The 16th season of the WNBA starts today; who do you think is the team to beat this year?
The WNBA starts its 16th season with the Los Angeles Sparks traveling to the Emerald City to play the Seattle Storm. You can also catch the Phoenix Mercury take on the defending champion Minnesota Lynx on Sunday on ABC.
This summer the WNBA field is wide open. Because the Olympics take place mid-summer the league will take a month-long break from July 14 to August 15. The break creates both headaches and opportunities for all the teams in the league. For example, Seattle will play the first half of the season without star Lauren Jackson who is in Australia preparing for the Olympics. The Minnesota Lynx will have three star players on the U.S. Olympic team: Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, and out MVP of last year’s Finals Seimone Augustus. Minnesota is lucky enough to have some amazing talent but how the second half of the season goes for the team will depend on how tired those ladies are from their Olympic travel and games.
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Even with the Olympics taking its toll on Minnesota’s top players, they are a favorite to repeat as champions this year. The Lynx return essentially the same roster that swept the Atlanta Dream last year in the Finals. However, the season does not look to be a walk over.
The Los Angeles Sparks have a new coach, the first pick of this year’s draft, Nneka Ogwumike, and a healthy former Rookie of the Year and league MVP, Candace Parker.
The Indiana Fever is looking to make a deep run into the playoffs again this year with a healthy Tamika Catchings. Last year the team’s season ended when it lost a deciding game to the Atlanta Dream after an injury limited league MVP Catchings.
The Dream is looking to reach its third finals in a row and finally break through and take home the trophy after losses to Seattle and to Minnesota.
The Chicago Sky added a number of veteran players including Swin Cash and Ruth Riley who have experience with winning in the playoffs. Coach/GM Pokey Chapman is hoping that the addition of these more experienced players can improve Chicago enough to push the team into the playoffs.
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Seattle will have to hope that Sue Bird’s swagger is enough to carry it through the first half of the season without Lauren Jackson. The team will also have to hope that both Bird and Jackson make it through the Olympic competition without injury or too much wear and tear if it expects to make a run in the playoffs.
The Phoenix Mercury will be pinning its hopes to the back of another former UConn guard with epic swagger. With Penny Taylor out for the year with an injury, if the team is going to succeed this season it will all rest on Diana Taurasi’s shoulders. It’s hard to imagine a team making a deep run in the playoffs counting so much on one player even if that player is good enough that Geno Auriemma once quipped that he knew his UConn team would win because it had Diana and the other team didn’t.
With such a wide open field this season should be a great one to watch. Who do you have your eye on this year? Who do you think is the favorite to take the championship?