The college basketball season is over, which means the WNBA season is inching ever closer. The Seattle Storm tip off the 2018 campaign May 20 against the Phoenix Mercury.
Before that, the Storm figure to make their last big moves of the offseason when they head to New York City for the 2018 WNBA draft on April 12.
This year’s draft is particularly important for the Storm because they’re unlikely to have a first-round pick this good for the foreseeable future. Finishing eighth in the WNBA was disappointing, but at least Seattle has the opportunity to add an impact player who could be one of the last pieces of the puzzle in the road to a third WNBA title.
As she approaches her second season in the WNBA, Alexis Peterson appears to be no closer to earning a regular role for the Seattle Storm.
Peterson remained on the fringe of the Storm’s rotation as a rookie in 2017. She appeared in just half of the team’s regular-season games and played a total of 121 minutes.
It’s easy to blame Peterson’s lack of playing time largely on former head coach Jenny Boucek. Boucek leaned heavily on her starters and struggled to develop the talent at her disposal beyond Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd. But Peterson’s duties didn’t drastically increase after Seattle fired Boucek and made Gary Kloppenburg the interim head coach.
Through the first two years of her WNBA career, Seattle Storm star Breanna Stewart is a case study in the limits of both our perceptions as fans and advanced analytics.
Read almost any story about Stewart’s on-court performance and her defense is bound to earn a graf or two. Even when Stewart is mentioned in passing, her contributions on the defensive end are likely to receive a mention.
It’s not hard to see why. Stewart ranked third in blocks per game (1.9) as a rookie and then sixth (1.6) in her second season. She finished runner-up to Sylvia Fowles in the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year voting, collecting eight votes. To put Stewart’s 1.7 blocks per game in perspective, only six players in WNBA history have averaged more blocks on a nightly basis over their careers.The quintessential Breanna Stewart block—we’ll call it a Brenial™—arguably came in what was her fourth game as a pro. Bria Hartley beat Jewell Loyd and appeared to have a clear path to the basket on the baseline. However, Stewart reacted quickly to rotate over and swat Hartley’s attempt away with two hands.
Since the Seattle Storm’s reboot truly commenced in 2015, no player has been more confounding than Jewell Loyd.
In some sense, Loyd is a microcosm for the Storm as a whole over the last three years; the results have been promising, but at the same time you can’t help but feel there’s a boatload of potential we’ve yet to see materialize.
Loyd averaged 17.7 points and 3.4 assists, and she shot a career-high 38.6 percent from beyond the arc in 2017. She was second on the team in player efficiency rating (19.1) and net rating (2.9) and third in win shares (2.8).
As if the Seattle Storm hadn’t already indicated this offseason they want to make a deep playoff run in 2018, they acquired Natasha Howard on Wednesday in a trade with the Minnesota Lynx.
“We are excited to welcome Natasha to the Storm family,” head coach Dan Hughes said in a statement about the trade on the Storm’s website. “She brings a very athletic, mobile interior package; she runs the floor, actively rebounds, is a dynamic scorer and athletic defender. Natasha has continued to develop her skills on a Minnesota team that defined success in the WNBA over the past few years and is ready for the opportunity to be a successful part of our future.”
The simple act of trading for a role player who helped win the Lynx win a title in 2017 shows where Seattle’s priorities lie ahead of the upcoming season. One aspect of the deal in particular distilled how confident the coaching staff and front office is. In addition to giving Minnesota a 2018 second-round pick, the Lynx will have the opportunity to swap first-rounders with the Storm in 2019.
After an uneventful opening day of WNBA free agency, the Seattle Storm made what’s likely to be their biggest offseason splash Saturday, signing Courtney Paris to what they called a “multi-year deal.”
“Courtney brings a presence inside that we have been eager to add to the roster,” Storm general manager Alisha Valavanis said in the team’s press release. “Her ability to rebound the basketball is a great strength. We are thrilled to welcome her to Seattle!”
The move felt especially satisfying after Seattle was almost completely inactive Thursday, while a number of teams throughout the WNBA teased the arrival of their newest signings. The Storm confirmed they re-signed Sami Whitcomb, but that was largely a formality since Whitcomb was a reserve player, giving Seattle exclusive negotiating rights.
Thursday kind of felt like when you hear your friends got to open a present or two the day before Christmas. Sure, you still got your Christmas presents, but it’s not fair that your friends got to spend an extra day having fun.