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New season, new stories, new weekly rebound

I’ve decided to change up the way I’m boxing out (writing), to make rebounding easier so that you can collect as much information as possible about this beautiful league. The power rankings will now take up most of this article but every week I’ll dive into a different aspect of the game, this week being whether to believe the start of a team or player. I’ve kept the Team of the Week and might add something else, but as always just drop a comment below the article and share your opinion since I do this for you, and with that out of the way, let’s get those all-important rebounds.

POWER RANKINGS

Based on recent results above all else, also a quick way to laugh at me when a lower ranked team beats a higher ranked one.

1) Connecticut Sun (5-1): Jonquel Jones is better than Chiney Ogwumike.

After the Suns traded Ogwumike there was talk that losing an All-Star would be tough with Jonquel Jones sliding into her spot the Sun’s might have been making a slight upgrade. Gaining a first-round pick doesn’t hurt either as the franchise was rumoured to be in a no-win situation as Ogwumike was looking to continue to grow her ESPN broadcasting career, which she can do from their studio in LA.

On the court the trade has worked wonderfully with Jones beating Ogwumike across the board in traditional stats, such as points and rebounds, as well as advanced such as net rating and REB%. Jones was starting in 2017 with Ogwumike out injured and won most improved player that season and could be having the type of breakout that Natasha Howard did last year as she grows into a starting role. Playing alongside Alyssa Thomas up front also means Connecticut can now also spread the floor with five shooters and run an ideal offence for Head Coach Curt Miller. REAL

2) Washington Mystics (4-1): Familiarity is the key to success.

Returning nine players from a roster that made it to the finals, the Mystics were always going to start strong, especially since Emma Meesseman was returning from a year off and there was a lot of familiarity on the team. The team has eight players averaging over 8.8 points per game as they have gone on to lead the league in offensive rating by almost nine points.

A key part of their offensive success has been their willingness to make the extra pass to set up a teammate. The team leads the league in AST%, setting up their teammates on 67% of shots. Going six players deep that are averaging two assists, and eight deep with more assists than turnovers, reveals that this is more than one or two players. The entire team has taken on the identity of active and smart passing. REAL

3) Los Angeles Sparks (3-2): The Sparks are good but not the favourites we thought they were.

At the start of the year nobody in Los Angeles thought they would be first, but they definitely weren’t expecting to give New York their first win of the season. Part of the problem has been injuries to Candice Parker and Alana Beard. Furthermore Maria Vadeeva is back in Europe for EuroBasket and won’t be back till most likely mid-July.

When those three return Chiney Ogwumike should be able to come off the bench instead of starting, while players such as Sydney Wiese and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt won’t be overextended by starting. Their offence should improve dramatically with Parker. They are currently sitting at 10th with only Atlanta and Dallas behind them — not the type of company contenders keep. FALSE

4) Minnesota Lynx (4-2): Can keep surviving with so many turnovers.

Half their games have resulted in them giving the ball away over 20 times. They have three of the top six turnover games in the league. A lot of that can be attributed to only having two players on last year’s squad playing currently but at some point, wasting possessions will come back to haunt you, as it did on Saturday in a four-point loss to the Sparks.

The main culprit has been Odyssey Sims, acquired in a trade with those same Sparks. Sims has turned the ball over on 25 per cent of her possessions, a career high, which explains how they can lead the league by turning over the ball on 24 per cent of possessions as a team. Defence is still their calling card with a net rating of 91.8, second best, but unless they clean up turnover’s opponents will start scoring in transition. FALSE

5) Seattle Storm (3-3): Injuries robbed this team a chance to repeat.

When will we learn to stop underestimating Natasha Howard? After winning most improved player last year she has taken it to another level without Breanna Stewart, averaging career highs in: points, rebounds, assists, steals, REB%, TO Ratio, minutes and USG%.

Howard has done everything she can to keep this team going, along with Jewell Loyd and Jordin Canada, but starting with six of eight on the road has not helped this team. After being one of the top teams at home last season once the storm return to Seattle they should start to climb in the standings. REAL

6) Phoenix Mercury (2-2): Nothing matters until Taurasi is back.

The oldest and most experienced team in the league doesn’t have anything to prove until the post season. Well, except for trying to find someone to help the big three and hopefully continue the winning tradition of Phoenix once they leave. For players such as rookies Sophia Cunningham and Brianna Turner, and second year pro Yvonne Turner, this is a chance to show they can join the rotation and contribute.

The Mercury should do everything they can to try and get a first-round bye to rest their older legs so every win will matter, as they know after being knocked out by a rested Storm last season. Taurasi is a warrior but her back injury could also be the start of the end so every season is growing in importance for this franchise. FALSE

7) Indiana Fever (3-2): They are a playoff team.

Good news: They are halfway to the six wins they collected ALL of last season, and that’s without Victoria Vivians who had a historic rookie season along with Kelsey Mitchell. Bad news: Their wins came over the very lowly Liberty and Wings.

A tough loss to Phoenix, the final score does not do justice as Phoenix was up 24 after three quarters before letting up. A 10-player rotation that they can rely on right now is great with all 10 averaging over 14 and none over 29. If Erica Wheeler can continue her career year running the point and everyone settles into a clearer role under fourth year coach Pokey Chatman, they could be dangerous. REAL

8) Chicago Sky (2-2): Given time, they could contend this season.

