05/24/2013 05:50 PM
LOS ANGELES SPARKS
2012: 24-10, 2nd; beat San Antonio 2-0 in conference semifinals; lost to Minnesota 2-0 in conference finals.
COACH: Carol Ross, 2nd season, 24-10 overall.
KEY ADDITIONS: G Lindsey Harding (free agent, Atlanta); G A'dia Mathies (draft, No. 10, Kentucky); F Farhiya Abdi (free agent, Sweden).
KEY LOSSES: F DeLisha Milton-Jones (free agent, San Antonio).
STRENGTHS: Rebounding, perimeter play. Candace Parker (17.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 3.3 apg) and reigning Rookie of the Year Nneka Ogwumike (14.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg) are a formidable duo up front that helped the Sparks finish third in rebounding (36.9). Kristi Toliver (17.5 ppg, 4.9 apg) complements the frontcourt with her perimeter shooting (42 percent on 3-pointers), and the backcourt should be boosted with Harding (12.3 ppg, 4.5 apg with Atlanta). Alana Beard (11.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg) showed she's recovered after missing the previous two seasons due to injuries and Australian Jenna O'Hea (4.8 ppg in 10 games) played valuable minutes after joining the team following the London Olympics. The Sparks were second in scoring (84.0), field-goal shooting (45.8 percent) and fourth in assists (17.8).
WEAKNESSES: Depth, consistency. The Sparks will miss the experience and consistency provided by Milton-Jones (10.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg), and will need Jantel Lavender (5.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and Marissa Coleman (3.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg) to make up for the veteran's production. Ebony Hoffman's numbers declined in her ninth season, and the other reserves will likely consist of players will less than three years in the league. Los Angeles endured stretches in which they lost five of their last eight games in June, won nine in a row, then lost four of five before finishing the season with four wins. The Sparks tied Minnesota for the league's best home mark at 16-1, but were 8-9 on the road.
2012: 27-7, 1st; beat Seattle 2-1 in conference semifinals; beat Los Angeles 2-0 in conference finals; lost to Indiana 3-1 in WNBA Finals.
COACH: Cheryl Reeve, 4th season, 67-35.
KEY ADDITIONS: C Janel McCarville (trade, New York); G Lindsey Moore (draft, No. 12, Nebraska); G Sugar Rodgers (draft, No. 14, Georgetown).
KEY LOSSES: F Candice Wiggins (trade, Tulsa); C Taj McWilliams-Franklin (retirement).
STRENGTHS: Familiarity, experience. After falling short in their bid to win consecutive championships, the Lynx once again return with their roster mostly intact. Minnesota boasts four double-digit scorers in Seimone Augustus (16.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg), Maya Moore (16.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.6 apg), Lindsay Whalen (11.5 ppg, 5.4 apg, 4.2 rpg) and Rebekkah Brunson (11.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg). McCarville, the former University of Minnesota star who returns to the league after a two-year absence, was acquired to take over in the middle for McWilliams-Franklin. Monica Wright (8.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg) and Devereaux Peters (5.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg) are solid reserves. The Lynx matched the team record for wins set during their championship season the previous year, tying Indiana for the league's best home mark (16-1) and putting up second-best road record (11-6). The Lynx were tops in scoring (85.9), scoring differential (plus-9.8), field-goal shooting (47.3 percent), rebounding (37.8) and assists (20.8), while tying Indiana for the best 3-point shooting (40 percent).
WEAKNESSES: Injuries. Losing key players for big chunks of the season was a big problem holding the Lynx back in the few years before the last two seasons. Avoiding injuries was a big factor in their dominating run to the title in 2011 and to the Finals a year ago, and they'll need to keep everyone healthy again to keep pace in the improved and physical Western Conference. Lindsey Moore averaged 15.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.8 steals as a senior and could fill the void left by Wiggins' departure.
2012: 7-27, 6th.
COACH: Corey Gaines, 5th season, 80-90.
KEY ADDITIONS: C Brittney Griner (draft, No. 1, Baylor).
KEY LOSSES: F Nakia Sanford (free agent, Seattle).
STRENGTHS: Offense. A year after nearly everything that could go wrong went wrong in an injury-filled season, the Mercury look to resume their high-scoring ways. The silver lining in the season to forget was winning the draft lottery for the 6-foot-8 Griner and her prowess in the paint. Penny Taylor (torn ACL) is back after missing the entire 2012 season. Diana Taurasi is healthy after appearing in only eight games due to injuries, and Candice Dupree missed 21 games with a knee injury. DeWanna Bonner, the league's Sixth Woman of the Year her first three seasons, picked up her production and set career highs while leading the Mercury in scoring (20.6 ppg) and finishing second in rebounding (7.2), and was third in assists (2.2). With everyone back and the addition of Griner - the two-time AP women's college basketball Player of the Year who was the No. 2 scorer in NCAA history with 3,283 points and set records with 748 blocks and 18 dunks, expectations are sky-high. Sammy Prahalis (11.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.5 apg) had a solid rookie year and Krystal Thomas led the team in rebounding (8.0).
WEAKNESSES: Defense, perimeter shooting. The unsurprising byproduct of the Mercury's fast-paced style has had them perennially last in scoring defense, and that was true again as the diminished lineup allowed 86.7 ppg. Phoenix was second in rebounding (37.1) and gave up the second-most boards (36.1), and was sixth in blocks (3.8) - all numbers that Griner is expected to help improve. Without their stars, the Mercury were last in field-goal shooting (38.4 percent), 3-point shooting (29.5 percent) and assists (13.7), and ninth in scoring (74.5). Taurasi, Taylor and Bonner are the only remaining players from the franchise's 2009 championship team - which won the title for the second time in three seasons.
