WNBA 2019

John Kelly

Born Gambler
Staff member
Ten of the 12 WNBA teams were in action yesterday and the other two were featured on ESPN this past Saturday.

It's the perfect time to take inventory of the league after the first 17 days of the 108-day season.

The WNBA is an easy league to follow with a total of 144 players (12 per team) competing over a short 34-game regular-season schedule from Memorial Day to Labor Day, or thereabouts.

Games last two hours with play broken up into four 10-minute quarters.

All of the action is below the rim with the exception of an occasional breakaway dunk which earns the league and player some Twitter love and television acclaim.

Seven players have dunked in the 23-year history of the WNBA for a grand total of 21 dunks with 6-foot-9-inch Brittney Griner accounting for 13 of the 21 flushes.

A slightly smaller ball -- only 28.5 inches in circumference compared to the NBA's 29.5 inches -- helps the ladies with their shooting accuracy and ballhandling skills.

For college hoop fans, following the WNBA is like following conference action solely in the Big East or Big Ten or Pac-12.

Basketball is basketball, no matter the age, gender or cultural background of the players.

As Los Angeles Sparks head coach Derek Fisher recently said, "Regardless of the level of play, I look for two things when watching a basketball game: 1) A player's competitive fire and 2) A player's ability to communicate with teammates."

Fisher should know a thing or two about the game after rising as a self-made player out of Little Rock, Arkansas to a five-time champion over 16 NBA seasons.

Bill Laimbeer is the only other former NBA player serving as a head coach in the WNBA and he's by far the best coach in the league.

Laimbeer succeeds with the ladies because he understands how to communicate with the women.

He doesn't treat them like men, but instead he treats them like the professional players they are.

That's the same style employed by the best head coach in the college game, Geno Auriemma, who interacts with his ladies without coddling, special treatment or safe spaces.

The storyline for the 2019 WNBA season is a depressing one.

Injuries, surgeries and Maya Moore's one-year sabbatical have kept many of the league's best players on the sidelines to start the season.

Furthermore, the league's collective bargaining agreement expires in October at the request of the players.

The financial future of the league hangs in the balance, literally.

And that's bad news for the players because the WNBA lost $12 million last season.

More troubling news for the players arrived when the WNBA hired accounting executive Cathy Englebert as its new commissioner.

Englebert is not a former WNBA player, she's not a marketing whiz and she's never worked in the sports world.

She comes to the league with an extensive accounting background and that's an ominous sign for players in the WNBA.

A bean counter calling the shots at a time when the players are demanding higher pay and better working conditions.

Fortunately for the WNBA, the NBA has been a loyal supporter of the league -- financially, emotionally and most of all, politically.

This dedicated WNBA gambler, though 0-3 yesterday, is hoping the league survives.

Here's a handicapping note or two on each of the 12 WNBA teams with the teams ranked in order of their current record:

CONNECTICUT (5-1) - Think 2004 Detroit Pistons, a team that won the NBA Finals with balanced talent and never-ending teamwork.

No superstars for Detroit, yet the Pistons defeated the heavily-favored Los Angeles Lakers (-400 series price), a team sporting four future Hall-of-Famers but saddled with little or no team chemistry.

The Sun will try to replicate Detroit's success with a rock-solid starting five, but it's difficult to win a championship title without a superstar player.

Connecticut struggles against teams with uber-athletic players, an admission head coach Curt Miller made the other day.

This team is good, but not great; they likely fall short in the end at the hands of elite teams like the Mystics, Sparks, Aces and Mercury.

WASHINGTON (4-1) - Two superstars on this squad.

The Mystics boast the best point guard in the league in Kristi Toliver and the best player in the league in Elena Delle Donne.

Toliver is a coach on the floor and Delle Donne is a Dirk Nowitzki-type who is able to score from any spot on the floor.

Belgian star Emma Meesseman may be the team's secret weapon this season after she returns from the European Women's Basketball Championships next month.

Veteran head coach Mike Thibault is never overmatched in the coaching box.

This season's motto, "Run It Back," draws inspiration from getting swept in three games by the Seattle Storm in last year's WNBA Finals.

The Mystics have no problem with point production, averaging a league high 89.6 points per game, but point prevention, especially points in the paint, could be a concern come playoff time.

MINNESOTA (4-2) - Head coach Cheryl Reeve is the female version of Bill Laimbeer.

It's no surprise she learned her craft while serving as an assistant under Laimbeer during a pair of Detroit Shock championship seasons in 2006 and 2008.

No Maya Moore (sabbatical) and no Lindsay Whalen (retired) this season, but the Lynx struck gold with the sixth overall pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft when selecting likely Rookie-of-the-Year Napheesa Collier.

