The Follow Through: Marina Mabrey’s Making A Huge Impact In Dallas

The Follow Through: Marina Mabrey’s Making A Huge Impact In Dallas

Welcome back to The Follow Through, the weekly column where I talk about things happening around the WNBA that caught my attention.

This week’s column is headlined by Marina Mabrey, who seems to have made some sort of leap this season. Let’s talk about her, as well as some other stuff.


Marina Mabrey’s Strong Play For The Wings

The Dallas Wings have played just two games this season, but it’s already become clear that the decision to play Marina Mabrey a bunch of minutes is one of head coach Vickie Johnson’s best moves so far.

Just a month or so ago, there were people wondering if Mabrey might be cut to make room for Dana Evans. Those people have been proven wrong.

Through two games, Mabrey is averaging 18.5 points per game, and shooting 47.4 percent from three on 9.5 attempts per game. She’s become just a completely dominant threat from downtown:

Mabrey’s just so lethal from downtown when she’s given any space, and hitting shots like this in transition is a great way to create that space. You get Arike Ogunbowale dribbling down the floor with a head of steam, which forces the defense to guard against an Arike drive, because you have to always account for one of the WNBA’s best scorers. But what that does is it allows Mabrey the space to get off the shot before the defense can really react.

Here’s another one. Arike just carries so much weight with the defense, as Seattle sends Mabrey’s defender here to double Ogunbowale as she’s getting into the paint. This is where that whole “years of experience together at Notre Dame” thing really comes into play, as Ogunbowale shows just no hesitation in rifling that ball over to a wide open Mabrey in the corner. And when you get that ball to someone playing as confidently as Mabrey is right now, having that much time/room is very often going to result in three points.

But lest me think all of her threes are just a product of Arike, there was also this:

Sure, the initial pass comes from Arike, but this is just pure “shooters shoot” type stuff. Arike is doubled and gets the ball over to Mabrey, but on this play there’s a defender over on that side, because Seattle is determined to not let Mabrey just keep killing them. So, what does Mabrey end up doing? Just pulling up off the dribble from the edge of the Wings logo. If the defense is going to guard you at the arc, just take the shot from way behind the arc, right?

Of course, Mabrey isn’t just a shooter, which is part of what makes her so dangerous. She runs some point for this team, plus she had eight rebounds against Seattle. She’s a tough player. She’s able to make some quick decisions with the ball in her hands and get it to open shooters. This is going to be a big season for Mabrey.


Things Aren’t Going Well For Los Angeles

The Sparks have fallen to 0-2 on the season and haven’t really looked competitive at all yet. The offense in particular is just out of sorts, as they’re last in the league in points per game, 11th in field goal percentage, and 10th in three-point field goal percentage.

A big issue has been that the guards on this team have struggled with their shot. Take the Vegas loss: Brittney Sykes was 1-for-7, Erica Wheeler played just 19 minutes, and Arella Guirantes was 2-for-9. Te’a Cooper had a fine game, but that was after she shot 1-for-10 against Dallas.

While the frontcourt will soon be bolstered by Amanda Zahui B., there’s no such remedy on the horizon for the guard play. Someone just has to get better, or head coach Derek Fisher needs to figure out the rotation. Should Cooper be taking so many shots? How do you get more minutes for Wheeler, a 2019 All-Star? Who’ll give you some consistent three-point scoring?

On the bright side, there’s talent here. Kristi Toliver is… well, she’s Kristi Toliver. Guirantes was a lottery talent in the eyes of many who has played just two WNBA games.

See Also

I think we’re starting to see some flashes from Guirantes. Here, she goes coast-to-coast and finishes a tough shot at the basket, navigating through the Aces defense with some finesse. Her jumper isn’t falling yet, but based on her collegiate resume, I think that’ll come with time.


The Liberty’s Weird Small Lineup

The Liberty ran the strangest lineup this week and I want to talk about that lineup, even though we won’t see much of it again now that Natasha Howard is back.

That lineup featured the following five players: DiDi Richards, Rebecca Allen, Sami Whitcomb, Betnijah Laney, and Jazmine Jones.

Yep, no bigs!

This was obviously a necessity thing because Howard wasn’t back and they just needed to survive some minutes, but it was also very fun to see, because it really shows you how a team can push a five-out approach to the extreme.

On this particular play, for instance, Laney is initially your center offensively? The other four players are spread out around the perimeter and Laney is down near the paint, so I guess we can say that.

Sami Whitcomb is the ball-handler, which is another surprise. She swings the ball to DiDi Richards over in the corner, who is able to get to the basket because of all the spacing provided by this unit and because Betnijah Laney is there to bump the defenders. Richards doesn’t finish, but Laney is able to get in for the follow up.

Still, despite scoring two points here, you can see a huge drawback of this approach at the end of the play, where Jones, Whitcomb, and Allen are all still behind the arc while the Mystics defense collapsed inside on the Richards shot. Laney gets the rebound, but it’s a 4-on-2 situation there in the paint by end, so Laney snagging that offensive board probably isn’t the expected outcome here. But hey, it worked, and it was fun, and we probably won’t see it again.


Some Other Observations!

What else did I see around the league? Well:

  • I’m really interested in how the Aces handle Kelsey Plum being out for the 3-on-3 tournament. It seems at this point that they’re just going to play Destiny Slocum more, which I guess is their only option. It doesn’t seem like an ideal option, but Slocum does potentially bring some Plum-esque stuff to the team. They both played for the same college coach!
  • The Indiana Fever decided to play Teaira McCowan and Bernadett Határ together some. Their eight minutes together have been a disaster, with the Fever getting outscored by 28.4 points per 100 possessions in that time. But it’s just such an insanely huge lineup that I really want to see it work.
  • Speaking of two player pairings, the DeWanna Bonner/Jonquel Jones pair has a net rating of 24.7 in 131 minutes. Also, all the other two player lineups to play heavy minutes and have a net rating in double digits are other Connecticut Sun lineups, because that team is just completely on fire.
  • As for heavy usage and bad net ratings, Phoenix’s Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins-Smith, and Brianna Turner lineup has played 107 minutes, the third-most of any trio. Their net rating is -7.2, by far the worst of any trio to play at least 100 minutes. If we expand to lineups that have played 90 minutes, we find one worse lineup: the Mercury, but with Griner replaced by Diana Taurasi.
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