2005 In Review:
What Went Right?
Sacramento finished with second-best record in the regular season, the best home record (15-2) and won eight of its last ten games down the stretch. The good news for 2005 Coach of the Year John Whisenant's team is that his nucleus is returning, which allows his to implement the successful "white line" defense. Last season, the Monarchs held opponents to a league-best 61.6 points per game, allowed on 3.2 3-pointers per game. The team's 8.9 steals per game were more than 1 steal per game more than the second best team.
A pleasant surprise for the Monarchs was the play of second-year guard Nicole Powell, whose offensive output earned her the 2006 Most Improved Player award. After struggling to get playing time as a rookie in Charlotte, she was traded to Sacramento for veteran forward Tangela Smith. Powell's 66 made 3-pointers led the WNBA. The team as a whole shot 35.8 percent from 3-point range, which was also best in the league.
What Went Wrong?
It's obviously hard to criticize the team that won the 2005 WNBA Championship, but Whisenant and his players will all readily admit that there is room for improvement. The Monarchs must first figure out how to replace the players lost during the offseason. Guard Chelsea Newton, a defensive specialist and starter last season a rookie, was a key player in the title run who was picked up by the Chicago Sky in the Expansion Draft. Newton's emergence allowed Kara Lawson to be that spark off the bench that gave her the team a lift night in and night out.
Kara Lawson started the season injured and ended the regular season injured. But she was not the only player to miss time due to physical ailments. DeMya Walker, who led the team in scoring when she was healthy, only played in 22 of the team's 34 games.
The Monarchs were also among the worst
from the free-throw line, connecting on only 68.5 percent of their attempts despite
getting to the line more than almost any other team (second only to Detroit).
Also, aside from Powell and Lawson, no other perimeter scoring threats. Ticha
Penicheiro, the all-time league leader in assists, hit only eight 3-pointers all
season and averaged 5.7 ppg.
Looking Ahead To 2006:
When does DeMya Walker return from pregnancy? Forward Rebekkah Brunson proved she could carry the load late down the stretch last season, so is it her job to lose? How do roles change this season with the roster changes? Does Lawson start? Does Kristin Haynie play a greater role off the bench behind Penicheiro? With the last two picks in the first round of this year's Draft (pending changes and trades), the team might be looking for another post player and certainly another perimeter scorer.