Which Under-The-Radar Offseason Acquisitions Are Ready To Break Out?

The ‘wubble’, opt-outs, and a highly-rated rookie class, the 2020 WNBA season is sure to be an entertaining one. With all of the storylines around the league this summer, some trades fell under the radar.

Now that the dust has settled, let’s look at some players on new teams that are on the brink of stardom:

Azurá Stevens

The trade: Stevens to the Chicago Sky from the Dallas Wings in exchange for Katie Lou Samuelson and a 2021 first-round draft pick.

As a 2018 first-round draft pick, Stevens had a breakout rookie season. The former UConn Husky earned WNBA All-Rookie Team honors after averaging 8.9 points per game off 43%shooting and 4.6 rebounds per game in the regular season. 

In 2019, Stevens was limited to just nine games due to a foot injury. Last August, she underwent surgery to repair the injury. The postponement of the 2020 season has allowed Stevens extra time to rehab and recover. 

With the season just a few weeks, Stevens is healthy and prepared to make the jump into stardom.

Ready to display the game she previewed in 2018, Stevens is joining the Sky at the perfect time. Jantel Lavender recently underwent season-ending surgery for the fifth time in her career. Last season in Chicago, Lavender was plagued by injury and Astou Ndour took over her starting role. Despite the big shoes to fill, Ndour excelled in the starting lineup. However, due to cap space, Ndour was traded during the offseason (we’ll get to her later!). 

Chicago’s loss of two important bigs opens up space for Stevens, who is ready for her big break. She is joining a team that has room for her to excel. If she can stay healthy, Stevens is a player the league should look out for this season.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis

The trade: Mosqueda-Lewis to the Connecticut Sun from the Seattle Storm in exchange for a 2021 second-round pick.

What’s Mosqueda-Lewis’s MO? Consistency. In each of her five seasons with the Storm, Mosqueda-Lewis shot over 39% from the field. She was an asset off the bench for Seattle, whose roster is deep with All-Stars and MVPs. Due to this, Mosqueda-Lewis did not have the opportunity to cross the line from a good player to a great one. 

If given the chance to, Mosqueda-Lewis can become an All-Star herself based on her shooting skills and experience. She graduated from UConn as the NCAA’s all-time leader in three-pointers made with 398, which was also a school record. Mosqueda-Lewis has a proven track record of winning, including the Storm’s 2018 championship and three NCAA titles with UConn. 

With the loss of Shekinna Stricklen during the offseason, Connecticut will need another shooter to pick up the slack. Mosqueda-Lewis’ ability from behind the arc will help spread out the offensive duties for the Sun.

If she doesn’t win a starting position, Mosqueda-Lewis will still be a unique threat and great sixth man for Connecticut. 

Astou Ndour

The trade: Ndour was traded to Dallas in a multi-step deal. First, Dallas traded Skylar Diggins-Smith to the Phoenix Mercury in exchange for multiple draft picks. The final step of this trade included Ndour being sent from the Chicago Sky to Dallas in exchange for one of the picks acquired from Phoenix, a 2021 first-round selection.

Ndour has flown under the radar in the league since being drafted in 2014. This is not due to her on-court performance, but rather her absence. In her basketball career, Ndour has prioritized overseas play.

Ndour has competed in multiple professional leagues around the world. She has a stellar resume in overseas play: five FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cups, MVP of FIBA Women’s Eurobasket, and multiple medals including a 2016 Olympic silver medal with Spain.

Ndour’s WNBA stock increased last season when, as mentioned early, Jantel Lavender suffered an injury late in the season. Ndour took over her starting spot and excelled, averaging 10.7 points and 7.1 rebounds in 11 regular season starts. Ndour’s performance kickstarted Chicago’s late regular season run into the playoffs. 

Ndour continued to shine through the postseason. The Sky faced the Mercury in round one, where Ndour dominated the box score. She scored 16 points and brought down a team-high nine rebounds to help push Chicago into the second round. In game two versus Las Vegas, Ndour tallied 17 points off 70% shooting from the floor. She also added eight rebounds, a block, and an assist in the loss. 

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Despite only averaging eight minutes per game in the first half of the season, Ndour ended 2019 with career-highs in nearly every statistical category, including points, rebounds, and minutes per game, as well as field-goal percentage.

Coming off a hot season, Ndour is ready to mirror her overseas success in the wubble and be a continual contributor for a team. The combination of Ndour’s experience and skill can help lead Dallas, who won just 10 games last season.

Morgan Tuck

The trade: Tuck to Seattle in exchange for a 2020 first-round pick swap with Connecticut. 

In four seasons with Connecticut, Tuck had a very limited role. Her playing time and scoring average had continually declined since being drafted in 2016. Last season, she averaged just 10.7 minutes per game.

Tuck can play ball but was lost in the shuffle of All-Stars, including Jonquel Jones, Chiney Ogwumike, and Alyssa Thomas, during her time in Connecticut.

Seattle is the right environment for Tuck to get more playing time and grow as a basketball player. Her shooting skills will pair well with Breanna Stewart, her former UConn teammate. The last time Stewart and Tuck played on the same team together, they won four consecutive NCAA Championships. 

In addition to her experience at UConn, Tuck learned first hand what it takes to make it to the WNBA Finals with Connecticut last season. Tuck’s experience on elite teams brings confidence to her game that will help her be successful in Seattle.

With their new teams this season, Stevens, Mosqueda-Lewis, Ndour, and Tuck can take their game to the next level. These four players may not be on people’s radars now, but they will be soon. 

If everything goes according to the WNBA’s current plan, the 2020 season will begin July 25th at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

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