Unfortunately, fellow rookie Jessica Shepard suffered a torn right ACL last game and she will miss the rest of the season.

Shepard missed the senior season of her outstanding Nebraska high school career with a torn left ACL.

It's too bad because Shepard displayed a crafty floor game in her first six WNBA games, but her lack of conditioning, which forces her to carry an extra 15-20 pounds, may have contributed to both injuries.

Turnovers this season have been a major issue for the Lynx as they've committed a league-worst 18.8 turnovers per game.

INDIANA (3-2) - Life after Tamika Catchings has been a hellish ride.

The Fever are 18-55 since the WNBA legend retired after the 2016 season.

The hiring of head coach Pokey Chatman was perplexing in late 2016.

Chatman failed to develop Sylvia Fowles in Chicago and now gets a second chance to work with a big post player after drafting 6-foot-7 Teaira McCowan.

The smart money says Chatman will fail again.

The Fever are better than last year's 6-28 mark but not as good as this season's 3-2 start.

Let's mark them down for 12-15 wins.

LOS ANGELES (3-2) - The Sparks at full strength will be a title contender.

Some of their best horses are still in the barn.

When Candace Parker, Alana Beard and Maria Vadeeva join the current L.A. cast, the league will have a hard time containing Derek Fisher's squad.

Do-everything closer Chelsea Gray is the WNBA version of Golden State's Draymond Green, a hard-nosed player full of confidence and toughness.

Nneka Ogwumike is one of the stars of the league, but sister Chiney is grossly overrated.

PHOENIX (2-2) - Diana Taurasi underwent minor back surgery (disc protrusion) on April 24.

Team doctors say she'll be back in early July but the 36-year-old Taurasi insists she'll return in June.

Steady point guard Briann January, lanky DeWanna Bonner (think Kevin Durant) and the aforementioned Brittney Griner will hold down the fort until Taurasi returns.

The Mercury started the season with four rookies on their roster and depth could be an issue if the young players find life in the WNBA too tough.

CHICAGO (2-2) - The Sky showcase the best shooting backcourt in the WNBA with married couple Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley.

There's good news and bad news with the sharpshooting pair.

The good news: If they're open, they're dead-eye shooters.

The bad news: Vandersloot is undersized so she's a defensive liability while Quigley is strictly a standstill shooter who lacks elite athleticism.

In a recent huddle during a Chicago Sky timeout, neither Vandersloot nor Quigley were listening to first-year head coach James Wade, who is more of an emotional motivator than a strategic tactician.

SEATTLE (3-3) - Any chance Natasha Howard could be named the WNBA's Most Improved Player two seasons in a row?

The 27-year-old Howard was a complementary piece on Seattle's championship team last season and now she's forced into a starring role after Breanna Stewart suffered a torn Achilles tendon six weeks before the start of the season.

Howard was a huge surprise in the WNBA postseason last year when the Storm captured their third title in franchise history ('04, '10 and '18).

Stewart's absence is not the only hole in the Seattle lineup.

Sue Bird soon will undergo knee surgery and her timetable to return is unknown.

However, to be blunt, the 38-year-old Bird is not the player she once was.

LAS VEGAS (2-3) - Patience.

The Aces have a stacked roster with the last three #1 draft picks -- Jackie Young, A'ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum -- joined in the starting lineup by the instant offense of Kayla McBride (#3 overall pick in 2014) and the towering presence of Liz Cambage (#2 overall pick in 2011).

The early-season struggles could negatively affect the team's playoff seeding, but the Aces should rank among the league's top four teams by early September.

Laimbeer will implore his ladies to match the physical and mental toughness of Western Conference foes Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Not sure Cambage is tough enough to win a title.

Too many hugs and smiles in the handshake line after yesterday's 10-point road loss to the previously-winless New York Liberty.

One curious note about Laimbeer: He likes his team to run but he insists they drive the ball to the basket and avoid taking shots from beyond the arc.

The Aces have been dead last in the WNBA (by a wide margin) in three-point attempts since entering the league.
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John Kelly

Born Gambler
Staff member
NEW YORK (1-4) - Head coach Katie Smith appears overmatched.

The team snapped a 17-game losing streak, dating to last season, with an upset win as an 11-point home underdog over Las Vegas, but that was a case of the opponent's disinterest rather than the home team's accomplishment.

Not much talent on the roster outside of perennial All-Star and franchise player Tina Charles.

And the team is no longer playing before large crowds at Madison Square Garden, but only small gatherings at the Westchester County Center.

Attendance for yesterday's game in White Plains: 1,447.

