2014 Eastern Conference Preview
The Eastern Conference might already have some of the biggest stories of the year with the Connecticut Sun trading their franchise player, decorated Olympian, WNBA MVP and All-Star Tina Charles to New York mere hours before the 2014 draft. To boot, Connecticut also had the number one pick in the drat which it used to select Chiney Ogwumike, Stanford phenom and sister of current LA Spark Nneka Ogwumike. Much of the East followed suit, choosing youth over experience to revamp their rosters. Nine of the players drafted in the first round ended up with Eastern teams.
As far as top contenders, Atlanta and Indiana are both vying for another WNBA Finals appearance. The Dream (the newest franchise in the league) have made three Finals appearances in the last four years and just haven't gotten over the hump. The Fever, meanwhile, beat the defending champion Minnesota Lynx in 2012. The star players for the Dream and Fever -- Angel McCoughtry and Tamika Catchings, respectively -- are equally hungry for a title.
The Chicago Sky qualified for the playoffs for the first time last year with their No. 2 overall pick and Rookie of the Year Elena Delle Donne. They did, however, trade savvy veteran Swin Cash to Atlanta in favor of guard Courtney Clements and a 2015 second-round draft pick. Again, hoping to build up their roster to break into the conference finals.
Last year Angel McCoughtry led the Dream to their third conference title in the franchise's six years of existence. This year, with the additions of Swin Cash from Chicago and French star and Olympian Celine Dumerc, Atlanta will likely be the team to beat in the East. All-Star center Erika de Souza is also back, but will Atlanta have what it takes to finally hoist that championship trophy?
The Sky were among the most exciting teams to watch last year with the addition of Rookie of the Year Elena Delle Donne. EDD brought incredible athleticism and versatility to the post position and has since put on a solid 12 pounds of muscle in the offseason. Although All-Star Sylvia Fowles is out with an early-season injury, the Sky show no signs of slowing down as they are one of the youngest and biggest teams in the league.
All eyes are on the Connecticut Sun this year as they not only drafted the Stanford superstar Chiney Ogwumike, but also traded their franchise player Tina Charles to New York an hour before the draft even started. The Sun also signed veteran Katie Douglas (previously with Indiana), but with the addition of two top-of-the-draft rookies and sophomore Kelsey Bone (from New York), the Sun are hoping to makeover their season entirely.
Tamika Catchings, one of the greatest stars the WNBA has ever seen, is hungry for another WNBA championship. The Fever won their first and only title when they beat the defending champion Minnesota Lynx in 2012. Now, with the solid veteran lineup of Shavonte Zellous, Erlana Larkins, and Briann January, the Fever have the potential to challenge the other much younger teams in the East with sheer experience.
The New York Liberty were on the receiving end of Connecticut's last-minute draft day trade with TIna Charles, one of the league's elite bigs since she won Rookie of Year in 2010. Charles is expected to give a much needed push to head coach Bill Laimbeer's offensive production alongside four-time WNBA All-Star Cappie Pondexter. Adding to the hype, the Liberty are returning home to Madison Square Garden this year.
The Washington Mystics capitalized on young players this year; more than half of their current roster is made up of rookies and sophomores. Two of those rookies are the notable UConn duo made up of Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley. Their veteran talent consists of center-forward Monique Currie and sharp-shooting guards Ivory Latta and Kara Lawson (back this year from injury). Young, fresh talent and one of the best coaches in the league Mike Thibault could carry the Mystics far.