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Friday, July 19, 2019

Handicapping the 2011 WNBA Season

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Credit: Original Artwork Courtesy istock Photo.com©

By Clay Kallam

Bob Corwin will be putting together the official Full Court Press “Dead Wrong in Public” forecast, our annual survey of correspondents’ prognostications on the outcome of the WNBA season, next week. But I figured I’d jump the gun a bit and get my erroneous and misguided thoughts out first. So, without further attempts to deflect any future criticism, here goes …

Western Conference

1. Seattle (2010 Record: 28-6, first place)

There’s only one reason to even think about not picking the Storm to top the West, and that’s the possibility of injury. Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson are both 30, and Swin Cash – who had a tremendous year in their shadow – is 31, and all three have had a history of injuries, so what are the odds they will play 99 of a possible 102 games again in 2011? The addition of Katie Smith is obviously a plus, but will she play 30.8 mpg for 33 games this summer? In terms of actually playing baasketball, the Storm have outstanding coaching, great players and a tradition of success – what’s not to like?

2. Minnesota (2010 Record: 13-21, fifth place)

Speaking of health, aren’t the Lynx due for a break in that department? Granted, Rebekkah Brunson’s knees will never see 90% again, and Taj McWilliams-Franklin is 40, but otherwise, Minnesota is primed for its best season ever if Seimone Augustus plays 34 games at peak efficiency, and the rest of the lineup all follows suit. Lindsay Whalen is the only point, granted, and there’s not a proven center on the roster (McWilliams-Franklin, Brunson and rookie Amber Harris are all natural fours), so there are weaknesses. But Augustus, Candice Wiggins, Monica Wright and rookie Maya Moore are the best wing quartet in the league, and if the Lynx aren’t a great defensive team, well, it still won’t be easy to outscore them.

3. Phoenix (2010 Record: 15-19, second place)

Diana Taurasi’s poorly handled drug “suspension” helped the Mercury, for one of the two or three best players in the world is fresher and healthier for this summer than in recent memory. But DT can’t be much better than she has been, and Penny Taylor is still, well, Penny Taylor, so the key for Corey Gaines and company is to get Kara Braxton to bring it every night – or, more realistically, two out of three nights. There’s not much depth behind the underrated DeWanna Bonner, but when all the cylinders are firing in synch (including, most critically, Braxton), the Mercury are a team to be feared.

4. Los Angeles (2010 Record: 13-21, fourth place)

To return to the theme of Tea Partiers everywhere, it’s all about health care – and no Medicare jokes please, even though the trio of Ticha Penicheiro, Tina Thompson and Delisha Milton-Jones are all basketball senior citizens at 36. The Sparks, simply put, need to get 30+ games out of Candace Parker, enough minutes out of Loree Moore’s all-but-ruined knee to back up Penicheiro, and consistent production from Thompson and Milton-Jones. If that happens, the problem of too many power forwards and not enough centers (Los Angeles desperately needs rookie Jantel Lavender to contribute right now) should be a distraction rather than a disaster. And if Kristi Toliver figures out how to play, L.A. could be better than fourth, and a match-up nightmare in postseason.

5. San Antonio (2010 Record: 14-20, fourth place)

When I was preparing for this article, I jotted down, “Need Appel.” Oops – the second-year center has already gone under the knife (meniscus) and now the burden that 34-year-old Becky Hammon must carry on that small body got even heavier. Yes, Sophia Young’s the best player, and Jia Perkins and Scholanda Robinson are solid veteran wings, but there’s no obvious answer at the point (unless you believe in rookies and/or aging Australians) and only the soft Ruth Riley up front. With an Appel to supply some inside presence, the Silverstars might have pushed the Sparks for fourth – without her, or someone to get 12 and seven every night, fans might as well focus on Dan Hughes’ tie collection.

Tulsa (2010 Record: 6-28, sixth place)

If only Teresa Edwards would suit up, the Shock would have one of the best teams in the game – if it were 1995. Edwards, however, is in the front office, but she’ll have a ringside seat to watch Marion Jones and Sheryl Swoopes fight Father Time, with Betty Lennox (now 34) about to step in the ring. Rookies Liz Cambage and Kayla Pedersen should be the future of the franchise, but unless the light suddenly goes on for both Tiffany Jackson and Ivory Latta, the two rookies will have to be Tulsa present – and there’s no reason to believe they’re ready to carry this mismanaged franchise much past last year’s six-win total. This is a bad team in a shaky market, and new WNBA president Laurel Richie should make it job one to get the owners to fire Nolan Richardson sooner rather than later.

Eastern Conference

1. Atlanta (2010 Record: 19-15, fourth)

The Dream played their best when it mattered most, and were only rudely awakened in the WNBA Finals. But then Lindsay Harding tired of Washington, for whatever reason, and for a draft pick it didn’t need and a spare part or two, Atlanta landed a legit point guard who’s capable of carrying the load for 34 games. If Harding can co-exist with no-conscience gunners/occasional emotional basket cases Angel McCoughtry and Iziane Castro Marques, the Dream look even better than last year. They are still young, they have size, postseason experience and no reason to expect anything but another very fun summer.

