One quarter of the way through WNBA season – Observations & Thoughts

With more than half of the league played roughly 8 to 10 games, we are officially done 1/4 of the WNBA season. We have seen some incredible play, some lackluster referees, quality and some very bad teams early. It’s time to break it down and offer my observations and thoughts on everything I have seen played out through the first 8 to 10 games.

First of all, the ROY race is now open. After so much hype regarding the #1 Draft pick Kelsey Plum, it turns out in the early part of the season she is not even in consideration for the award. The front runner of this award clearly belongs to Dallas Wings G/F Allisha Gray. She has been steady and reliant as well as a key component to the Wings offense. She is headed towards becoming a future WNBA All-Star one day.  As for Kelsey Plum? She’s in a tough spot in San Antonio. It’s hard to be a rookie point guard in the WNBA and it is the toughest position to master next to the center position. It takes time and clearly Plum is not there yet. It’s even tougher when a very good, young point guard in Moriah Jefferson is there and has played better to this point in the season. I won’t get into too much detail about it but even if Vickie Johnson (Stars head coach) played Plum, Jefferson and McBride together, Plum still has a long way to go to become a future WNBA star and starting point guard. I won’t write her off as a bust. That’s silly. She has a learning curve and in time, she will be a great guard we will talk about it. But the question remains, will it be in San Antonio?

Moving on, the MVP race is heating up. Before this season began, there was talk of Nneka Ogwumike maybe repeating or Elena Delle Donne, Tina Charles, etc. I don’t think Sylvia Fowles was seriously considered just because of the depth the Lynx have. Well, 9 games into the Lynx season and Fowles has emerged as the front runner for the MVP award. Simply put, she has been amazing and has improved her game at the age of 30 years old. Remarkable. Fowles has always been an elite center in the WNBA and one of the top defenders in the league but her play this season is a notch above her All Star play. I don’t think being on the Lynx will hurt her MVP chances just like it didn’t hurt Ogwumike’s shot last year either. While Fowles is the front runner, don’t forget about the Mercury’s Brittney Griner. She’s been simply outstanding and for me personally, fun to watch her growth and development. There’s a reason why she was taken ahead of Elena Delle Donne because when Griner puts it all together, she’s unstoppable. She’s been able to avoid foul trouble for the most part and her level of play should make Mercury fans very happy. Their very hyped center is finally turning the corner and becoming one of the top three players to watch through a quarter of the WNBA season. Another player who has also emerged as one of the three contenders for the award is none other than Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne. If there is one thing Delle Donne is simply elite at, it is her ability to score. Being a versatile elite scorer has helped the Mystics off to a very great start through 10 games (7-3) and makes her a very serious candidate for the WNBA MVP award. Other names are also in the mix such as Sparks reigning MVP (Nneka Ogwumike), Liberty’s Tina Charles, etc. But these three (Fowles, Griner and Delle Donne) are simply a notch better through a quarter of the WNBA season right now.

Another key story is the quality of play of the top teams versus the bad teams. There is quite a remarkable difference between the Minnesota Lynx and the San Antonio Stars. One team is undefeated while the other is winless. Sure, the Lynx have more talent and have experienced veterans on this team, but the Stars do have talent regardless of what you have read about them. The Minnesota Lynx are 9-0 because they can close out teams, they have some very big blowout wins and are in cruise control right now. They get elite level production from Fowles (discussed above), steady production from Rebekkah Brunson, Seimone Augustus and a very good point guard in Lindsay Whalen to direct the team. Meanwhile the San Antonio Stars are winless because they cannot close out teams, they have had multiple chances to win games and their rotation is a mess because the coach has yet to figure out which line up combination works for her team. I did not expect the Stars to have a winning record at this point, but never did I think they would still be winless. It’s not fun to watch for anybody. The Lynx being 9-0 and the Stars being 0-9 are two stories to track through one quarter of the season. Both teams could set records (and in the Stars case, not a great record.)

REFEREES: Still not great, way too many games decided by their fate. Reviews are way too long and it takes the fun out of the WNBA game.

HOT SEAT? Two coaches right now are on the hot seat. Vickie Johnson of the San Antonio Stars and Amber Stocks, the coach/GM of the Chicago Sky. Of these two, I think Johnson will be let go after this season because she is only on a one year deal. Amber Stocks is on the hot seat because of some her rosters moves are puzzling. Not only that, but her team could have won more games, but haven’t due to the talent on the floor. It’s only a quarter of the way through the WNBA season, but keep an eye on these two coaches moving forward.

