28-6, 1st in the Western Conference, WNBA Champions.
“We’re not trying to stay put. We feel confident in our starting five, there’s no question they’ve proven they can play at a high level. But we want to try and keep getting better, and we have to get better through depth.”
That’s exactly the sort of comment you can come to expect from the head coach of a championship-winning team. Regardless of the ring on the finger and the trophy in the case, there is still room for improvement in Seattle, and it starts with the stocking up the bench.
Brian Agler, 2010’s Coach of the Year, wants his Seattle Storm team to bulk up past the starting five of Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Lauren Jackson, Camille Little and Tanisha Wright. One way he’s looking to do that is with the upcoming draft.
“We are right now looking at more of a pool of players than certain individuals, just because we don’t know what’s going to happen ahead of us,” said Agler. “We feel like we have a strong feel of what’s going to happen with the first 10 picks of the draft. Not necessarily the order, but the individuals. So we’re thinking about pool players.”
Seattle possesses three picks in the upcoming selection process on Monday, April 11th. That’s the good part. The bad part is that those picks come last in each round – 12, 24 and 36 – more often than not the Catch-22 that comes with winning a title, but certainly a situation any team in the league would be happy to accept.
Four players from Seattle’s bench in 2010 will not be returning for the upcoming season. Svetlana Abrosimova, Abby Bishop, last year’s draft pick Alison Lacey and Jana Vesela. Of the four, Abrosimova averaged a bench-best 7.6 points per game during the regular season, on top of her years of experience playing throughout the world. She won’t be an easy player to replace, but Agler is confident the draft can produce results.
“When you pick late in the first round, a lot of times you’re looking for a specialist,” said Agler. “So we’ll be looking in that kind of direction, but a big thing for us is having good team dynamics and good team chemistry. I’ve seen so many talented teams get off track because people get unhappy, they get distracted, they’re this, they’re that, you just never know what could happen.”
When it comes to chemistry, Agler will have two players remaining in the fold who may very well receive more minutes in 2011. Ashley Robinson, who re-signed this offseason, is a 6-foot-4 center who can be used to clog up the lanes. Forward Le’Coe Willingham is the other, a player Agler believes will earn more playing time this season.
Therein lies the proper word: earn. Nothing will come easy for the Storm as a whole this season as they aim to defend their title, but no spot will come easy on the Storm either, vacant bench spots or not. Offseason signings of Aneika Henry, Erin Phillips and Belinda Snell will no doubt make training camp interesting for the incoming class as well.
“If there’s a player that we’re really high on and we think is an extreme talent, we may draft them knowing that it might not be the most perfect fit, but as time goes on it’s going to be hard to keep all your top players because everybody’s looking to improve and get max money or get as much money in their salary, which is understandable” said Agler. “So at some point we’re going to need some young players to come in and overtake some of these minutes that we’re offering on the floor.”
Don’t let the 28-6 record and postseason sweep fool you – the Storm is looking to improve in 2011. Odds are the average reader right now is wondering, “But how do you improve a championship team?” Rest assured, Agler is quick to respond.
“We won 28 games in the regular season, but there were at least half of those games where at one point in the fourth quarter we were behind. And this league is extremely competitive and our players understand that and they never lost track of that. That’s one reason we had the ability to stay focused.”
Right now Agler’s focus is on improving and re-stocking behind his starting five. It’s a comfortable position knowing that five champions can be relied on as starters, but it’s also a challenge to build behind them.
A challenge the Storm is ready to face head on.
-- Frank Della Femina, WNBA.com
Recent Draft History
|10. Alison Lacey||12. Ashley Walker||22. Allie Quigley|
|22. Tanisha Smith||38. Mara Freshour||36. Kimberly Beck|
|34. Tijana Krivacevic|