What’s the Seattle Storm’s Bar for Success in 2018?

Where do you realistically set expectations for a team coming off back-to-back playoff appearances but still hasn’t had a winning season since 2011?

“It’s time to start winning,” Breanna Stewart said during the Storm’s media day, per the Seattle TimesPercy Allen. “I don’t want to come off as crass or cocky or anything like that, but losing sucks. It does. That’s just how I feel about it. And, no, I won’t ever get used to it. I can’t. That’s not how I’m wired.”

The Storm certainly intimated as much, too, when they hired Dan Hughes. They could’ve opted for a first-year head coach who would need a few seasons to grow into the role. Instead, Seattle chose a 16-year veteran who has the third-most wins (237) of any coach in WNBA history.

It’s not a title-or-bust kind of season for the Storm, but 18-20 wins are probably the minimum requirement to avoid another disappointing campaign.

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Seattle Storm 2018 WNBA Season Preview


A little over eight months after their 2017 season ended at the hands of the Phoenix Mercury, the Seattle Storm will open their 2018 campaign at home May 20 against Phoenix.

Before that, the Storm and Mercury will meet twice for a pair of preseason games in May.

To some extent, Seattle’s disappointing first-round playoff exit may benefit the team this year. The Storm could be the biggest post-hype sleeper in the WNBA.

Mechelle Voepel of espnW.com and Brian Martin of WNBA.com both listed Seattle at No. 5 in their preseason power rankings in 2017. Expectations were high, and the Storm got fans even more excited with a 4-1 start to the regular season. Then came a humbling 100-77 defeat to the Minnesota Lynx at KeyArena, and things were never the same for Seattle.

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The Biggest Offseason Questions Ahead for the Seattle Storm

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.

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Who Should the Seattle Storm Target in WNBA Free Agency?

Silicon Valley
When you’re trying to evaluate all of the Storm’s options this offseason

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.

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Should the Seattle Storm Trade their 2018 WNBA First-Round Draft Pick?

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.

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Alysha Clark Will Be the Seattle Storm’s Most Important Player in 2018 (Non-Breanna Stewart Division)

Alysha ClarkThe Seattle Storm will be counting on improvement from Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd in order to become a top-four contender in the WNBA in 2018. However, no player will be a better indicator of the Storm’s progress than Alysha Clark.

Were basketball a three-player game, the Storm could stack up with almost any team in the WNBA. Stewart, Loyd and Sue Bird aren’t the league’s best trio, but there are few better. Look beyond that three and things get a little more dicey.

That’s why new Storm head coach Dan Hughes had me stop dead in my tracks as I was walking my dogs after I heard this on the Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast last month:

If you’re gonna take on a respect for the defensive end and a respect for the rebounding, then I think it’s gotta encompass a little bit of the decisions you make to add to the team. I think it’s gotta encompass a little bit of focus and buy-in. Alysha Clark is very important to me, because I kind of need…she is the type of defender that I want to influence her teammates to be, and I want to add some of the pieces to this group. Because if you want true consistency in professional basketball—and I’d include the NBA—you’ve got to have buy-in.

In particular, Hughes hit the nail on the head about Clark. Continue reading

Storm Play It Safe Again by Hiring Dan Hughes

Nothing screams excitement more than hiring a coach you coaxed out of retirement.

That’s exactly what the Seattle Storm did when they announced Dan Hughes as their next head coach, which the Associated Press Doug Feinberg reported late Tuesday night. The team confirmed the hiring Wednesday.

“In conversations with Alisha and the Storm ownership group, it quickly became evident that this was a good fit,” Hughes said in the Storm’s official press release. “Beyond the incredible talent Seattle has on its roster, I am very excited to have the loyal fan base supporting us. In watching the team over the years, coaching against Storm teams, it’s been clear that the fans in Seattle create an advantageous home court at KeyArena and have been a huge part of the evolution of their storied success.”

It’s easy to see the Storm’s reasoning in selecting Hughes.

The 62-year-old boasts a wealth of experience in the WNBA, having coached the most games (524) in league history. His 237 wins are third only to Mike Thibault and Brian Agler as well. Over a career spanning 16 years and three franchises, Hughes led his team to the playoffs on 10 occasions, including a WNBA Finals appearance with the San Antonio Stars in 2008, where the Stars got swept by the Detroit Shock.

Plus, he’s an Ohio native, like Agler—M-Town represent—which is always an admirable quality. In fact, you know who else is from Ohio and would’ve been a great fit? Katie Smith, but we’ll get to that in a little bit. Continue reading