, Sue Bird clearly out-played the Dream’s guards all three games. With Harding at the helm, the Dream will no longer have a weakness at this spot – Harding was selected to the WNBA All-Defensive 2nd Team in 2010.
1. Angel McCoughtry: In just her second year in the league, Angel McCoughtry averaged 21.1 ppg, 4.9 apg, 3.1 rpg, and 2.0 spg. She also made the WNBA All-Defensive 1st Team.
In a word? Dominant.
There were times where McCoughtry, literally, wouldn’t let the Dream lose. Heading into 2011, McCoughtry continues to mature and feels even more motivated to get back to the Finals after losing to the Storm in 2010. With a balanced attack on both ends of the floor, McCoughtry won’t have to do as much for the Dream in 2011 as she did last season.
This Dream team just keeps getting better and better…
What do you think? Let us know your thoughts and we’ll tweet out some of our favorite responses!