By Tyler Berry
Through capturing the top seed in the WNBA this season, the Seattle Storm have earned a nice break via a playoff double-bye. With no games until August 26, the Storm have a great opportunity to get in a little rest and rehab while the organization waits to find out it’s semifinals opponent. This break also gives us an opportunity to look back at some of the highlights of the 2018 regular season. So, let’s do just that.
Sue Bird’s History-Making July
Over the course of two weeks, Seattle’s 37-year-old guard broke three records. On July 8 against Washington, Sue Bird scored 21 points – a performance that officially made her the franchise’s all-time leading scorer – surpassing the 6,007-point record previously held by Lauren Jackson.
Then, 11 days later, Bird was voted to the WNBA All-Star Game – her 11th appearance – which broke Tamika Catchings’ record for all-time appearances. Three days after that honor, in a matchup against the Atlanta Dream, she passed Delisha Milton-Jones for the most regular season WNBA games played at 500.
You can get a more in-depth look at Bird and her historic 500-plus-game career in our column from July 24.
Breanna Stewart’s Potential MVP Year
If Breanna Stewart isn’t in your MVP conversation, then you probably weren’t watching much Seattle basketball this year. While multiple factors contributed to the Storm’s turnaround from 2017 to 2018, Stewart’s third WNBA season was a major reason why the team secured the league’s top playoff seed. At 21.8 points per game, Stewie averaged nearly two points more than last season (19.9). She shot a career-high 52.9 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from behind the arc. She also averaged 8.4 rebounds, and her turnovers per game were the lowest of her career at 1.7 per game.
Night in and night out, Stewart proved why she’s an MVP candidate, but the best argument in her favor came in the form of a 35-point, 10-rebound performance against the Wings. We broke down that game against Dallas back in July.
If you compare the starters last year to the starters this year, there’s one clear difference. During the offseason, Seattle acquired forward Natasha Howard from Minnesota. Prior to 2018, Howard played four years, starting a total of 18 games and never averaging more than 7.0 points per game in a single season.
Her emergence in 2018 was a huge reason why Seattle secured that top seed. Howard started 33 of 34 games, averaging 13.2 points on 54.7 percent shooting. She also averaged 6.4 rebounds and was a monster on defense, recording 1.9 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. Her ability on both ends of the floor made her a key part of the starting lineup and a difference maker this season.
Look back at our August 15 column for more on Howard’s breakout year with the Storm.
Building Blocks For The Future
Bird won’t play forever, something that the franchise understands, which is why Seattle took UCLA’s Jordin Canada with the fifth overall draft pick back in April. Canada has carved out a solid role off the bench, backing up Bird and learning a lot from Seattle’s history-making floor general.
Her modest regular season numbers – 5.7 points, 3.3 assists, 16.4 minutes – don’t do her enough justice. She showed clear improvement from game one to game 34 in her limited role, and she’ll certainly gain some valuable experience in the playoffs. Seattle drafted Canada for the future and, so far, the future is looking bright.
We kicked off August with a column talking more about Canada’s successful rookie campaign.
From 8th Seed To 1st
The Storm were 15-19 last season and 26-8 this season. Seattle went from 2017’s eighth seed to 2018’s first seed. The team went from clinching a playoff spot in the final week of the season to clinching a playoff spot on August 2. Attribute the brilliant turnaround to all the reasons outlined above.
Earlier in August, we did a deep dive on the Storm’s differences from 2017 to 2018, which can be found here.
The regular season was fantastic, but the Storm won’t consider 2018 a success without a WNBA title. Seattle’s postseason gets underway on Sunday, August 26 at home.