The WNBA’s roster deadline has come and gone, meaning the Seattle Storm is down to 12 players ahead of its season opener on Sunday at Los Angeles. Ten of the 12 players from last season are once again on the squad, while No. 1 draft pick Breanna Stewart highlights the pair of newcomers.
Led by second-year head coach Jenny Boucek, the Storm is aiming to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Here is a position-by-position breakdown of the team that Boucek and her staff put together.
Projected starter: Sue Bird
Come to a game at KeyArena, and you’re guaranteed to watch one of the best to ever run the point. That’s been the case for 15 years now. Even at age 35, Bird will play a crucial role this season. The two-time champion is responsible for guiding Seattle to victories while also mentoring the back-to-back No. 1 draft picks. According to Boucek, Jewell Loyd could play significant minutes at point guard this year, even when Bird is in the game alongside her. Loyd had a game-high eight assists in last week’s preseason finale, including six dimes in the third quarter alone.
Also making the final roster is Blake Dietrick, the point guard from Princeton who went undrafted in 2015 and could make her WNBA debut with the Storm. Dietrick was in training camp with the Mystics last year but didn’t make the team. At Princeton, she guided the Tigers to a 30-0 regular season while averaging 15.1 points and 4.9 assists per game as a senior. This past winter, Dietrick recorded 15.5 points per contest for Orvieto in Italy.
Projected starter: Jewell Loyd
As mentioned above, Loyd will likely be rotating between the point and off guard spots. The Notre Dame product won Rookie of the Year in 2015 by leading all first-year players with 10.7 points per game. After scoring 18.3 points per contest with her Turkish club in the offseason, Loyd should be primed to make a leap in her second WNBA campaign. The WNBA general managers voted Loyd the most likely to have a breakout season.
The Storm will have strong depth behind Loyd with veteran Monica Wright. Acquired from Minnesota in a midseason trade last year, Wright played 190 games in a six-year span with the Lynx that featured a pair of WNBA titles. She finished second in the Sixth Woman of the Year voting in 2013, but the past two seasons have been injury-filled for the Virginia product. Wright has said in training camp that she’s healthy and thrilled to be playing in Seattle.
Projected starter: Alysha Clark
With players like Loyd and Stewart attracting lots of attention on the offensive end, there will surely be open looks on the perimeter for Seattle’s small forwards. Per Basketball-Reference.com, Clark was No. 1 in the entire WNBA in true shooting and effective field goal percentage last season. The only player besides Bird to be in Seattle for more than two years, Clark was in the starting lineup for both preseason games and dropped 20 points in the second one.
In Jenna O’Hea and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, the Storm couldn’t ask for better outside shooters coming off the bench. O’Hea is one of the league’s all-time greats from three-point range at 42.4 percent, while Mosqueda-Lewis sank more treys at UConn than any other player in NCAA history. Mosqueda-Lewis struggled a bit in her rookie season, but she showed improvement by shooting 42.3 percent from deep in France during the offseason.
Projected starter: Breanna Stewart
Due to the variety of ways she impacts the game, Stewart could play anywhere from small forward to center. The 6-4 rookie can space the floor with outside shooting, but perhaps the biggest reason for Stewart being a focal point right away is her defense. Last season at UConn, for example, her 4.7 blocks per 40 minutes ranked higher than 87 percent of Division I teams. She has a 7-1 wingspan, which at one point helped her swat three shots in one possession.
Seattle had one of the highest-scoring benches in the WNBA last season, often led by either Ramu Tokashiki or Abby Bishop. Both Tokashiki and Bishop will likely start some games again this year, as Boucek prefers a system of “positionless” players. Tokashiki played both the small and power forward spots in her first year with the Storm, leading the team in scoring on four occasions. Bishop is coming off another outstanding season in Australia of 14.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
Projected starter: Crystal Langhorne
Perhaps lost in the buzz surrounding the trio of No. 1 draft picks is that Langhorne has been this team’s leading scorer and rebounder two straight years. She’s proven to be one of the best at finishing around the basket: Her career field goal percentage of 55.9 percent ranks third all-time, and last year she was once again among the league leaders. She’s just 6-2, but pairing Langhorne with Stewart would provide plenty of size and length in the frontcourt.
The Storm waived Quanitra Hollingsworth late in training camp, meaning Markeisha Gatling could be counted on even more this year. The 6-5, third-year center averaged 5.3 points per game on nearly 50 percent shooting in 2015, making 25 appearances and four starts. Gatling continued her impressive shooting while overseas this offseason, converting on 61.7 percent of her attempts for Shinhan Bank in South Korea.