The Seattle Storm opened their 2018 WNBA season with an 87-82 defeat to the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday night in a game that offered reasons for optimism while also serving as a reminder of the team’s flaws.
Breanna Stewart filled up the stat sheet with 22 points, 15 rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks. Jordin Canada had a nice WNBA debut, finishing with nine points, one assist and four steals. Jewell Loyd struggled to get going, though, shooting 3-of-11 from the field to score 10 points.
The Storm had an opportunity to force overtime late in the fourth quarter. They inbounded the ball down 85-82 with 3.2 seconds remaining in regulation, but Stewart stepped out of bounds to give the ball back to Phoenix and extinguish any comeback attempt.
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 Times‘ Percy 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.
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.
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.