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NEW YORK, May 16, 2012 – The results of the 10th annual WNBA.com GM Survey are in, with the league’s 12 general managers making predictions for the 2012 season. While 83 percent of GMs selected the defending champion Minnesota Lynx as the team most likely to win the WNBA Finals, it was the Phoenix Mercury that GMs picked for the third straight year as the team most fun to watch (55 percent).
Minnesota, led by four members of the 2011 Western Conference All-Star Team, earned its first WNBA title in franchise history last season. Each of those players returns, with three of them – Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore, and Lindsay Whalen – also slated to participate in the 2012 Olympic Games in London as part of the United States’ women’s squad.
The complete results of the exclusive survey are posted on WNBA.com in advance of WNBA Tip-Off presented by Boost Mobile, when the Seattle Storm hosts the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday, May 18, on NBA TV (10 pm ET). Among the other key contests set for the opening weekend is a nationally-televised game on Sunday, May 20, when the Lynx, led by 2011 Finals MVP Augustus and Rookie of the Year Moore, host the Mercury and five-time scoring leader Diana Taurasi on ABC (12:30 pm ET).
While the GMs believe Minnesota will repeat as champion, the group eyed Indiana (42 percent) and Connecticut (25 percent) as the favorites in the Eastern Conference over the two-time defending conference champ, the Atlanta Dream.
The Chicago Sky and newly acquired forward Swin Cash (obtained in a January 2 trade with Seattle), figured prominently in three categories. While Cash herself was selected as the one acquisition who will make the biggest impact (58 percent), the trade that brought her to the Windy City was voted as the most surprising move of the offseason (67 percent). That deal, coupled with the signing of veteran free agents Ticha Penicheiro and Ruth Riley, also led to Chicago being voted as the club that made the best off-season moves (45 percent).
Two players tied for the lead as the likely MVP – Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus and the Los Angeles Sparks’ Candace Parker – with each receiving 25 percent of the votes. Ten players received votes as the player to be tapped first when starting a franchise (Moore’s two votes edged the one each received by Augustus, Parker, Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry, Chicago’s Sylvia Fowles, Indiana’s Tamika Catchings, Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi, Seattle’s Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, and Washington’s Crystal Langhorne.
For the fourth straight year, Taurasi was named the best shooting guard (58 percent) and Catchings (50 percent) the best small forward. The vote for the best center, however, resulted in a tie between Fowles and Connecticut’s Tina Charles (42 percent apiece).
Taurasi also was voted the player who forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments (42 percent), the best pure shooter (55 percent), and the player they’d want taking a shot with a game on the line (36 percent).
The New York Liberty’s Cappie Pondexter was deemed the best at creating her own shot (45 percent) and her crossover dribble was voted as the most effective individual offensive move (27 percent), just ahead of Augustus’ dribble, step-back jumper and Fowles’ low post move (18 percent each).
The Los Angeles Sparks’ Nneka Ogwumike, the top selection in the 2012 Draft, was the favorite to earn Rookie of the Year accolades – receiving 92 percent of the votes – as well as the rookie who GMs anticipate will become the best player five years from now, with 75 percent of the votes. Others to receive votes in this latter category were Indiana center Sasha Goodlett and a pair of guards, Phoenix’s Samantha Prahalis and San Antonio’s Shenise Johnson. The Tulsa Shock’s Riquna Williams (36 percent), selected in the second round of the recent Draft, was voted as the “sleeper” rookie most likely to be a success.
The Seattle Storm came out on top in a variety of categories including the team with the best home court advantage (82 percent), best head coach in the last two minutes of a close game (Brian Agler, 44 percent), and best power forward (Lauren Jackson, 45 percent). Storm guard Sue Bird was voted number one at making her teammates better (55 percent) as well as the active player who would make the best head coach (45 percent) and the top point guard (75 percent). Not surprisingly, Bird also was selected – for the fifth consecutive season – as the best leader (45 percent).
A trio of veterans shared the title of most underrated player, with Minnesota’s Whalen, Washington’s Langhorne, and the San Antonio Silver Stars’ Sophia Young each receiving 17 percent of the votes.
Additional leaders in the WNBA.com GM survey included: