It Takes Two: The Chemistry Between Rhyne Howard and Allisha Gray

Chemistry is a funny thing. You don’t realize how good you have it until it’s there, and you never realize what was missing before it arrives. Chemistry is the penthouse level cliché for any sports team. No team seems to be able to win without it, but attempting to quantify it never seems to muster anything substantive. Yet for a budding team like the Atlanta Dream, it’s the chemistry between key players that’s perhaps the most exciting aspect of their rising momentum. There is plenty to be excited about in Atlanta right now. Rhyne Howard and Allisha Gray are developing a compelling partnership that the Dream organization and fans can rest their hopes on. 

Chemistry between two people takes a special kind of connection when it occurs from jump street. “I think [Howard and Gray have] had really good chemistry so far on the court but even off the court,” head coach Tanisha Wright told me. “I think that’s where it started. I think once we acquired Lish, Rhyne made a concerted effort to go out and start building that relationship with Lish. I think because of that, they were both excited to play on the court with one another.” 

This instant commitment to building the relationship with one another was a key reason why the Dream made the deal for Gray in the first place. When two of your best players understand that on-court chemistry is also developed off the court and make a pointed effort to gel immediately, it means something. 

“My main goal coming in [was]I didn’t want to stop Rhyne from what she was doing or take away from anything she was doing,” Gray explained. “I came here to help her continue to elevate her game. I’m here to play my game and overall have fun.” 

Howard and Gray’s chemistry growth will be integral to what this team can do. Gray was brought onto this team to score and play her game. But for the Dream to truly soar, Gray and Howard will need to take their play to the next level as a duo. 



Thus far, we have seen flashes of what this pair can do together. In the clip above, Gray uses her exceptional court vision to see that Howard’s off-ball movement puts her behind the defense. Gray throws a dart to Howard for the easy bucket. These kinds of plays have not been ample to start the season, but in time, the connection will grow between these two.



The clip above starts with the ball in Howard’s hands, but it was Gray’s efforts to pick up the loose ball after a deflection and then push the ball up the court that got the Dream in this position in the first place. Both Howard and Gray understand how to play unselfish basketball, which will help nurture their partnership with each other as well as with their other teammates. 

For all the good will Howard and Gray have built up together to this point, there are still growing pains. In 201 minutes together thus far, they have the ninth-best net rating on the team. They also have the fourth-best offensive rating and worst defensive rating of any two teammates on the roster. The biggest issue I’m seeing is their inconsistent connectivity on the court. Gray and Howard do most of their assist work to one another.  A big part of that is likely due to the hybrid read-and-react/set offense Wright likes to run. Because Wright lets the team find the best looks on offense, Gray and Howard have some more freedom to play off of one another. However, when Wright does run sets, the positioning and symbiotic activity between Howard and Gray doesn’t always work. To improve how Howard and Gray work together offensively, in addition to the team’s numbers, Wright must find more sets to promote movement and that allow Howard and Gray to play off of one another more cohesively. This would allow each player to hunt for better shot selection, allowing their shooting percentages to improve in kind. Defensively, this is a bigger challenge. Since they both guard backcourt players, and with teams emphasizing spacing, the two are typically on opposite sides of the court and not able to utilize each other’s defensive strengths to defend in tandem.



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As far as improving offensive looks is concerned, the clip above exemplifies how altering the players’ positioning could help things along. Here Gray’s driving ability collapses the defense, so when Gray and Howard are positioned on the same side of the floor, these drive-and-kicks can work more effectively within the flow of the offense. A good read-and-react offense requires a strong ballhandler to initiate the action as well as good floor movement and spacing. When the ballhandler initiates, it’s up to the other four players to read the ballhandler and recognize what actions they must take within the offensive flow. Wright may be instituting this style intentionally because the Dream are a fairly young team (on average 25.8 years old) and can learn offensively with greater freedom. On the other hand, this style of offense may be unintentional and simply a result of this team lacking a true facilitator, which is an issue that has been compounded by injuries to Danielle Robinson and Aari McDonald. Either way, for the Dream to reach the desired level, both Howard and Gray will need to find more ways to utilize their strengths in unison. 



This is another area where Gray and Howard can excel—in transition. According to PBP Stats, half of the assists from Howard to Gray are in the paint, whereas Gray’s assists to Howard are a mix. What would help the Dream immensely—and surely the development of both of these players—is to rebound and get out on the fast break. Gray is so skilled at seeing the court and finding areas to attack. Howard is young and uber athletic, using her strong but quick frame to gallop down the court. If the two could work together to up the Dream’s transition points, as demonstrated in the clip above, this team will surely be able to flourish in due time.

For now, the connection between Gray and Howard leaves Dream fans with hope and excitement for what could be. With small tweaks offensively, there’s no telling the potential potency of a Gray-Howard led Dream offense. On the defensive end of the court, they will need to find ways to utilize their athleticism and improve their connectivity (maybe some zone defense?). While the record doesn’t reflect it, this Dream team has shown flashes of quality, cohesive basketball, and there’s no question which two players are at the epicenter of the team’s successes. This is only eight games into their tenure together, so with each passing day, Gray and Howard learn each other’s games even more. As teams like the Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty build superteams, Dream fans believe Gray and Howard can be the foundation of their own formidable force. 


All stats as of 6/14. Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of

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