Only the sales and marketing departments are performing worse than the Liberty players.

ATLANTA (1-4) - Where have you gone, Angel McCoughtry?

The Dream desperately miss the league's best two-way player.

McCoughtry, who performs at a high level on both ends of the court, tore ligaments in her left knee last August in a game against Las Vegas.

Short-handed, Atlanta's only victory this season came against the winless Dallas Wings.

And here's a more disturbing trend: Atlanta has trailed by double digits in all five games this season.

Tiffany Hayes and Brittney Sykes are offensive talents, but they miss McCoughtry's presence.

Pointspread note: Head coach Nicki Collen did not foul when trailing by six with 15 seconds left in a game against Connecticut.

The Dream closed a 6.5-point underdog at most betting outlets.

DALLAS (0-4) - Love the coach, hate the roster.

Head coach Brian Agler is an established winner, but expect him to take a beating over the next couple of seasons in Dallas.

Liz Cambage is a distant memory and Skylar Diggins-Smith is still recuperating from giving birth to her first child in April.

Glory Johnson is the team's best player and young Azura Stevens flashes the most potential, but the team appears overmatched at every position.

The Wings play their home games at College Park Center on the campus of University of Texas at Arlington.

The home opener drew more than 6,500 fans in a building that holds only 7,000.

Home underdog material when Diggins-Smith returns to the lineup?
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John Kelly

Born Gambler
Staff member
The Washington Mystics look good tonight against the Connecticut Sun.

I think they'll win the game as a 3-point underdog tonight at Mohegan Sun Arena.

John Kelly

Born Gambler
Staff member
Check out the field-goal percentages of the two teams: WASHINGTON 46.7% versus CONNECTICUT 37.9%.

The Mystics lead the league in field-goal percentage while the Sun rank next-to-last, 11th of 12 teams.

Connecticut makes up for it by leading the WNBA in offensive rebounding.

John Kelly

Born Gambler
Staff member
Watching the WNBA game tonight between the Mystics and Sparks in Los Angeles.

Candace Parker is making her seasonal debut after missing the team's first seven games with a hamstring issue.

L.A. closed a 1.5-point fave.

Possible preview of the 2019 WNBA Finals.

John Kelly

Born Gambler
Staff member
Meantime, Penny Toliver has fresh legs after playing only nine minutes in Washington's last game.

Toliver was ejected late in the first quarter after picking up her second technical foul of the game.

John Kelly

Born Gambler
Staff member
The Washington Mystics observed a "Media Blackout" after their last game against Seattle.

The "Media Blackout" was designed to protest gun violence in the greater D.C. area after three stray bullets hit a grammar school near the team's new arena on the southeast side of town.

Noble cause but does a "Media Blackout" sound like the right form of protest from a league desperately seeking attention?

I didn't think so.
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John Kelly

Born Gambler
Staff member
Fisher is developing a culture in Los Angeles.

Candace Parker called Fisher's culture as "empowering."

I assume Fisher is a player's coach.

You almost have to be with the ladies of the WNBA.

Like NBA players, they don't take well to being pushed too hard.

Fisher has high expectations but he doesn't carry a whip.

John Kelly

Born Gambler
Staff member
Candace Parker said during an interview before the game that "for the past seven or eight months, I've been talking about playing basketball and now I'm finally ready to PLAY basketball."

She did not look ready in the first half against Washington.

She was 1-for-8 from the field with three turnovers in 14 minutes of play.

Parker started the game but looked gassed after eight minutes of action.

It will take her time to get game-fit and catch up to the speed of the game.

The Mystics were a tough opponent for Candace to face.

John Kelly

Born Gambler
Staff member
Washington head coach Mike Thibault said at halftime the Mystics need to be better in the second half.


Washington led by 21 at intermission.

I like the strive for perfection.

John Kelly

Born Gambler
Staff member
Hard to watch the rest of this blowout.

Current score: Mystics 56 Sparks 29, 5:09 left in the third.

BLUELINE tabbed the winner in EOG's Best Bet thread.

John Kelly

Born Gambler
Staff member
JK: It will take her time to get game-fit and catch up to the speed of the game.

CB: Surely you jest.

JK: Don't call me Shirley.

Granted, the ladies don't run like the men.

Though I remember Marion Jones played in the WNBA for a few seasons.

She was the doped-up Olympic sprinter out of the University of North Carolina.

Played in 47 WNBA games and averaged only 2.6 points per game.

She couldn't shoot very well but she beat everyone up and down the court.

And I always liked her look.


EOG Master
I'm getting the feeling Fisher is Michael Cooper re-visited. High expectations, medicore results. Isn't this basically the same team that went to the Finals in 2017?