The Seattle Storm could’ve overpaid to move up to the second overall pick in the 2018 WNBA draft to take Kelsey Mitchell. They could’ve traded out of the first round for the second year in a row in pursuit of a proven veteran. They could’ve selected Azura Stevens after the Chicago Sky selected Diamond DeShields and Gabby Williams with back-to-back picks.
Instead, Seattle did what pretty much everyone expected and picked Canada fifth overall, and it generally fits with the rest of the Storm’s offseason.
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.
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.
No WNBA team may face more pressure to upgrade this offseason than the Seattle Storm. There are no more excuses should the Storm fail to at least earn a home game in the opening round of the playoffs.
Heading into the 2017 campaign, both espnW.com’s Mechelle Voepel and WNBA.com’s Brian Martin ranked Seattle fifth in their preseason power rankings.
But the 2017 season was nothing short of a disaster. Firing Jenny Boucek in the middle of the year provided momentary relief, but it couldn’t prevent the seemingly inevitable first-round exit—this time at the hands of the Phoenix Mercury.
It was a fitting coda to a disappointing year. Brittney Griner had 23 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, while the Storm scored 19 points outside of their big three (Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird). All season long, Seattle struggled to guard elite post scorers, and the team’s lack of depth behind Stewart, Loyd and Bird was glaring.
More of the same in 2018 would mean wasting another year of Stewart and Loyd’s development—as well as what’s left of Bird’s playing career. It shouldn’t be a stretch to say general manager/team president Alisha Valavanis should also be out of a job. At some point, the front office has to point to more than just selecting Loyd and Stewart first overall in 2015 and 2016.
It’s pretty clear the Seattle Storm need reinforcements after a second straight first-round playoff exit. The trouble is how to go about making the necessary improvements.
The Storm lack any real trade assets. Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird are untouchable, and the same is probably true of Jewell Loyd. Trading the likes of Alysha Clark, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Ramu Tokashiki and Sami Whitcomb would be counterproductive as well, since doing so would create another void to fill in the roster.
Crystal Langhorne is headed for free agency as well, which complicates matters.
Aside from the WNBA draft, free agency is likely to be the easiest way for head coach Dan Hughes and general manager Alisha Valavanis to address the team’s weaknesses.
After a 2017 WNBA season in which the Seattle Storm spun their wheels, general manager Alisha Valavanis will almost certainly be active in the trade market.
Few trade assets in the Storm’s possession will be more valuable than their first-round pick, which is the fifth overall selection in the 2018 draft. On its own, the pick probably won’t net Seattle an All-Star-caliber player, but it could be packaged with another piece or two to command a solid return.
Worth pondering, however, is whether the Storm would—barring an offer Valavanis couldn’t refuse—be better off keeping the pick. And branching off that, how much is the No. 5 pick worth for Seattle.
The Seattle Storm maintained the status quo through the WNBA trade deadline, failing to capitalize on their last opportunity reinvigorate what has been an underwhelming 2017 season.
One can understand general manager Alisha Valavanis’ desire to avoid being too reactionary following the team’s 10-13 start. Things are bad enough as is; making a shortsighted move would only compound matters.
At the same time, this past weekend demonstrated that something is fundamentally broken with the Storm. Continue reading →