2011 WNBA Finals: Five Things to Watch

Oct 2 2011 7:12PM

The 2011 WNBA Finals tip off at 8:30 ET on Sunday in Minnesota. Here are five things to watch for during the championship series.

1. Who’s No. 1

The 2011 WNBA Finals features four No. 1 overall picks in the WNBA Draft, with two per team. The Minnesota Lynx feature 2006 top pick Seimone Augustus as well as 2011 top pick Maya Moore. The Atlanta Dream have 2009 top pick Angel McCoughtry and 2007 No. 1 Lindsey Harding on their squad.

Harding spent her first two seasons of her WNBA career in Minnesota after being acquired in a draft day trade with Phoenix back in 2007. Harding is the first No. 1 pick to be traded on draft day.

Harding is also the only member of this group of No. 1 picks to not win Rookie of the Year, as that honor went to Harding’s current Dream teammate Armintie Price, who was then a member of the Chicago Sky.

2. Elite Scorers Square Off

One of the top matchups to watch during the Finals will be Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus and Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry. Both serve as the primary scoring threat for their respective teams and few in the history of the league have done it better than Seimone and Angel.

A glance at the WNBA’s all-time leaders in scoring average illustrates it beautifully.

PlayerGFGFTPTSPPG
1. Cynthia Cooper1248027582,60121.0
2. Diana Taurasi2611,7661,2285,42320.8
3. Seimone Augustus1641,2685213,20319.5
4. Cappie Pondexter1971,3488183,80319.3
5. Lauren Jackson3082,0561,3735,91519.2
6. Angel McCoughtry1016415141,86318.4

During the regular season, Augustus actually averaged a career-low 16.2 points per game, but still led the Lynx in scoring. This is more of a sign of offensive balance for the Lynx than a sub-par performance by Augustus. In fact, during the Playoffs, Augustus has raised her scoring average to 20.4 points per game.

On the other hand, McCoughtry averaged a career-best 21.6 points per game during the 2011 regular season, as she finished just a fraction of a point behind Taurasi for the league scoring title. During the playoffs, McCoughtry’s scoring dropped off in the first series against Connecticut (14.0 ppg), but rebounded against Indiana (21.3 ppg).

This matchup could produce an amazing scoring duel on a nightly basis during this series.

3. Making Their Point

The point guard matchup features hometown hero Lindsay Whalen of the Lynx and the new kid on the block Lindsey Harding for the Dream.

Whalen was acquired via a trade with Connecticut in January of 2010 as the Lynx sent Renee Montgomery and the No.1 pick in the 2010 Draft to the Sun for Whalen and the No.2 pick. The Sun used that top pick to select Tina Charles, who went on to win Rookie of the Year honors and was the runner up in the MVP voting this year.

But the veteran presence of Whalen has been huge for Minnesota as she has orchestrated the Lynx offense beautifully – keeping a group of talented players happy with their touches and leading the league in assists along the way.

Harding came to Atlanta during this past offseason, so she was not a member of last year’s team that made it to the Finals. But it was the Dream’s performance in last year’s championship series that prompted coach and GM Marynell Meadors to swing a trade that brought in Harding and a second round pick in exchange for backup point guard Coco Miller and the Dream’s 2012 first round pick.

"I wanted to keep our core together," Meadors said of the group that fell in the WNBA Finals to Seattle in an interview with ESPN. "But we knew that we also had to make our point guard position deeper, and be sure that whoever we got for that was going to make some shots. When your point guard really doesn't score a lot, it's 5-on-4, and that's one of the things that hurt us when we played Seattle."

Harding finished her first year in Atlanta as the team’s assist leader (4.8 apg) and third-leading scorer (10.5 ppg) during the regular season and has stepped up in the postseason, averaging 15.2 points and 5.6 assists on the Dream’s road to the Finals.

4. A New Champion

The Minnesota Lynx are playing in their first WNBA Finals, while the Dream are taking their second shot at the title after coming up short against the Storm last year. This guarantees us that we’ll have a first-time winner of the WNBA championship trophy.

The history of the WNBA has been dominated by dynasties, beginning with the Houston Comets winning the first four championships. In total, there have only been six teams to win WNBA titles in the league’s first 14 years.

  • Houston Comets: 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000
  • Los Angeles Sparks: 2001, 2002
  • Detroit Shock: 2003, 2006, 2008
  • Seattle Storm: 2004, 2010
  • Sacramento Monarchs: 2005
  • Phoenix Mercury: 2007, 2009
  • 5. A Woman’s Touch

    In the history of the WNBA, there has only been one female coach to win a WNBA championship – Anne Donovan with the Seattle Storm in 2004.

    That is guaranteed to change this year as Cheryl Reeve and Marynell Meadors vie for their first title as a head coach. This is the first time in 15 years that two female head coaches have met in the WNBA Finals.

    Reeve was an assistant coach with the Detroit Shock when the team won a pair of championships in 2006 and 2008. Meadors is still in search of her first WNBA title in any coaching capacity.

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