Shock fans should be giddy that four of their title-winning starters -- all of whom finished the regular season scoring in double digits -- will be back. Cheryl Ford was the only player in the league to average a double-double, notching 13.8 points and 11.3 rebounds a game and leading the champs in both categories. She is also an outstanding defender and was named to both the All-WNBA Second Team and the league's All-Defensive Second Team.
Fellow All-Star Katie Smith is an eight-year veteran guard who started all 34 games in 2006 and averaged 11.7 ppg and 3.3 apg. Smith was also named to the WNBA All-Decade Team.
Sharing the backcourt with Smith was the uber-athletic Deanna Nolan. Nolan earned the MVP award in the 2006 Finals and has been an invaluable member of the Shock, tying Ford for the team lead in scoring. She also topped her team in assists (3.6) and steals (1.4). She joined teammates Ford and Smith in representing the East at the All-Star Game.
Forward/center Plenette Pierson is typically one of the first players off the bench for the Shock. Last season she averaged 6.5 ppg, and 3.9 rpg. Six-foot-six forward/center Kara Braxton will likely also see increased time, and could earn a starting role if she realizes the potential many see in her. Forward Jacqueline Batteast and guards Elaine Powell and Sabrina Palie will also contribute off the Detroit bench.
NOT COMING BACK
In an offseason trade with San Antonio that brought Katie Feenstra to Detroit, the Shock lost starting center Ruth Riley. A six-year veteran, she averaged a solid 7.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game in 2006.
After seven years in the league, reserve Kedra Holland-Corn, a two-time WNBA champ with the Shock, announced her retirement this spring.
Another former Silver Star, Shannon "Pee Wee" Johnson has also made her way to the Motor City. An eight-year veteran and a four time All-Star, Johnson will see many minutes at the point. Last year she started 32 games for the Silver Stars and averaged 9.9 ppg, 3.7 apg and 1.9 spg. A sharp shooter and a solid defender, Johnson will bring leadership and even more talent to an already skilled squad.
In the 2007 Draft, Detroit was delighted to pick UNC Tar Heels guard Ivory Latta with the 11th overall pick. Though she may not see considerable playing time in her rookie campaign, Latta is a great floor leader with a positive attitude and can also shoot the ball. In the long run, she will benefit from playing with this group of veterans.
The one question the Shock have is who will replace Riley in the paint. How far the team goes in the playoffs could hinge on whether or not the combination of Feenstra and Braxton can rise to the level of their teammates.
Still, with the core coming back and several talented additions, it's possible that this 2007 team may be even stronger than last season's championship squad. They possess every ingredient necessary to win a championship. Detroit will be going for two in a row and no one should be shocked if they get it.