Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends. Another season of the W begins, and before we get lost in matchups, standings, and our fantasy teams, I thought it prudent to take your burning 2023 season questions.
Mailbag questions were collected via Twitter, and I’m excited to respond to some of those below. Remember, I’m reading the tea leaves just like all of you, so opinions will likely change as the season progresses. Let’s get to the mail!
Who has a better chance of making the Fever roster? [Lexie] Hull or [Taylor] Mikesell? – @kvotolato
This is a terrific question to get us started! I very clearly positioned myself on the Lexie Hull-hype train this offseason—join me…there’s plenty of room!—so I’m not the most unbiased person for this question. There is certainly a lot of intrigue around the Fever this offseason, and one of the feistier battles in camp will be for the secondary distance shooter spot. Hull, the incumbent, didn’t do herself any favors with an inconsistent rookie season, but I’ve written ad nauseam about what new head coach Christie Sides can do for her. As for the rookie Mikesell, she’s coming off a quality final year at Ohio State and will have a solid shot if she has a good camp. For now, Hull is my pick, but a week from now, that may change.
Any word if Emma M[eesseman]is going to play this season? What about Tina Charles? – @HugYourLove
These are two veterans who are in very different places in their respective careers. Meesseman is a pro’s-pro who would be coveted by nearly any team in the league. Unfortunately, she has repeatedly commented that her priorities are to the Belgium National Team and other overseas commitments. No official word yet, but with training camps underway, it’s unlikely she’s back this season.
As for Charles, there’s no doubt she’s a talented player, but she has a reputation of being inflexible when it comes to her role on a team. Her fit in Seattle last season was somewhat clunky and awkward, so any team willing to take on the former MVP will have to be mindful of fit before they do. I haven’t heard any rumblings this offseason, and, like Meesseman, time is running out.
What are your expectations for the Mystics’ offense? – @FortisZsq
My feelings on the Mystics’ offense were hashed out long ago. Last season, the offense was often too predictable and unimaginative. This season, with new head coach Eric Thibault at the helm, we could be in for more of the same or, hopefully, a fresh perspective. To his credit, at Mystics Media Day on May 1, Thibault cited the infamous pace issue from last season and mentioned the desire to play with more energy and spacing this season. Let’s hope that comes to fruition.
With plenty of backcourt versatility—especially with the offseason addition of Brittney Sykes—I’m hopeful we’ll get to see more players move off-ball to get open looks. If I’m putting my glass-half-full glasses on, I can see Thibault orchestrating five-out offense schemes, utilizing the athleticism of his bigs to create mismatches. Additionally, zoom sets that combine handoffs and ball screens, or a familiar horns set that adds a double screen or elevator screen wrinkle that opens space for Sykes to attack downhill, would be more than welcomed.
What are the expectations for New York, and how does [head coach Sandy]Brondello handle her bench rotations? – @TBRBWay
This is a very exciting question because I feel Brondello’s use of her bench will be telling for how far this team can go. In the Winsidr team’s recent power rankings, we have the New York Liberty comfortably in second behind the defending champion Las Vegas Aces. This is likely a spot the Liberty will occupy for much of the year, as their incredibly talented team will surely be one of the best come playoff time.
In exploring the Liberty, we see this might be Brondello’s most talented team ever (or at least since her days in Phoenix with frontcourt anchor Brittney Griner, who was drafted in 2013). Take a look at how Brondello has used her bench since 2014 in both the regular season and playoffs.
Bench Minutes per Game (League Ranking)
Bench Minutes per Game (League Ranking)
|2014/PHX||11.2 (9th)||8.0 (7th)*|
|2015/PHX||13.2 (9th)||12.2 (3rd)|
|2016/PHX||12.3 (9th)||11.3 (3rd)|
|2017/PHX||14.9 (2nd)||8.6 (6th)|
|2018/PHX||10.5 (12th)||5.8 (8th)|
|2019/PHX||11.0 (11th)||15.3 (1st)|
|2020/PHX||13.0 (6th)||8.7 (5th)|
|2021/PHX||10.2 (11th)||9.7 (6th)|
|2022/NYL||13.6 (3rd)||14.5 (1st)|
|Averages||12.2 Bench MPG||10.5 Bench MPG|
There are certainly a few grains of salt we need to take to process this chart. Playoff games per postseason, the notorious shrinking of a coach’s bench come playoffs, and different rosters all contribute to the various factors for bench minutes per season. All in all, this may amount to nothing more than some fun research.
What this tells me is that common sense must win out. In thinking about what Brondello is going to do, we know she will play her stars often, with varying degrees of rest throughout the season. I’ve always been a proponent of bench depth taking a team places, but Aces head coach Becky Hammon certainly showed us that isn’t necessarily the case. It should be a fascinating experiment of good problems to have in New York.
As for specific bench rotations, it will expectedly come down to who makes the team when the Liberty break camp. According to Her Hoop Stats, the team can keep two players with an average salary of $69,100 or less. This creates some interesting cap juggling for the Liberty front office. Do you keep Nyara Sabally and her $71,300 salary but no one else? Do you release Sabally to hang on to a valuable DiDi Richards and fan-favorite Han Xu? Once those question marks are resolved, we will have a better idea of how Brondello will use her reserves.
Does the WNBA set expectations for each franchise on things like player amenities and social media/marketing? Should they? – @alisondenae
What a creative question! Put simply, the answer is yes. We all remember the amenities controversy when the Liberty tried to skirt those rules with the chartering flights. That is something laid out in the CBA, Article XI, Section 4 pertaining to flights. Additionally, meal allowances, housing stipends, relocation expenses, and game tickets are all granted by the team/league, according to the CBA. Teams do not have to give their players cars.
As for social media and marketing, there is certainly some language within the CBA that pertains to the player’s responsibilities and how the team can market them. In terms of should, I think franchises should be clear about what their expectations are and coordinate with players to come up with a plan that works for all.
Name one first-time #WNBAAllStar you predict to see come July 2023. 🤩 – @TheSkyShowCHI
I’m still really shocked that Natasha Cloud has yet to make an All-Star Game, and, frankly, so are plenty of fans. To me, this is her year. She led the league in assists last season. She’ll be playing for one of the best teams in the league. If her scoring can rise a few ticks, I think she finally does it.
What’s one player you think will get cut in training camp, join another team, and have a material impact (a la Crystal Dangerfield last year)? – @bhl2111
Since that has already happened to Emily Engstler, I will leave her out of this. I’m going to say Leigha Brown. I believe Atlanta likes her and wants to keep her, but for the sake of this exercise, she’s my pick. Why? Because I struggle to see how she will get playing time on this team. I think she has a lot she can contribute in the W and hope said contributions can happen on the Atlanta bench. But should they not, I know she can go elsewhere and find sunny pastures.
All stats as of 5/9/23 and, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of WNBA.com