Let’s be clear: You do not reach the WNBA Finals two years in a row without being an excellent team. Despite falling in both successive trips to the Finals, the Atlanta Dream are indeed an elite team, and with only a few changes to their roster, the Dream are once again gunning for trip to the Finals in 2012.
We’ll start with the changes: Center Alison Bales has retired after a solid six-year WNBA career, while fellow post-player Erika de Souza will be unavailable to the Dream until after the London 2012 Summer Olympics as her commitment to the Brazilian National Team prevents her from reporting to Atlanta.
Other than that, the core of players who drove the Dream to the 2011 WNBA Finals is intact, led by the dynamic scorer Angel McCoughtry, who followed up her two-straight trips to the Finals by being named to represent the US Team in London this summer. Speedy point guard Lindsey Harding, physical forward Sancho Lyttle, versatile swing-player Armintie Price and deceptive driver Izzy Castro Marques all return for the deep Atlanta squad.
“We are going to concentrate on improving defensively this year, “ said Dream Head Coach Marynell Meadors. “It’s been a great accomplishment, reaching two WNBA Finals, but we want to take that next step and win it. We are good at scoring the ball, but in the past we’ve given up too many points and that’s something we can improve on.”
McCoughtry, the charismatic leader of the Dream, brings an intensity to the court that Meadors not only admires, but thinks can provide the spark to fire Atlanta to another run at a WNBA Championships.
“I’ve been in the game for a long time, and I can tell you I’ve never seen a player like Angel,” said Meadors. “Angel is a terrific person, but when she steps across those lines onto the court, she is not messing around, she is there to do what she has to do to win. Period. That is something our team can feed off of and is a great asset.”
With Tamika Catchings and the Fever, a veteran presence added to the Chicago Sky roster and Tina Charles and the youthful Sun squad sporting another year of experience, the Dream will by no means have an easy route to another Eastern Conference title in 2012. But with McCoughtry on the court, they have a fighting chance.
A career .421 field goal percentage shooter, Harding shot a career-best 45.5 percent from the floor in 2011 for the Dream, and if she can continue to improve her outside shot, combined with her stellar running of the Dream offense, often through McCoughtry, Atlanta could have a powerful one-two offensive punch.
– Jim Reilly, WNBA.com