We’re less than a month into the season, but the Seattle Storm is proving to be significantly better on the offensive end than it was a year ago. The Storm has increased its scoring average by nearly 10 points per game – 70.4 to 80.1 – and improved its field goal percentage from 43.4 to 46.2 percent. Four different players are averaging double figures for the first time since 2013.
Adding No. 1 pick Breanna Stewart has paid dividends on both ends of the court, as has Jewell Loyd taking her game to another level and Sue Bird playing perhaps her best basketball of recent years. Another major factor has been the production of forward Alysha Clark, who is on her way to a career season.
The Storm is counting on her more than ever, and Clark has been delivering.
In her fifth year with Seattle, Clark is averaging 10.4 points per game on 53.8 percent shooting and 50 percent from three-point range (tied for the league’s best percentage among those who have taken 15 threes). She recorded the first two 20-point outings of her career, and in the last five games, she’s put up 13.8 points per night on 61.8 percent shooting. Clark is scoring in a variety of ways – using her post-up game, getting to the basket in transition and knocking down open jumpers.
Among players averaging at least 15 minutes per game, Clark has the highest true shooting and effective field goal percentages in the WNBA.
“I never set out individual goals as to how many points I’m scoring per game, or any of that. That’s never been who I am as a player throughout my career,” Clark said after practice on Tuesday. “The development I’ve seen in myself in terms of confidence, and seeing that I’m able to make the transition from a post to a guard – I’m more happy with that than the stats. Feeling more like a guard is what I’m most proud of.”
When Clark plays in Israel during the offseason, she spends more time in the post than on the wing. The 5-11 forward has won back-to-back league titles and Player of the Year awards overseas, leading her team in scoring two straight years. In a similar role at Middle Tennessee State, she led the entire nation in scoring back-to-back years with more than 27 points per game.
While her numbers are more noticeable this year – such as a 7-for-7 performance that resulted in 23 points on Sunday against New York – Clark has always been an efficient scorer in the WNBA. She shoots roughly 50 percent for her career, and just as she has been so far this season, Clark was No. 1 in the WNBA in 2015 in true shooting and effective field goal percentage.
“What AC brings is an inside-outside threat,” Bird said after Clark scored 20 against Minnesota on May 22. “She can post up smaller guards, she can take and make big threes and she’s just kind of a player that plays within herself. She knows what she’s good at, and she sticks to that. And you forget, this is a player that led the nation in scoring in college. You have to remember that. That speaks to a mindset more than anything. Obviously it speaks to a skillset, but to me it speaks more to the mindset. She knows how to score.”
“She’s got a very tough mentality. There’s a grit about her,” head coach Jenny Boucek added. “It’s why she’s here and why she continues to get better.”
After going 10-24 last season, Clark and the Storm are 3-5 thus far with a pair of wins over Phoenix and one over Connecticut. They came close to beating Minnesota and New York, and Washington escaped with an overtime win at KeyArena after Seattle had erased a 16-point deficit in the second half.
On Friday at Connecticut, the Storm will begin a crucial four-game road trip.
“I think we’re starting to see as a team what it’s going to take for us to be successful,” Clark said. “We obviously have a ton of offensive talent, and I think the thing we need to do is get tougher defensively. It’s in every one of us. It’s just a matter of bringing it out on a more consistent basis. It’s coming along, and we’re starting to feel it. That’s something we’re excited about.”