These are some of the top major stories around the league. When the majority of the WNBA has played half of their games (17 games), I shall do another post on what other stories have transpired in this 2017 WNBA season.

San Antonio Stars at the Halfway Point (In Depth Review)

*Note – The Stars have played 19 games (more than half of their games) and with the Stars off until Wednesday after a busy week in which they played every other day, it was time to update on how the Stars are performing at the halfway point.

With the San Antonio Stars having played more than half of their games in the 34 game season, it is time to do a review on their first half of their season. It’s also time to take a look at how Stars players have played in the first half as well. The Stars are currently in 3rd place in the Western Conference with a record of 10-9. They are 3-5 at home and 7-4 on the road.  Taking a look back at the season preview, I expected the Stars to have a better season than last year simply because of the return of WNBA All Stars Becky Hammon and Sophia Young-Malcolm. What I didn’t expect was to see how well the Stars have played so far. Even though their record is one game above .500, they’ve been playing well in most of their games.

In an interesting twist, only Danielle Robinson has increased her scoring average from last season or from previous seasons (Hammon & Young-Malcolm). So, despite the better record, it isn’t reflected of players individual stats. The Stars are truly playing team ball and this proves it.

TEAM PLAY

If you take a look at the WNBA Standings, you will find something very unique this season. The Stars are one of FOUR teams to have a winning record (Atlanta Dream, Phoenix Mercury and Minnesota Lynx are the others) and the Stars have gone 1-7 against them. They were swept by the Atlanta Dream, split with the Phoenix Mercury so far and have lost three games against Minnesota. On the contrary, the two games against Atlanta were very close and could have went easily the other way. This shows the Stars are not elite or championship level. It does show that they are a playoff team as they are 9-3 against the rest of the teams. The Stars home and road splits are also interesting. It’s very rare to see teams to do so poorly at home but at the same time play well on the road. Taking a closer look at the home record (3-5) they’ve only played one close game (a two point loss to Atlanta) and they’ve lost by more than 7 points in all of their other home losses. Their biggest home loss was in 2 OT to the Phoenix Mercury. In their three wins at home, they’ve won 2 close games against the Tulsa Shock and in a blowout win against the Los Angeles Sparks. In all 5 of their losses at home this season, they’ve struggled and had to figure out ways to come back but in wasted effort. In three wins, the Stars have had the edge and have figured out how to win. The road record (7-4) shows that in the four losses, the Stars were in only one close game (a road loss to Atlanta) while the other three losses were won by more than 7 points. Their biggest road loss was to the Los Angeles Sparks. In their seven wins, they’ve been able to find ways to win close games (5 of their road wins were decided by 5 points or less). Their biggest road win was against the New York Liberty. It shows that the Stars are able to execute and be successful in winning on the road. It also shows that for whatever reason, the same formula hasn’t worked for the Stars at home so far. Considering the fact that the Stars only have six more road games as compared to nine home games, they have to figure out how to win ugly at home as well.

PLAYER ANALYSIS (QUICK THOUGHTS)

Becky Hammon – Becky Hammon is not the same Becky Hammon many Stars fans remember. She has had some vintage Becky nights in where she has led the team in scoring and assists, but for the most part she’s turned into the Stars second PG behind Danielle Robinson. She’s also had some nights in which she was held scoreless which would never happen in previous seasons as a Star. She does lead the team in 3 point shooting and is shooting at a unreal 52%.

Sophia Young – Malcolm – Like Becky Hammon, Sophia Young-Malcolm is not the same All Star Sophia Young. Instead, she’s a shadow of her former self. She’s not all the way there yet but unlike Becky, Sophia is young and she should be able to regain her All Star form next season. However, ever since she’s been moved to the bench in favour of Danielle Adams, she’s been playing better and has improved the team’s bench play.

Kayla McBride – Kayla McBride, the #3 pick in April’s draft is currently third in scoring on the team with 11.2 points per game. She’s had games in which she has shined and has even been able to hit two game winners against Tulsa and Indiana. For a rookie, she has had her rookie moments, has turned the ball over in crucial moments such as the season opener against Atlanta, but for the most part, she’s been one of the Stars consistent players of the first half. She’s a good learner and her potential is super star worthy. Not a WNBA star, but a superstar.

