Inside the W with Michelle Smith: 2018 Resolutions

The calendar is about to turn to 2018, putting us just a handful of months away from tip-off of the 22nd WNBA season. While many players are overseas, it’s far from a quiet time for the teams who are preparing in earnest for summer.

Since it is time to begin anew in the new year, it seemed only appropriate to take some educated guesses as to what resolutions each of the WNBA teams will be writing for 2018.

Minnesota. The defending champions have stability on lockdown after securing head coach Cheryl Reeve with a multi-year contract extension this week while giving her general manager duties, as well. Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles aren’t going anywhere, either. It’s tough to imagine that Rebekkah Brunson (an unrestricted free agent) would want to be anywhere else at this point in her career. Minnesota’s resolution for 2018 has to be grooming the franchise’s next great point guard. Nobody is putting Lindsay Whalen out to pasture, but she will be 36 at the start of next season, and after the injuries she’s battled over the past two years, it’s time to at least start to consider what life without Whalen might look like. Renee Montgomery has been the heir apparent and started 12 games in 2017 when Whalen was out with a hand injury, but Montgomery is a free agent and will need to be sold on staying to take her turn.

Los Angeles. The Sparks’ resolution to make a run at another championship starts with having the right pieces in place. Having Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike and Chelsea Gray — who had a breakout season at point guard in 2017– is a fabulous start. Now about those other guard spots… The question about whether or not Alana Beard will retire has been lingering over the last two seasons. Beard is a heart-and-soul player for the Sparks, a veteran presence and one of the best defensive players in league history. She is an unrestricted free agent and expected to return. Odyssey Sims came to L.A. last year, found her footing as the season went on, and was a major factor in their success in a second consecutive trip to the WNBA Finals. Sims is a restricted free agent. Keeping her is also top priority. A strong, settled backcourt keeps Los Angeles in title position.

Phoenix. The Mercury’s resolution is to get back into the conversation about title contenders from the very start of the season, rather than playing out of a hole and rallying late. Diana Taurasi’s retirement from overseas play should mean a healthy, rested star for her 15th WNBA season. Brittney Griner has reached the peak years of her career and is poised to do what Sylvia Fowles did in 2017 — dominate inside on the way to an MVP award. Danielle Robinson and Leilani Mitchell are in place to run the point while the missing piece from last season will be back on the floor as DeWanna Bonner is expected to return after missing 2017 to give birth to twins. Bonner is an All-Star caliber player who will give Phoenix the firepower and experience to match up with Minnesota and Los Angeles.

Dallas. The Wings have Texas all to themselves after San Antonio’s move to Las Vegas, and Dallas resolves to give women’s basketball fans all over the state a great reason to come and see them challenge the best teams in the WNBA. Last season, the Wings were the team that nobody wanted to see in the playoffs, with the explosive scoring of Skylar Diggins-Smith and Glory Johnson, and impressive young talent including Kaela Davis and Rookie of the Year Allisha Gray. In 2018, the Wings will look to improve their playoff position and find a way to string wins together to build momentum. 

Seattle. The new year brings a completely fresh start for the Storm under new head coach Dan Hughes, the man who has coached more games than anyone in WNBA history. Hughes’ resolution for 2018 has to be to find a championship mentality in this Seattle team anchored by two of the league’s best young players and one of its all-time greats. Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd are reaching the most productive years of their career, and Sue Bird is still playing at a very high level. Hughes is going to stress establishing relationships with his players and then perhaps adding to the roster, particularly at the center spot, to give Stewart a strong partner in the paint.

Las Vegas. There is so much work to do to get the Las Vegas Aces up and running for the start of the 2018 season, but the No. 1 resolution has to do directly with No. 1…as in the top pick in the draft come April. The Aces have an opportunity to shore up their post game by selecting South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson with the No. 1 pick. Wilson is a true dominant center with size and athleticism. Or they could bring in a high-scoring, exciting guard in Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell, who would give head coach Bill Laimbeer a plethora of backcourt choices and an opportunity to improve his new team via trade. Focusing on this pick as a ticket to a bright future has to be the top of the resolution list for 2018.

New York. Obviously, settling the team’s ownership situation has to be the top resolution for 2018 for this original WNBA franchise. But there is so much more to think about on the basketball side as Katie Smith takes over the head coaching reins for the first time in her legendary career. Smith will be looking to push the Liberty past a time of early playoff exits and into the final weeks of the WNBA postseason. Smith needs to secure Tina Charles (an unrestricted free agent) as her team’s cornerstone. A healthy Brittany Boyd to run the point could solidify the backcourt with Epiphanny Prince and give the Liberty a foundation for a fresh start.

Connecticut. The Sun’s resolution is to take last year’s surprise – including the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2012 – and turn it into 2018’s standard. Keeping Alyssa Thomas, a restricted free agent, is on top of the to-do list, along with integrating forward Chiney Ogwumike back into a lineup that found its groove last season with Thomas, breakout star Jonquel Jones and point guard Jasmine Thomas.

Washington. The Mystics resolution begins by looking at last year’s success with the nucleus of Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Tolliver, Emma Meesseman and Tayler Hill and taking those players and this franchise to the next level in 2018. Getting Hill back healthy for the new season is a key concern, particularly if Ivory Latta, one of the best perimeter shooters, is enticed to move on via free agency. In fact, good health after a season of crippling injuries is the Mystics’ biggest wish for 2018.

Chicago. The Sky resolve to give their fans a good reason to fill their new downtown Chicago home in 2018. Chicago is moving from Rosemont, where they have played since 2010, to a new downtown Chicago area beginning with the new season. The Sky have more than a new home court. They might be in line for a big makeover with guards Cappie Pondexter, Jessica Breland and Allie Quigley as unrestricted free agent and center Stefanie Dolson as a restricted free agent.

Indiana. Now that Pokey Chatman is the general manager of the Fever, her resolution will be to begin a new playoff streak with this storied WNBA franchise just one year after ending the longest streak of postseason appearances in league history. The key to making that happen will be finding an athletic, dynamic post to accompany Candice Dupree, whose services will need to be secured in free agency, in the frontcourt. It will be interesting to see whether that post comes via the draft or free agency.

Atlanta. Another team with a resolution to start anew in 2018. The hiring of Nikki Collen as the new head coach gives the Dream an opportunity to reboot as a franchise. The Dream is expecting the return of Angel McCoughtry, who took last season off to rest and recuperate after years of year-round play. Atlanta, which missed the playoffs last year for only the third time in the franchise’s 10-year history, is looking to reassert itself again into the championship picture. The Dream’s biggest priority is finding the right plan to capitalize on a core of young, All-Star caliber talent in Layshia Clarendon, Tiffany Hayes and Elizabeth Williams, while bringing McCoughtry back into the fold.