The Atlanta Dream will face a stiff test when they take the court for the first regular-season game in franchise history.
The Dream start play on the road Saturday against the Connecticut Sun, who feature a much different look from the team that was ousted in last season's Eastern Conference semifinals.
Atlanta is the WNBA's first expansion team since Chicago went 5-29 two years ago, but seems to have the right mix of rising stars and veteran savvy to be successful early on.
The key to Atlanta's offense will be second-year guard Ivory Latta, acquired from defending Eastern Conference champion Detroit. Latta, who helped lead North Carolina to two Final Four appearances, averaged only 3.0 points in 7.1 minutes per game with the Shock, but still finished second in the league in 3-point shooting at 44.9 percent.
"Ivory is gonna put people in the stands," Dream coach and general manager Marynell Meadors told the team's official Web site. "Her energy, her excitement and her passion for the game can't help but make people excited, both the fans and her teammates."
Latta will be joined in the backcourt by Betty Lennox, acquired from Seattle and starting her ninth season. In 236 career games, the 2000 rookie of the year has averaged 12.2 points and 4.2 rebounds.
"I can't say enough about Betty's ability to play the game," Meadors said. "She's one of the best shooters I've seen in the WNBA, she's very consistent and she has that court savvy that very few players have."
Also in the backcourt mix will be Iziane Castro Marques, who averaged 12.8 points and 2.8 assists last season with Seattle.
The Dream also feature a lot of size up front with 6-foot-8 Katie Feenstra (5.2 points, 4.9 rebounds per game with Detroit last year) in the middle, former Sun forward-center Erika de Souza at 6-5 and Stacey Lovelace, a 6-4 forward.
Though Atlanta lost both its preseason games, Meadors said she's pleased with the roster.
"We have been very selective with our list and were able to obtain some great size, athleticism, character and depth through (the) expansion draft," she said. "Each player understands the opportunity to get our Atlanta Dream franchise started in a positive direction and we are all looking forward to our inaugural season."
After winning 26 games in 2005 and 2006, Connecticut slumped to 18-16 last season and overhauled its roster after losing in three games to Indiana in the playoffs.
Among the notable moves, leading scorer Katie Douglas was traded to the Fever for Tamika Whitmore (10.9 points per game last season) and Nykesha Sales - a former UConn star - said in March that she was taking a year off to recuperate from lingering injuries.
Despite dealing away Douglas, the Sun should still excel on offense with the return of Ashja Jones (15.3 ppg) and Lindsey Whalen (13.4). The Sun also added Amber Holt from Middle Tennessee State with the ninth overall pick in the draft. She led the nation with 27.4 points per game last season, including a season-high 41 in a 67-56 upset of then-No. 8 LSU on Dec. 28.
"I think I'm a real threat on offense. I can score. But whatever Coach (Mike) Thibault and the other coaches ask me to do, I'll do," Holt told the Sun's official Web site.
Connecticut was 2-1 in the preseason with both wins coming at home.