2016 Record: 16-18
Key Offseason Moves:
Acquired center Carolyn Swords from New York
Re-Signed Crystal Langhorne
The Stewie Show
Come for the emphatic blocks and beautiful assists, stay for the three-pointers and sky hook shots. Simply put, there’s not much Breanna Stewart can’t do on the basketball court. WNBA fans got their money’s worth every time they tuned in to watch Stewart in her rookie season.
Who else can do all of these things?
The numbers prove Stewart was already one of the league’s best players as a rookie. She dominated with 18.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.9 blocks per game, and it all equated to the highest plus-minus rating in the entire WNBA. Stewart finished sixth in MVP voting and was the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year. If she can guide Seattle to an improved record as she did last season, the former No. 1 pick will only climb higher in the MVP race.
There’s no shortage of star power in Seattle, as guards Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd joined Stewart among the All-WNBA selections last season. The Storm were the only team to have a trio of players earn All-WNBA honors.
At the center of it all is Bird, who enjoyed a resurgent season in 2016. The 14-year vet averaged a league-high 5.8 assists per game and shot a career-best 44.4 percent from three-point range. If Bird averages at least 5.8 dimes again this season, she will pass Ticha Penicheiro as the league’s all-time assists leader. There is concern over Bird’s health, however, as she underwent a knee scope earlier this month and isn’t participating in training camp.
If Bird misses some time, look for Loyd to play extended minutes at the point-guard spot. Loyd dished out 3.4 assists per game last season after averaging just 1.9 as a rookie, one of the many areas in which the Notre Dame product showed vast improvement. She also went from 10.7 to 16.5 points per game and canned 30 percent of her three-pointers after shooting just 21 percent her rookie year. Still just 23 years old, Loyd figures to continue making strides this season.
Momentum From 2016
Led by their trio of stars, the Storm used a late-season push to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2013. They were one of the league’s most dominant teams after the Olympic break, winning seven of their final 10 games and clinching the playoff berth with a victory over the eventual champion Sparks.
Although they came up short against Atlanta in the first round, the Storm’s run to the postseason should be a sign of things to come. Seattle returns each of its starters and key bench players from 2016, and the club also filled a need by adding veteran center Carolyn Swords via trade.
Keeping with the current trend in professional basketball, Seattle launched three-pointers at an unprecedented rate in 2016. Roughly 32 percent of the Storm’s shot attempts were from beyond the arc, which is by far the league’s highest percentage since the three-point line was moved back in 2013.
Given the team’s personnel, that trend is likely to continue this upcoming season. Aided by Bird’s career high of 44.4 percent, the Storm connected on 35.5 percent of their three-point attempts in 2016, their best mark in five years. Third-year wing Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis left UConn as the NCAA’s all-time leader in three-pointers. Veteran reserve Jenna O’Hea shoots 41 percent from deep for her career, the second-highest rate among active players.
Stewart and Loyd showed a remarkable chemistry in their first year as teammates, never more evident than when the duo connected on an alley-oop layup.
This sequence happened a handful of times in 2016. Loyd has been doing alley-oop layups on a regular basis since her days at Notre Dame. She and Stewart are the future of the franchise in Seattle, and this could be their signature play for many years to come.