A brutal start to the season has seen the Sky beat the defending champs twice, while also falling to the Mystics and surprising Lynx. A game against Phoenix won’t help but against Indiana on Saturday the picture for both teams will become a little clearer.

Diamond DeShields still shows all the signs of potential that got her drafted so high, 24 and 21 point games, to go along with terrible showings such as going scoreless in the season opener. The defence has again been the main culprit for the Sky who are 11th in defensive rating, a small improvement over last in 2018. Under first year Head Coach James Wade, former assistant in Minnesota a defensive powerhouse, the Sky should slowly build up their defensive play. REAL

9) Las Vegas Aces (2-3): Cambage is going to ruin Wilson’s development.

This is not the start the sin city was hoping for when trading for the dominant Liz Cambage from Dallas in the offseason. With reigning rookie of the year A’ja Wilson also up front the duo were supposed to become unstoppable on offence while scaring any player willing to drive to the hoop. Instead Cambage has had to slowly return from an achilles injury and been playing under a minute’s restriction with only two starts.

Wilson was held under 10 points in the inexcusable loss to New York on Sunday, shooting only 2-10. It was her first game scoring under 10 in her career. She had the second longest streak of such games to start a career at 37, and she will be looking for revenge on Friday when the Liberty come to Vegas for a rematch. One game is meaningless but if Wilson continues to find a flow offensively the Aces may regret their big move. They wouldn’t be the first team to make that mistake. REAL

10) Atlanta Dream (1-4): The Dream won’t be able to survive without Angel McCoughtry.

Who knew losing your best player could destroy a team’s season? The ACL injury McCoughtry suffered last season was always going to be a tough blow for a team that relies on defence to win. Missing their key leader has resulted in a defence that was first last year slipping to sixth, and the Dream did nothing of note to improve their offence to make up for the difference.

Tiffany Hayes lead the team in points last season with 17 per game but is now at nine while shooting 35 per cent overall and 18 per cent from three, without her the Dream have nobody to rely on for easy buckets as Brittney Sykes is now leading the team with a paltry 12 points per game. Without McCoughtry who was 12th in steals, 15th in points, 18th in rebounds, and 26th in assists there is simply not enough talent to replace her production. REAL

11) New York Liberty (1-4): Tina Charles has no choice but to score 20+.

I mean technically this one is FALSE but have you seen the numbers Charles is putting up as she tries to carry this once proud franchise? Putting up a career high 23.2 per game, which is also good enough for second in the league 0.1 points behind Bonner, with only one game below 21 so far.

The Liberty are not getting much help from others with only Kia Nurse averaging over 10, after 11 in her second season. Charles may not be helping much on the defensive end per on/off stats but when a player is using 35% of offensive possessions at the age of 30 I’ll cut her some slack. Someone on New York needs to step up with her.

12) Dallas wings (0-4): Going winless this season.

Another one that is obviously FALSE, but considering there the only team yet to put up a win they deserve to be the butt end of a few jokes. This is a young and inexperienced team, third and first in the league respectively, but at some point those young players need to string together a few productive games in a row.

Another reason for their struggles to start the season: starting 10 different players over their first four games with only Imani McGee-Stafford starting all four. This is going to be a long season of learning for players such as Azura Stevens, Arike Ogunbowale, and Brooke Mccarty-Williams who are all in their first two years and starting already.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

A starting line-up with one bench player who were the best over the last 6 days, amount of games has an impact

G: Natasha Cloud (Mystics)- Cloud played a key role in the Mystics perfect week as they went 3-0 with her scoring at least 12 in each. A game with 26 points and eight assists against New York propelled her to a week where she was top six in points, assists, and assist to turnover ratio.  

G: Bria Hartley (Liberty)- Of members of the regular rotation in the Big Apple, Hartley led all players in on/off net rating as she improved the team’s net rating by 24.2 points per 100 possessions on average. Her 17 points, six assists and six rebounds were a big part of the Liberty being able to knock off the Aces Sunday afternoon.

F: DeWanna Bonner (Mercury)- A monster week for Bonner who put up 25 points in both games. When you consider that she also put up 25 in a game in which her teammates combined for 31, you realize how integral she was for Phoenix.

F: Tina Charles (Liberty)- I already mentioned that she set the franchise record for career points in New York, so this partly is a recognition of that achievement. It doesn’t hurt that her worst game of the week was probably a 21 point, 14 rebound, one assist game on her way to averaging 23 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

C: Stefanie Dolson (Sky)- Sometimes this section needs to go to someone who was simply on fire and couldn’t miss, and this week that is Dolson. Overall she shot 11-14 from the field including 2-4 from three, on her way to leading the league in TS% and EFG%, minimum two games and over one shot per game.Bench: Tiffany Mitchell (Fever)- All good teams need a reliable playmaker who can come off the bench and help less skilled players by either setting them up or scoring themselves. Mitchell fits this role perfectly helping the Fever to climb the standings with 9-15 shooting this week and three assists to only two turnovers as she protected the ball as well.

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