Detroit Shock: 2006 Preview

The good news, Shock fans, is that there isn't a more talented team in the WNBA.

When a midseason trade brought Katie Smith to Detroit from Minnesota last July, the Shock had the unprecedented luxury of starting five players who had played in that year's All-Star Game.


Smith

All five are back, which gives Detroit a legitimate claim to the 2006 WNBA title.

Now for the bad news. That All-Star-studded lineup made 10 starts together a year ago, and went 5-5 including a pair of playoff losses to Connecticut in which they shot only 36 percent from the floor.
Since winning the 2003 WNBA Championship, the Shock are 33-35 with two first-round exits.

"(Last year), we didn't get a chance to really play together," Smith said. "This year, I believe Bill (Laimbeer) will implement a system that works for our team. Much of it will be about having court time together, but also partly finding an offense that brings out all of our strengths. We have the talent in the world to be as good as we want to."

One of the best guards in WNBA history, Smith may not even be the best guard on her team. Deanna Nolan emerged as one of the WNBA's top players, averaging 15.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists while garnering First Team All-WNBA honors.


Nolan

Smith, hobbled by a knee injury a year ago, averaged only 11.9 points, well below her career WNBA scoring average of 17.1. She's now healthy and acclimated to her new teammates, so she should more closely resemble the scorer who is second only to Lisa Leslie on the WNBA's all-time scoring list.

For all the talents that Nolan and Smith possess, neither is a point guard, which could spell trouble, especially since Elaine Powell, the team's only true point guard, was selected by the Chicago Sky in the expansion draft.

Having traded away both the first- and second-round draft picks, the Shock signed free agent Kedra Holland-Corn, a reserve on the 2003 Championship team, to assist with ball-handling duties.

Up front, the towering trio of Ruth Riley (6-5), Cheryl Ford (6-5) and Swin Cash (6-3) can cause opponents fits. Last year, they helped the Shock maintain a +5.8 per game average on the glass and limited opponents to 40.3 percent shooting. Each, however, saw her scoring average drop.


Cash

The most drastic decline in production - and certainly the most understandable - came from Cash, who missed 13 games with the torn left ACL suffered late in the 2004 season. The injury limited her playing time (21.8 mpg) and effectiveness (5.7 ppg on 38.1 percent shooting) all season. A year removed from the injury, she should regain some of her explosiveness and approach her career averages of 14.1 points and 43.9 percent.

Cash's injury did accelerate the development of Kara Braxton (6.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg) and Plenette Pierson (7.7 rpg, 2.7 rpg), both of who proved themselves dependable reserves. Braxton, a 6-6 forward, made the All-Rookie team and led the Shock in field goal percentage (.462).

The Shock deepened its interior corps with Jacqueline Batteast, a 6-2 forward acquired in a draft-day trade with Minnesota and 6-7 center Zane Teilane, a third round draft from Western Illinois.

There will be a lot of pressure on this team to avoid underachieving for the third straight season. Schedule makers did them no favors by sending them away from home for six of the first eight games, but this group has talent and motivation, and should contend if Cash and Smith regain their 2004 form.

DETROIT SHOCK
2005 Results: The Shock finished
16-18, (.471, 4th in East).
Roster | Stats | 2006 Schedule
Head coach: Bill Laimbeer enters his fifth season with the team.
Purchase Shock tickets now!
2006 Probable Starters:
C:
PF:
SF:
SG:
PG:
2006 Draft Results:
Rd. 2:
Rd. 3:
2005 Leaders:
Points
Deanna Nolan, 15.9 ppg
Rebs.
Cheryl Ford, 9.8 rpg
Assts.
Deanna Nolan, 3.7 apg
Blocks
Ruth Riley, Cheryl Ford, 1.39 bpg
Steals
Deanna Nolan, 1.67 spg
More »

Video

Elena Delle Donne and Tamika Catchings Support Lauren Hill

Last week, Lauren Hill of Mount St. Joseph University courageously took the floor for her first college game, refusing to let an inoperable brain tumor keep her from achieving her dream – and WNBA stars Elena Delle Donne and Tamika Catchings were on hand to lend their support.

All-Access: NBA All-Star Relay

To promote healthy living, the NBA teamed up with New York Road Runners for the first-ever marathon relay.

Hammon Makes Coaching Debut

Becky Hammon makes history as the first woman to be a full time NBA coach.

USA Basketball Women’s National Team: Capturing the Gold

An all access look at the team’s journey through the 2014 FIBA World Championship for Women culminating in their gold medal win

Nneka Ogwumike and Breanna Stewart: Off Day in Istanbul

During a break in their busy game schedule, Nneka Ogwumike and Breanna Stewart took a tour through Istanbul’s world famous spice market