2. Indiana (2010 Record: 21-13, third place)

I’ll slot the Fever second primarily due to a sense of desperation in Indianapolis. Tamika Catchings will be 32 in July, Katie Douglas is already 32, Tammy Sutton-Brown is 33 and Tangela Smith is 34, and though Briann January (24), Erin Phillips (26) and Jessica Davenport (26) are all young, which group is more likely to propel a team to postseason success? Healthy and fresh, Indiana is a match for Atlanta, but come August and September, neither of those adjectives is likely to apply – and thus, second place.

3. Chicago (2010 Record: 14-20, sixth place)

Despite the focus on Sylvia Fowles (25) and rookie Courtney Vandersloot, the Sky is really a veteran team, and should be able to help that first-year point guard navigate her jump to the WNBA. It also isn’t going to hurt to have Shameka Christon back, and the addition of Michelle Snow could push Chicago even higher than third. One issue is Russian Epiphanny Prince, who has obligations to her national team that may interfere with the WNBA season – and the Sky need her to take the perimeter pressure off Vandersloot.

4. New York (2010 Record: 22-12, second place)

Given the obituaries that have already been written for the Newark Liberty, it’s important to remember that this team won 22 games last year – and that the only player older than 30 is the only one who’s not back. The starting five, led by off-the-wall tweeter Cappie Pondexter, is all in its prime, and new coach John Whisenant will demand, and most likely get, plenty of defensive effort. It would have helped if Cheryl Ford would have shored up the frontcourt, but if she had, I’d be talking about first or second in the East instead of third or fourth. OK, it’s possible the Liberty will slip out of the playoffs, but if the team buys into Whisenant’s system, New York will be a team no one wants to play.

5. Connecticut (2010 Record: 17-17, fifth place)

Tina Charles is fabulous. Asjha Jones is pretty good (her career averages of 11.1 ppg and 4.6 rpg don’t scream “perennial all-star”), but she’s 32 and could manage only 25.8 mpg in 2010. Kara Lawson is 30 now, and though she’s a nice player, she’s not really a point guard, and she’s not going to get any better. That leaves the Sun hoping Renee Montgomery discovers consistency in her third season, and that Danielle McCray is as good as Mike Thibault said Kelsey Griffin was (but isn’t). Even with Sandrine Gruda, this was not a scary roster, but with Gruda staying in Europe all summer, Connecticut fans need to hope for a) complete health in Uncasville; and b) some key injuries elsewhere, or it’s lottery land again.

6. Washington (2010 Record: 22-12, first place)

From first to worst? With Trudi Lacey, a nice person, in charge, it’s certainly possible. Lindsay Harding and Katie Smith are gone, leaving the excellent post combo of Crystal Langhorne and Nicky Anosike without anyone to get them the ball. Alana Beard is back from injury, but it sadly looks like she’ll never be the player she once was – and Marissa Coleman doesn’t look like she’ll ever be the player she was thought to be. But maybe Lacey has learned a lot since she was in Charlotte, and maybe Kelly Miller will be an excellent point guard at 33, and maybe Coleman will blossom. And maybe the Democratic and Republican leadership will sit in the stands at a Mystics’ game, hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” at halftime, and then solve the budget crisis over drinks afterward.

Image Credits: All WNBA Team Logos courtesy WNBA Media Central

Originally published Tue, May 24, 2011

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Week: February 7, 2012
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
2 Notre Dame 23-1 2 2 2 743
3 Connecticut 21-2 3 4 3 710
4 Stanford 20-1 4 5 4 685
5 Duke 19-3 6 8 5 650
6 Miami (FL) 20-3 7 7 6 604
7 Kentucky 21-3 5 15 7 584
8 Maryland 20-3 10 10 8 534
9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 20-0 9 24 9 530
10 Ohio State 21-2 11 NR-RV
10 483
11 Tennessee 17-6 8 3 11 476
12 Delaware 20-1 13 NR 12 434
13 Georgetown 18-5 15 11 14 379
14 Texas A&M 16-5 16 6 15 378
15 Nebraska 19-3 18 NR 13 309
16 Rutgers 17-4 14 12 17 372
17 Louisville 17-6 12 9 20 276
18 Gonzaga 21-3 19 NR-RV
19 234
19 Purdue 19-5 17 21 16 222
20 Georgia 18-6 20 12 21 202
21 Penn State 18-5 21 14 18 176
22 DePaul 17-7 23 18 NR-RV
23 Georgia Tech 16-6 22 NR-RV
22 104
24 South Carolina 18-5 NR-RV
NR 24 46
25 Vanderbilt 18-5 NR-RV
NR 45
Dropped Out: No. 24 North Carolina, No. 25 Kansas.
First-place votes: Total first-place votes received (if any) are indicated in parentheses following school name.
Others receiving votes: St. Bonaventure (22-2) 34; North Carolina (17-6) 19; California (17-6) 18; Florida Gulf Coast (21-2) 16; Middle Tennessee (19-5) 15; Texas-El Paso (20-2) 8; Texas Tech (16-6) 5; Brigham Young (21-4) 4; Fresno State (19-4) 4; St. John's (15-8) 4; Princeton (15-4) 3; Oklahoma (15-7) 2; West Virginia (17-6) 2; Kansas State (15-7) 1.
Rank remains unchanged since last week
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Credit: Courtesy Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The weekly Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll, sponsored by USA Today and ESPN, is based on voting by a Board of Coaches made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions all of whom are WBCA members.