Coming into the 2013 season there was lot's of buzz about the No. 1 pick of the Phoenix Mercury, Brittney Griner, and her ability to dunk. In the collegiate ranks Griner was prolific in this regard, dunking an NCAA record 18 times for Baylor, surpassing the previous record-holder Candace Parker, then of Tennessee, who dunked seven times.
The question was, however, can Griner do it in a WNBA game, with WNBA defenders on the court, like three-time WNBA All-Defensive selection, Sylvia Fowles of the Chicago Sky. Well, one game into her WNBA career, Griner answered that question emphatically, slamming home two dunks. In her first game.
For some perspective on that, in the prior 16 years of the WNBA, there had been a total of three regular season dunks, two by Candace Parker (it would be her again, right?) and one by WNBA legend Lisa Leslie. Three in 16 years. In what we may be soon calling, "The Griner Era," which is currently one-game old, Brittney Griner has already dunked twice. Sometimes players do live up to the hype and Griner is certainly a player you want to see.
2. Elena Delle Donne May Actually Be Underrated
The sky is the limit (pun intended, I know, terrible) for Elena Delle Donne, the 6-foot-5 baller with the handle of a guard, the shooting range of three-point specialist and a low-post game reminiscent of a young Lauren Jackson.
But if the University of Delaware product's first game for the Chicago Sky is any indication, she may be even better than expected. Delle Donne's line in her first WNBA game -- 22 points, eight rebounds, four blocks, two assists -- against the aforementioned Griner, sure-fire Hall-of-Famer Diana Taurasi and a star-studded Phoenix squad places her among the very best the WNBA has to offer.
Only Candace Parker (there she is again), who went on to win both Rookie of the Year and MVP in her first season and WNBA legend Cynthia Cooper (four WNBA Championships with the Houston Comets, three consecutive scoring titles, four-time WNBA Finals MVP) posted better numbers in their first WNBA game.
3. Capitol Gains in Washington
The numbers just didn't add up for the Mystics in 2012, so in the true spirit of Washington they elected to make a change in leadership, giving the ball to 5-foot-6 point guard Ivory Latta to lead the way.
Early returns point to a successful transition thus far as Latta had a triumphant return to Tulsa, where she played for the Shock the past two seasons. Competing against many of her former teammates and celebrated rookie point guard Skylar Diggins, Latta poured in a game-high 27 points as the Mystics topped the Shock, 95-90, on Memorial Day.
4. Diggins Dishes
Speaking of Diggins, another highly-anticipated rookie addition to the W, even though Skylar and the Shock have dropped their first two games of the young season, there were reasons for optimism on Monday.
Eleven reasons to be exact, as Diggins settled into the accelerated pace and frenetic flow of the WNBA, in comparison to the college game, and dished out 11 assists vs. Washington. With second-year player Glory Johnson looking sharp and Aussie center Liz Cambage back on the court and working her way back into playing shape, the spectre of Diggins dishing dimes could be a welcome addition in Tulsa.
But a couple of unsung heroes -- players who have developed respect within the league but who are currently performing under the mass media radar for a few seasons -- have jumped out of the gates with aplomb. Their names: Sancho Lyttle and Armintie Herrington (formerly Armintie Price).
Both posted strong opening games for Atlanta, Lyttle with an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double and Herrington with 13 points, six steals, three assists, four rebounds and a game-best +21 plus/minus number in the Dream's home-opening victory over Tulsa on Saturday night. Angel McCoughtry drives the Dream, no doubt about that. But if Lyttle and Herrington keep contributing like this, look for Atlanta to be a beast in the East.