Position by Position Review

A number of Storm players enjoyed arguably the best season of their careers in 2016, and it resulted in the team’s first playoff berth in three years. Head coach Jenny Boucek employed the same starting lineup all season, save for when Alysha Clark and Crystal Langhorne each missed a game due to injury.

Seattle also got vital contributions from several players off the bench, including Noelle Quinn and Krystal Thomas, who were acquired a month into the season. After they arrived, rookie Breanna Stewart was the only one with no previous experience playing for the Storm.

Here is a position-by-position review of the Storm’s season.

Point guards

In her 14th season as Seattle’s floor general, Sue Bird played a crucial role in helping her team get back to the playoffs. She had one of her finest seasons, leading the WNBA with 5.8 assists per game and shooting a career-high 44.4 percent from deep (second in the league). After a 2015 season in which she scored a career-low 10.3 points per game, Bird shot much more efficiently and upped her average to 12.8 per game, highlighted by a trio of games scoring 20 or more.

Bird now ranks second all-time in assists, fifth in three-pointers, eighth in steals and 11th in points. If she averages 5.5 assists next year, Bird will pass Ticha Penicheiro for the top spot.

Quinn, in her second stint with Seattle, was typically the backup to Bird and provided a much-needed veteran presence for a young group. When the Storm upset the then-first place L.A. Sparks on August 26, Quinn scored seven straight points in the second half to help Seattle hold off her hometown team.

Shooting guards

Jewell Loyd showed improvement in numerous areas of her game this year. The 2015 Rookie of the Year jumped into the league’s top 10 in scoring, increasing her average from 10.7 to 16.5 points per game. She also led the Storm in assists 10 times, dished out five or more assists on nine occasions, and finished the season at 3.4 helpers per game after averaging 1.9 as a rookie. On the defensive end, she increased her steals per game from 0.5 to 1.2.

Loyd reached 30 points in a game twice, both against Phoenix early in the season. She also proved to be a reliable scorer with the game on the line, notching the winning points three times this year.

Monica Wright, who was acquired via trade last year and missed the final two months of the season due to knee surgery, was out of the rotation for much of 2016. The former No. 2 overall pick played in just 16 games, averaging 6.1 minutes per contest. She will continue working to get back to full strength this offseason.

Small forwards

In her second season as a full-time starter on the wing, Clark averaged career highs of 9.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Her shooting was down from 2015, when she led the league in effective field goal percentage, but Clark still managed an impressive 48.4 percent from the field. She recorded the first two 20-point outings of her career this season, all while often guarding the opposing team’s best scorer.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was a key reserve for Seattle late in the season. She had her greatest impact in July, scoring 9.0 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting during an eight-game stretch. The second-year wing increased her three-point shooting efficiency from 28.1 to 35.4 percent. That improvement was on display in the regular-season finale, when Mosqueda-Lewis scored 16 points on 4-of-6 three-pointers.

Jenna O’Hea got a bit of a late start with the Storm this year, missing the first three games due to her French team making a run to the championship. She fell out of the rotation late in the season after some solid performances early on, such as 14 points in a win over Phoenix and 10 points off the bench at Indiana.

Power forwards

Stewart had one of the greatest debut seasons in league history, and she has the stats and accolades to prove it. She led the entire league in plus-minus, and her plus-23.6 was the second-best rating in the last nine years (Maya Moore’s in 2014 was slightly better at 23.9). Stewart was the only player ranking third or higher in both rebounds and blocks, and she finished with the third-most points ever scored by a rookie (621). The UConn product easily won Rookie of the Year and finished second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting.

Ramu Tokashiki was the primary backup, and her playing time took a hit this year due to Stewart’s arrival. But in fewer minutes, Tokashiki actually had a much more efficient season, shooting 47.2 percent from the field compared to 41.5 percent as a rookie. She scored in double figures off the bench six times, highlighted by a pair of 15-point outings.

Similar to Tokashiki, Abby Bishop saw her role change this year after starting several games in 2015. She averaged 5.2 minutes in her 13 appearances, and the 27-year-old also missed some time while training with the Australian National Team.

Centers

Langhorne’s overall production slowed this year after she led Seattle in scoring back-to-back seasons, but in reality, it may have been her best campaign in a Storm uniform. The veteran shot an incredible 63.0 percent from the field, setting a new career high that places her among the most efficient seasons in league history. But that’s nothing new for Langhorne, who is third all-time with a career field goal percentage of 56.4. She set a franchise record for field goals without a miss on May 28, going 8-for-8 in a win over the Sun.

As the backup center, Thomas played in every game this season after she was re-signed by the Storm in late June. Her stats don’t jump off the charts, but after being out of the league for a year, Thomas proved she could play an important role on a playoff team.