Steady As She Goes
The definitive 2011 WNBA preview.
by Ben York / @bjyork
“This is a significant milestone for the WNBA,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said on March 8, 2011, International Women’s Day, while announcing the festivities planned to celebrate the league’s 15th season. “The league continues to be the destination for the greatest women’s basketball players in the world.”
To commemorate the 15-year milestone, a panel comprised of media members and experts [including the writer of this preview—Ed.] will select and honor the Top 15 WNBA Players and the Top 15 Greatest Moments in WNBA history. All season long we’ll see team-themed celebrations, fan promotions and events, all focusing on how far the league has come in just 15 short years.
If you haven’t given the WNBA a shot, now is definitely the time…and here’s how we think the Crystal Anniversary campaign will play out.
1. Atlanta Dream: Probably the deepest team in the league with the fewest weaknesses. The addition of Lindsey Harding at point guard solidifies the backcourt and superstar Angel McCoughtry could very well lead the league in scoring in 2011.
2. Chicago Sky: New coach Pokey Chatman brings instant credibility and a track record of success to this Sky team. Look for Sylvia Fowles to again be a candidate for MVP in 2011. Rookie Courtney Vandersloot is an upgrade at pg and Epiphanny Prince is a force at the 2.
3. New York Liberty: After making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals this past season, the Liberty made some roster moves in the offseason to get Cappie Pondexter some help. They’ll be deeper and even more dangerous now that Pondexter doesn’t have to do it all.
4. Indiana Fever: The Boston Celtics of the WNBA? Indiana has a wealth of talented veterans and with the supreme Tamika Catchings at the helm, they can never be counted out.
5. Washington Mystics: After missing the entire 2010 season with an ankle injury, All-Star Alana Beard returns with a vengeance in 2011. However, Washington is a different team than they were in 2010, and with the Dream, Liberty and Sky all improving the playoffs might be a stretch for the Mystics.
6. Connecticut Sun: Tina Charles proved she’s a force to be reckoned with, winning Rookie of the Year in 2010 while setting a league record for double-doubles (22). In an extremely competitive East, the young Sun will have a tough time getting past the Sky and Fever for the fourth Playoff spot.
1. Phoenix Mercury: We saw what the Mercury were capable of toward the latter half of the 2010 season after finally integrating Candice Dupree into their run and gun system. This season, a rested Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor (at left) are more motivated than ever to capture their third WNBA crown.
2. Seattle Storm: As long as Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird and Swin Cash are healthy, the Storm has to remain a favorite. It will be difficult to completely dominate the league as they did in 2010, but at the very least they’ll be in the thick of things.
3. Minnesota Lynx: No. 1 pick Maya Moore joins an already loaded Lynx team. Staying healthy is the thing that has troubled Minny in recent years. If the Lynx avoid injuries, they could be the most fun team to watch in the league.
4. Los Angeles Sparks: Now fully healthy, Candace Parker feels she has something to prove in 2011. And with grizzled veterans Tina Thompson, Ticha Penicheiro, and Delisha Milton-Jones pitching in, the Sparks will be a scary team come Playoff time.
5. San Antonio Silver Stars: Becky Hammon is one of the best point guards in the WNBA. Will she and the Silver Stars have enough talent to get back to the Playoffs? Or will they find themselves, yet again, on the outside looking in?
6. Tulsa Shock: The return of 40-year-old legend Sheryl Swoopes after a two-year break provides an interesting twist to the WNBA’s 15th season. While the Shock should finish better than their 2010 record of 6-28, it’ll still be a while before they can compete out West.
Mercury over Dream in 5 games
The Mercury has Diana Taurasi and the Dream doesn’t. Behind an MVP season from Taurasi, the Mercury will prove to be too much for the Dream and the rest of the league.