Sami Whitcomb came from out of nowhere to become a role player for the Storm in her rookie year in 2017. She signed a multi-year extension with Seattle in February and experienced a somewhat up and down sophomore season in the WNBA.
However, Whitcomb raised her game in the postseason, earning plenty of plaudits in the process.
Sami Whitcomb By the Numbers
- 2.9 PPG
- 0.5 APG
- 0.5 SPG
- .349 FG%
- .362 3P%
- .513 TS%
- .494 eFG%
- 95.8 ORtg
- 99.8 DRtg
- 0.5 WS
Perhaps it was unrealistic to expect the typical Year 2 jump from Whitcomb when she wasn’t a typical second-year player. Whitcomb was 29 when the 2018 season tipped off, an age where players have not only hit their ceilings but generally start falling off a bit.
Making things tougher for Whitcomb, her playing time dropped precipitously. She was one of the few bench players Jenny Boucek trusted with any regularity in 2017. In 2018, she fell behind Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis in the rotation, and the frontcourt pair Crystal Langhorne and Courtney Paris allowed Dan Hughes to go with a more traditional second unit rather than having to play Whitcomb out of position.
As a result, Whitcomb went from 404 minutes played as a rookie to 265 minutes in her second year.
Whitcomb was, however, a more effective player when she was on the floor. Her net rating climbed from minus-7.9 to minus-4.0, and she shot 36.2 percent from beyond the arc, up from 33.3 percent in 2017. According to Synergy Sports, Whitcomb finished in the 51st percentile in offensive points per possession (0.875) and in the 83rd percentile in defensive points per possession (0.785), both of which were improvements as well. She ranked in the 45th and 74th percentiles, respectively, a season ago.
While Whitcomb didn’t have a breakout campaign, she showed incremental growth and continued to warrant her place in the Storm’s hierarchy.
Big Game Sami
No game sums up Whitcomb’s dynamic for the Storm than Game 5 of the WNBA semifinals.
Everybody remembers Sue Bird’s 14-point fourth quarter from that game and rightfully so. That was one of the defining moments in a legendary career.
Few people remember Whitcomb hitting a three-pointer with 4:27 left in the third quarter to bring the Storm to within five points of the Phoenix Mercury. That three-pointer started an 8-0 run for Seattle to tie the game. Whitcomb also played the entire fourth quarter, scoring three points and holding Briann January to 0-of-1 from the field.
“This series has been a grind I think for both teams … and then you just inject Sami and she’s like the Tasmanian devil out there,” Bird said of Whitcomb after the game, per the Seattle Times‘ Percy Allen. “We needed that. It really raised all of our energy levels. On top of that, she hit some shots, got some big loose balls and really was huge for us. It takes players like that – that’s what makes championship teams.”
Whitcomb also elaborated on her duties for Seattle:
My job as a bench player is to stay ready and be prepared for two minutes or it could be for 10 or whatever the job is that night. If you’re not ready, you’re letting the team down. It is about all of us knowing our roles and being as well prepared as we can for those roles. I’m more than happy just to be that player for us to come in off the bench and try to provide a spark for whatever amount of time that is.
Whitcomb has the self-confidence to take any shot at any moment and the knowledge she may not have a ton of time to make her presence felt.
Because of that, she can have a stretch of six games where she’s 0-of-10 from three-point range and then go 5-of-9 on three-pointers in her next five games. Whitcomb isn’t going to shy away from the big stage either. She shot 8-of-16 from the perimeter in the 2018 playoffs, and the Storm had a 1.7 net rating with her on the court against the Mercury and Washington Mystics.
In short, Whitcomb is exactly the kind of unsung hero championship-winning teams need.
Whitcomb’s role is basically locked in for 2019. She’s unlikely to break the starting rotation but should get regular minutes off the bench. Whitcomb might have played herself into a slight promotion through her performance in the playoffs. In addition, testing herself against a higher level of competition overseas in the French league will be good preparation for next season.