Forecasting the Storm’s Roster Following the 2019 WNBA Draft

When adding it together with the rest of their offseason, the Seattle Storm couldn’t have been more on-brand on draft night.

Seattle selected 6’4″ Australian forward Ezi Magbegor with the 12th overall pick. The 19-year-old averaged 55.8 percent from the field, with all of her 120 shot attempts coming from inside the arc. She also appeared in four games for Australia at the 2018 FIBA World Cup, averaging 7.6 points and 3.8 boards.

In the Storm’s official press release about the 2019 draft, general manager Alisha Valavanis confirmed Magbegor won’t actually join the Storm until 2020.

The Storm’s roster appears to be set for the most part, so Magbegor being a nonfactor for the moment opens up a spot for somebody who might have otherwise lost out ahead of the 2019 WNBA season.

For reference, here’s everybody officially listed on Seattle’s squad:

2019 Seattle Storm Preseason Roster

  • Sue Bird
  • Jordin Canada
  • Alysha Clark
  • Natasha Howard
  • Anriel Howard
  • Crystal Langhorne
  • Jewell Loyd
  • Ezi Magbegor
  • Macy Miller
  • Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis
  • Teana Muldrow
  • Courtney Paris
  • Noelle Quinn
  • Mercedes Russell
  • Breanna Stewart
  • Ramu Tokashiki
  • Sami Whitcomb

The Storm had three players out of contract this offseason. They re-signed two (Crystal Langhorne and Mercedes Russell) and the third (Noelle Quinn) retired and joined the coaching staff.

With only 12 roster spots available, Seattle was basically set before the draft. The team had 10 players who would qualify as locks to open the year:

  • Sue Bird
  • Jordin Canada
  • Alysha Clark
  • Natasha Howard
  • Crystal Langhorne
  • Jewell Loyd
  • Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis
  • Courtney Paris
  • Breanna Stewart
  • Sami Whitcomb

One might argue—and justifiably so—Russell deserves to be in that group as well, thus bringing the number to 11. The Storm could’ve let her walk in free agency and instead signed her to a multi-year extension. If Dan Hughes does envision giving Russell a bigger role in 2019, then the selection of Magbegor makes even more sense.

She doesn’t count toward the 12-player limit, so Seattle suddenly has a free roster spot. One of Anriel Howard, Macy Miller, Teana Muldrow and Ramu Tokashiki is going to make the team, which almost certainly wouldn’t have been the case if the Storm selected a collegiate star such as Megan Gustafson or Sophie Cunningham.

Based on her experience, Tokashiki would seemingly have the inside track; however, that experience may not count for much.

The 27-year-old couldn’t have picked a much worse time to sit out a WNBA season. The Storm won a title in 2018, proving they can be successful with or without her. Hughes may not feel all that invested in Tokashiki, either. Her first three seasons were all under Jenny Boucek.

That’s to say nothing of Tokashiki’s diminishing returns in the WNBA. According to Basketball Reference, her player efficiency rating went from 13.0 in 2015 to 11.7 in 2016 and 6.2 in 2017. Her net rating never climbed higher than minus-3.2 as well, per WNBA.com.

More than anything, a small forward who can’t stretch the floor may not be a great fit on a Storm team that led the WNBA in three-pointers in 2018. Tokashiki is 0-of-6 from the perimeter in her career.

Then you factor in the age. Tokashiki isn’t old—even in relation to the career of a pro athlete—but she’s probably not going to drastically improve as a player. Howard, Miller and Muldrow are all 23 or younger. Their games are still growing.

Just as they spent their first-round pick on a draft-and-stash international, the Storm should use their final roster spot on a young player with a high ceiling. Maybe they catch lightning in a bottle, and there’s little downside risk if things don’t work out. The last player on the end of the bench isn’t going to make or break Seattle’s hopes of repeating as champion.

That would then leave the fight between Howard, Miller and Muldrow.

Miller is by far the biggest long shot. The odds of a third-round draft pick making the team are extremely slim, something to which Muldrow can attest.

In her senior year, Miller averaged 18.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists. She shot 52.8 percent from the field an impressive 44.1 percent from beyond the arc. According to Her Hoops Stats, she was in the top 2.2 percent of Division I women’s basketball in effective field goal percentage (59.0).

Miller’s shooting prowess might be enough to sway Hughes. Specializing in one area is the easiest way to stand out with limited time on the floor.

Muldrow made four appearances for the Storm and Dallas Wings in 2018, her last game coming with the Wings on June 22. The former West Virginia star has bolstered her reputation while playing overseas. In 18 games with Maccabi Ra’anana, she averaged 16.8 points and 13.6 rebounds.

To some extent, Muldrow is suffering from the same problem Alysha Clark did coming out of college. Muldrow shot 33.1 percent on 121 three-point attempts as a senior, but the bulk of her scoring came from inside. According to Synergy Sports, 185 of her 531 shot attempts were either post-ups or cuts to the basket. At 6’1″, Muldrow will need to expand her offensive repertoire because she doesn’t have the size to operate in the paint at such a high frequency.

While not an elite shooter, Muldrow can stretch a defense. She was 36.8 percent on 391 three-point attempts at West Virginia, a number that remained the same mostly (34.1 percent) with Ra’anana. Carrying that over to the WNBA would at least force opponents to respect her perimeter game.

Like Clark, Muldrow could also morph herself into a defensive specialist. She allowed opponents to shoot 24.7 percent on spot-ups and 21.1 percent in the pick and roll, per Synergy—two areas that would inevitably be a heavy focus of her duties.

The problem on that front is that Howard might already have the edge.

“Anriel is possibly the best defender in the draft, an incredible rebounder, and showed offensive development in her career that we are confident will continue to grow at the professional level,” Hughes said of the Mississippi State star in the Storm’s press release after the draft.

The advanced metrics aren’t kind to Howard. She allowed 0.794 points per possession on defense, putting her in the 43rd percentile, according to Synergy. Opposing players scored on 36.2 percent of their possessions when matched up against her. Howard was a little more effective in spot-up situations, averaging 0.725 points per possession (67th percentile).

Her underwhelming numbers are likely less of an indictment of her abilities and more down to circumstance. Not only did she draw difficult defensive matchups, she also had to learn an entirely new approach with the Bulldogs.

“It’s a new program for me and a new defensive scheme,” Howard said in January, per the Dispatch‘s Adam Minichino. “Ninety-nine percent of the time we play man-to-man. I was used to doing more help defense because we ran a lot of zone at my former school, so I was good at that. But I am trying to improve on my man-to-man coverage. I can do it. I am athletic enough to do it. I have to be fundamental, and that is what I have been struggling with.”

Factor in Howard’s rebounding (3.3 ORB, 5.0 DRB) and scoring (16.3 PPG, .510 FG%, .329 3P%), and she brings a lot to the table for a second-round draft pick.

Perhaps Miller dazzles in training camp or Hughes defers to Tokashiki’s experience over an unproven alternative. But the battle for the last roster spot is likely Muldrow’s or Howard’s to win.

One thought on “Forecasting the Storm’s Roster Following the 2019 WNBA Draft

  1. Jerry Yang April 12, 2019 / 3:46 pm

    Great analysis! The future looks bright for the Storm…

    Like

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