Atlanta Dream Season Preview
As Angel goes, so go the Dream. Could that mean a return trip to the Finals, their third in four years?
PreviewYou might've heard a few things about this offseason. Like how a fresh wave of players is about to breathe new life into the WNBA, sweeping into the league at the same time that the league unveiled a brand-new logo -- a new standard -- to represent the modern age of the WNBA.
All of that? Griner? Diggins? Delle Donne? New. New. New.
But if the Atlanta Dream are going to reach their third WNBA Finals appearance in four years -- and pick up their first-ever Finals win -- it's because of how much has stayed the same.
Sure, the Dream have some new faces, including a coach (Fred Williams) who only ran the team for half the year last year, after coaching Atlanta as an assistant for years. Three rookies (including No. 13 pick Alex Bentley and No. 31 pick Anne Marie Armstrong) made the roster out of training camp. Two new players (guard Jasmine Thomas and forward Le'coe Willingham) joined the team in the offseason. But of the core players that drove the Dream to their historically quick rise from conception to contenders, all but one player's back.
And when the Dream open up on Saturday against Skylar Diggins and the Tulsa Shock, they'll be running.
"I think what we do really well is play uptempo basketball," said Dream coach Fred Williams, who took over from Marynell Meadors during the 2012 season. "We really force opponents to get back on their heels on defense and we want to continue that."
Lindsey Harding left in the offseason, going to LA and carving a void into the point guard role that Thomas can help to fill. But of the big names, they're back. Sancho Lyttle returns to the post a year after putting up a career-high 14 points and 2.5 assists a night. Armintie Herrington (nee Price) comes back with a new name, but the same skill-set that's made her one of the league's most reliable wing players.
Meanwhile, the Dream made one big addition, in a sense: a full year from Erika de Souza. While the Dream didn't add any pieces of the league-rattling sort, de Souza will patrol the paint from the start of the year, as opposed to a season prior, when she only joined the Dream after competing for Brazil in the Olympics.
Then there's Angel McCoughtry.
Tumultuous, temperamental and tremendously talented, McCoughtry's served as the core of the Dream since she came into the league in 2009. No player can put the ball the hoop in as many ways, from the paint to the perimeter. No player can hollow out a defense with such frantic precision. And no player dictates quite as much of her team's fate as Angel McCoughtry.
When she's playing well, so are the Dream. When she's not, everything grinds to a halt. But after a disappointing 2012 campaign (relatively speaking), the Dream have a year's more maturity to work with, and a bitter taste to get rid of.
And in an East that suddenly got a whole lot tougher, Atlanta's set to attack from the start -- the same way they always did under Meadors, Williams said.
"We just have to be patient down the stretch in certain situations, but the main thing we learned is you gotta finish real strong within your conference of being a top team there and gain home court," Williams said. "The main thing is that we've been there. We'll got there early, but we got a taste of what it takes to be in the Finals."
1. Angel McCoughtry (21.4)
2. Sancho Lyttle (14.0)
3. Lindsey Harding (12.3)
1. Erika de Souza (8.2)
2. Sancho Lyttle (7.6)
3. Angel McCoughtry (5.0)
1. Lindsey Harding (4.5)
2. Angel McCoughtry (2.9)
3. Armintie Price, Sancho Lyttle (2.5)