Jayne Appel – Her numbers are down from last season but she has been the Stars only interior defender. She’s had double doubles but she’s also had games in which she had trouble scoring the ball. After a great season last year statistically, she was one of the players I expected would make an even better jump. However, that still hasn’t happened and even though she has played in the WNBA for 5 seasons, she still has moments where she lacks confidence.

Danielle Robinson – Danielle Robinson is the only Star to be All Star worthy this season. Her scoring numbers have increased and she is the Stars go to leader when the Stars are in need of some quick scoring. Her ability to get to the basket is the best in the WNBA and other point guards have trouble guarding her. She has had games in which she’s struggled but they have been few and this is the season where she has officially replaced Becky Hammon as the lead PG.

Jia Perkins – Jia Perkins has been always steady for the Stars off the bench as an offensive and defensive weapon. When the Stars are in need of scoring, she is usually able to deliver. This season, it’s become more prominent as Jia Perkins has put herself out there for consideration as the sixth woman of the year. Jia Perkins remains a good defender and when she and Danielle Robinson are put out there together defensively, they are very good. Unfortunately, Jia Perkins recently was sidelined for a knee injury and hasn’t played in 4 games.

Danielle Adams – Danielle Adams has always been a scorer and that hasn’t changed for her. She still can score, however she still struggles to rebound and is ok defensively. She hasn’t made any major changes to her game and like Jayne Appel, her numbers are down as well.

Shenise Johnson – Shenise Johnson averaged double figures last season and this season, she’s been mostly in and out of the lineup with injury issues. Her numbers have also taken a hit and her play is erratic. She will have very few good games, and other games in which she struggles. It’s hard to make out of what kind of player Shenise Johnson is at this point in her career. She is like Adams ok defensively.

Shameka Christon – Shameka Christon’s value as a player has decreased every year as a Star. She is currently averaging a career low in points and is just relegated to the Stars three point shooter. She can still shoot and when she gets playing time, she is still a good reliable defender.  When she plays well, the Stars benefit and are able to win.

Kayla Alexander – Kayla Alexander has gotten better this season, but is prone to foul trouble. With her limited playing time, she’s gotten better at scoring inside and is shooting 80%+ from the FT line.

Heather Butler – It’s hard to get a read on Heather Butler when she hardly plays, but from a size standpoint, she has trouble shooting over other players. She however, does handle the ball fine in her very limited playing time.

Davellyn Whyte – Davellyn Whyte has barely played this season and will sit out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

—————————————————————————————————–

That wraps up my thoughts on the Stars season at the half way point. Remember to follow me on Twitter @sastarsblogger as I tweet thoughts on the games going on for the rest of the season.

– Aneela Syed

Thoughts on the 2014 WNBA season & what to expect from the blog

Hey there!

It’s been a long while since I’ve last updated the blog. I was supposed to do an update last Monday, but got really busy with life. If you didn’t know, I got married in December, so I’ve been pretty busy adjusting to my new life and enjoying being a newlywed. While I was away, I noticed that the San Antonio Silver Stars changed their name to the San Antonio Stars (Personally, I don’t know why, I preferred the Silver Stars) and that the WNBA finally agreed to a new CBA. I also know that this is a big year for the Silver Stars as they are getting ready for a brand new season and a new lottery pick who could be a new star for the franchise considering the fact that Becky Hammon may be gearing up for her final seasons. It will be a fun summer and I am excited that I might have the opportunity to travel to New York this year to watch the San Antonio Stars LIVE this year! I can’t wait and hopefully it can come true so I’m looking forward to that! I’m also glad that the Sparks were able to stay in LA because for a while it looked pretty grim. Things are looking great for the 2014 WNBA season! Tune in!

As for me and my blog, there will be less posts from me. As you can already tell, I’ve stopped doing overseas updates as I can see that the San Antonio Stars are keeping up to date over there. You can check it out on their official website. I will also stop doing pre and post game blog posts and it will only be a weekly update from me. I will still be active on Twitter for live games and I will still keep track of player’s special milestones and news around the league, but there won’t be extensive blog posts from me from now on. I’ve come to the realization that even though I love the WNBA, the awesome players and the San Antonio Stars organization, I can’t keep writing for free anymore. It’s exhausting and I just won’t have the time anymore. It’s been fun last year and now that I’m married, I have other priorities to take care of. If you have read this blog before, I appreciate it and I always respond to great feedback and comments. Thanks for reading and here’s to a great 2014 WNBA season!

Happy trails! Xx

Aneela