After their worst season since moving to Dallas, the Dallas Wings future is bright and the team will be ready to take on the 2020 season with a healthy roster and year two under Brian Agler.
From the beginning, the Wings were destined to have some struggles in 2019. A new coach, new system and various new players is a formula that screams “give it time.” But the players had other ideas. Because, like any pro athlete, they wanted to compete. They were a team that had coaches like Bill Liambeer labeling them as “a dangerous team.”
Injuries and a Skylar Diggins-Smith’s absence were big things that hurt this team in 2019. Coming into the season, I personally thought that we wouldn’t see Diggins-Smith playing at all. Prior to the start of the season, coach Agler said he anticipated Diggins-Smith would return “at some point” this season after giving birth to her son before training camp. Lots of speculation during the year of possible returns, especially to help a playoff push, but it never happened.
The Wings started off the year with the worst record in the league through the first five games. They did not pick up a win until the 6th game of the year against the Dream, who defeated them earlier in the season opener. Dallas only managed to garnish a win streak of three or more once this season and that came in the middle of August. Throughout the season, the Wings were always in reach of a bottom seed in the playoffs, but never really posed a significant threat. Towards the end of the season, less than a handful of games were left to determine the final two spots in the playoffs between the Minnesota Lynx, Phoenix Mercury, Indiana Fever and the Dallas Wings.
A Star is Born
The team stayed within reach of the playoffs primarily due to the stellar play in the second half of the season from Arike Ogunbowale.
Ogunbowale came in second in the Rookie of the Year voting and was a unanimous 2019 WNBA All-Rookie selection this year, leading the team in scoring (19.1 ppg) and was the third leading scorer in the entire league. Her 630 points this year ranks 3rd in WNBA history for points by a rookie in a season. She scored 20 or more points in 18 games this season, totaling 11 of them consecutively to close out the season. Ogunbowale was the first Wings rookie to notch back to back 20 point games 6/22 and 6/26 in 5 years.
She tallied a career high 35 points vs Los Angeles on Aug. 14 and Chicago on Aug. 29. She was the only rookie to have multiple games of 35 points or more. Arike dropped 30 or more points in four straight games, tying Maya Moore’s WNBA record. Ogunbowale also tied A’ja Wilson for most 20+ point games as a rookie (18), which ranks 2nd all-time for a rookie behind only Seimone Augustus.
It was one of the best offensive years for a rookie in history and one of the games greats, Cappie Pondexter, took notice to the show Ogunbowale put on all year.
Changes Coming to Dallas
Before the season, the Wings had a lot of talent on their roster that they added in the offseason. Due to rosters being limited to 12 players, the team had to make a bevy of cuts. Most of those cuts, everyone agreed with…except one, Megan Gustafson. Fortunately for her, along with some upset Wings fans and all of Hawkeye nation, she was invited to rejoin the team just weeks later.
Due to a couple of unfortunate injuries to Tayler Hill and Azura Stevens early in the year, the Wings had to make a move and add to the roster. What better choice than the #17 pick in the draft? Dallas primarily made the cut because they had more of a need for height, so originally they kept Imani McGee-Stafford. Luckily for the Wings Gustafson didn’t find a new team like their 22nd overall pick Kennedy Burke did by signing with the Indiana Fever shortly after being cut.
As the league continues to grow in popularity, the talent continues to get better along with it. With that being said, the Wings may need to add another star to the roster to be in serious championship contention for 2020. Then again, who knows they could surprise us. I mean, two teams with only two all-stars did just make the Finals over teams with 3-4 so, anything is possible!
In a previous article, I previewed who I believe will be on the roster when draft day comes around and I’m sticking to this list:
2020 WNBA Draft
When it comes down to a prospect in the draft, it’s really obvious to just about everyone who the players are that expected to go 1st and 2nd: Sabrina Ionescu and Lauren Cox.
Ionescu is a 5’11” guard from the University of Oregon. She helped the Ducks to their first ever Final Four in 2019 and started all 38 games, averaging 19.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 8.2 assists in 35.9 minutes per game. Broke the NCAA all-time (men’s and women’s) triple-double record with the 13th of her career on Dec. 20, 2018 against Air Force with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. She now has 18 career triple-doubles and recorded an NCAA record eight triple-doubles this season.
Cox is a 6’4″ forward from Baylor University. She earned three separate All-America recognitions after playing and starting in all 38 games on the way to a national championship. She was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, First-Team All-Big 12 and All-Big 12 Defensive Team and averaged 13.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2.6 blocks per game.
Unless the Wings intend on trading one of their star guards, I don’t see Dallas drafting Ionescu. Obviously they can’t if she goes #1 to New York anyway. The ideal draft choice for the Wings is to select Cox at #2. She a Texas native and a solid two-way player, which Dallas needs. Though, if I’m Dallas, I’m not sure I want to get younger with my roster. More veterans will really come in handy when it comes playoff time. Some of the players have been in the playoffs/
The future for this team is extremely bright and with one of the winningest coach in women’s basketball history at the helm, success is bound to happen. It remains to be seen whether or not they will make some trades before or after the draft comes around, but I would not rule it out by any means.