SAN ANTONIO SILVER STARS
2012: 21-13, 3rd; lost to Los Angeles 2-0 in conference semifinals.
COACH: Dan Hughes, 8th season with team, 194-194 overall.
KEY ADDITIONS: F DeLisha Milton-Jones (free agent, Los Angeles); C Kayla Alexander (draft, No. 8, Syracuse); G Davellyn Whyte (draft, No. 16, Arizona).
KEY LOSSES: F Tangela Smith (waived).
STRENGTHS: Perimeter play, chemistry. Becky Hammon (14.7 ppg, 5.3 apg) is back to lead the offense in her 15th season. She's joined in the backcourt by Danielle Robinson (9.9 ppg, 4.3 apg, 2.5 rpg), who had a solid second season. Jia Perkins (10.6 ppg) is a valuable veteran reserve and Shenise Johnson (5.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg) had a decent rookie campaign. Led by Hammon (43.5 percent), Perkins (38.6) and Johnson (41.2), the Silver Stars were fourth in 3-point shooting (37.5). San Antonio was second in assists (18.9) and third in scoring (76.9) and field-goal shooting (44.5 percent). The Silver Stars' core of Hammon, Danielle Adams, Jayne Appel, Perkins and Robinson has played together the last two years. Shameka Christon, entering her second year with the team, played with Hammon previously in New York and overseas.
WEAKNESSES: Frontcourt, depth. Sophia Young (16.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg) teamed with Hammon to give the Silver Stars a strong inside-outside combo, but the seven-year veteran will be out indefinitely due to a torn ACL suffered while playing overseas in the offseason. Young is expected to be evaluated in August and could miss the entire season. Smith, limited to 15 games after recovering from offseason left knee surgery, is gone. Milton-Jones (10.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg with Los Angeles) is a tenacious defender who should help fill the void in Young's absence. Hughes is counting on Danielle Adams (11.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg), Jayne Appel (3.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Robinson and Johnson to step up their play. The Silver Stars eight in rebounding (33.2), up from 11th the previous year.
2012: 16-18, 4th; lost to Minnesota 2-1 in conference semifinals.
COACH: Brian Agler, 6th season with team, 155-130 overall.
KEY ADDITIONS: F Tianna Hawkins (draft, No. 6, Maryland); G Temeka Johnson (free agent, Tulsa); G Noelle Quinn (free agent, Washington); F Nakia Sanford (free agent, Phoenix); F Cierra Bravard (free agent).
KEY LOSSES: F Lauren Jackson (injury); G Sue Bird (left knee injury); F Katie Smith (free agent, New York); C Ann Wauters (free agent).
STRENGTHS: Youth, veteran leadership. Even without Bird and three-time MVP Jackson, the faces of the franchise the last dozen years, the Storm still have some good veteran leadership. Tina Thompson (8.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg), the only player to appear in every WNBA season since its debut in 1997, is back for her second year in Seattle. Also, Tanisha Wright (7.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.4 apg) is in her ninth year - all with the Storm - and Camille Little (11.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg) is entering her seventh season in the league. Johnson (12.2 ppg, 4.7 apg with Tulsa), entering her ninth year, was brought on to run the offense. They'll be counted on to lead a roster that could have five players with fewer than two years' experience in the league. Shekinna Stricklen (8.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg) will need to step up her production in her second season.
WEAKNESSES: Depth, offense. The Storm finished 11th in scoring (71.2), and that will become a tougher task without Bird (12.2 ppg), Wauters (9.6) and Jackson (10.2 in nine games). With Jackson (5.6 rpg) missing the first 25 games a year ago to train with Australia for the London Olympics, the Storm were 10th in rebounding (31.9). That included Wauters' 5.8 average in 25 games. Despite the scoring woes, Seattle's defense-first system limited opponents to a league-low 71.6 points per game. Agler will need to get a similar effort from his young team this year.
2012: 9-25, 5th.
COACH: Gary Kloppenburg, 2nd season, 9-25 overall.
KEY ADDITIONS: F Candice Wiggins (trade, Minnesota); G Skylar Diggins (draft, No. 3, Notre Dame); F Nicole Powell (trade, New York); G Angel Goodrich (draft, No. 29, Kansas).
KEY LOSSES: G Temeka Johnson (free agent, Seattle); G Ivory Latta (free agent, Washington); C Chante Black (waived); F Amber Holt (waived); G Scholanda Dorrell (waived); C Courtney Paris (waived).
STRENGTHS: Upside. Coming off a season in which they matched their wins total from their disastrous first two seasons after moving from Detroit, the Shock have garnered a lot of attention this year with big roster changes. First, Wiggins and Powell came over in a three-team trade, and then Tulsa added Diggins in the draft. Diggins and Wiggins will be paired in a speedy backcourt that can shoot the 3-pointer - a boost for a team that went from 11th from beyond the arc in 2011 to third last year. The Shock also have two of their best players from the 2011 back in Tiffany Jones (12.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg), who sat out last season due a pregnancy, and Liz Cambage (11.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg), who skipped the season to train with the Australian national team for the London Olympics. Cambage had initially said she wouldn't return this season, but changed her mind last week.
WEAKNESSES: Depth, chemistry. Though the Shock may still need some time to develop into serious playoff contenders, they will undoubtedly be a better team. Their success will hinge on how quickly the rookies develop and how fast the players jell in Kloppenburg's system. As part of the roster overhaul, Black, Holt and Dorrell - cut in training camp this week - combined for 54 starts a year ago, and Latta and Johnson combined for 46. Tulsa improved to seventh in scoring (78.3), 10th in scoring differential (minus-6.97) and 11th in field-goal shooting (40.5 percent) after finishing last in each category the previous year.
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs: