May 13, 2014 5:15 PM GMT
Another fun-filled season of WNBA basketball officially kicks off this week!
Here's my WNBA Power Poll, with burning questions for each team as they get started...
1. Minnesota Lynx – Future Hall of Famers (Maya Moore, Lindsey Whalen, Seimone Augustus, etc.) at multiple spots, and a take-no-prisoners coach in Cheryl Reeve have this team looking the part of a dynasty. Is there enough quality depth to keep the defending champions on top of a hyper-competitive Western Conference?
2. Los Angeles Sparks – This team will dominate the rebounding on most nights behind Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike, plus they upgraded their perimeter options for better defense (Armintie Herrington) and scoring (Candice Wiggins). Do they have the balance they need from the small forward spot to contend for the Western title?
3. Atlanta Dream – They spent their offseason stacking their lineup with experience and depth, plus some sharpshooting from rookie Shoni Schimmel to spread the floor for Angel McCoughtry. Does former WNBA champion coach Michael Cooper still have the chops? Is French star point guard Celine Dumerc the X-Factor to finally get Atlanta over the WNBA Finals hump?
4. Phoenix Mercury – Has Brittney Griner improved her conditioning and her discipline to be effective for longer stretches on the floor? Who among Griner, Penny Taylor, and Candice Dupree emerges to become the clear scoring threat behind bucket-filler Diana Taurasi? And is Erin Phillips ready to lead the way at the point?
5. Seattle Storm – The addition of Crystal Langhorne from D.C. will compensate nicely for a second-straight season without former MVP Lauren Jackson, plus score-from-anywhere guard Sue Bird is back. How will players like Temeka Johnson, Tanisha Wright and Shekinna Stricklen perform while returning to secondary roles? And with Tina Thompson retired, is there a shotblocker in the house?
6. Washington Mystics – While mainstay forward Langhorne is gone to Seattle, the Mystics added leadership in the backcourt with Kara Lawson to help top scorer Ivory Latta, and a pair of youthful Huskies in Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley. How long will it take coach Mike Thibault to get this team to gel, and will it be in time to compete for a conference title?
7. New York Liberty – Is former MVP Tina Charles and a healthy, returning Essence Carson enough of a boost to help rejuvenate Cappie Pondexter and get this team back into the playoffs? Can DeLisha Milton-Jones contribute a full season at age 39? Can coach Bill Laimbeer improve the production off the bench? And can he find someone else to play the lead guard role and give Pondexter a break?
8. Chicago Sky – Losing Defensive Player of the Year Sylvia Fowles was a big blow for coach Pokey Chatman as she tries to keep her team in the running for a second-straight regular-season conference title. Having to deal veteran forward Swin Cash to Atlanta hurts as well. Is 2013 Rookie of the Year forward Elena Delle Donne prepared to bang away more inside to provide defensive help?
9. Tulsa Shock – Rookie Odyssey Sims joins an electric backcourt with Skylar Diggins and reigning Sixth Woman of the Year Riquna Williams. But can this defensively-challenged unit compete now, with center Liz Cambage skipping out on them at the last moment once again? Can they keep Glory Johnson from being overtaxed in the paint?
10. San Antonio Stars – Becky Hammon and the homophobic Sophia Young-Malcolm are back and healthy, likely returning Danielle Adams and Jia Perkins back to useful reserve spots. If this team struggles from the gate, will coach Dan Hughes be on the hot seat? And will there be a mid-season shakeup to move rookie guard Kayla McBride into a starting role?
11. Indiana Fever – In Lin Dunn’s last season as coach, can her gritty charges, led by former Finals MVP Tamika Catchings and 2013 Most Improved Player Shavonte Zellous, reward their coach with one final playoff run? Has center Erlana Larkins rounded out her game enough to help on the offensive end? And has the depth improved on a team ravaged by injuries in 2013?
12. Connecticut Sun – Despite the forced departure by Charles and another year without the injured Asjha Jones, can Anne Donovan motivate #1-overall pick Chiney Ogwumike and her teammates into improving the Sun after a lost last-place season? Will Katie Douglas’ return to Connecticut be the catalyst? And can All-Rookie center Kelsey Bone help Sun fans forget all about Charles?