WNBA 101: Tale of the Tape
UNCASVILLE, Conn., Sept. 14 -- The match-ups are set in the battle for the WNBA crown; it's Connecticut versus Sacramento, owners of the two best regular season records in the league. Game 1 tips off Wednesday, Sept. 14, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2.
But what about the individual match-ups? How does each team's starter stack against the opposition's counterpart? WNBA.com answers those questions for you and more in our position-by-position preview:
Both starting point guards -- Sacramento's Ticha Penicheiro (5.7 ppg, 4.4 apg during the regular season) and Connecticut's Lindsay Whalen (12.1 ppg, 5.1 apg) are coming off playoff injuries. If the pair is healthy enough to play in The Finals, the nod would go to the rising star Whalen, who is the better scorer of the two and has averaged 16.5 points in the playoffs. Penicheiro is no slouch either; she's the WNBA's all-time assist leader and an effective ball-thief.
As for the backup playmakers, the Monarch's have the edge. Cagey veteran Kara Lawson (8.0 ppg, 1.5 apg), who took on a sixth-man role at two-guard this season to much success, started in Penicheiro's place during the West Finals and is the Monarchs' second leading scorer in the playoffs (12.3 ppg). Conversely, Connecticut backup Jennifer Derevjanik (0.7 ppg, 1.2 apg) has yet to score in the postseason. She's a defensive player and a ball-control guard with less experience.
Advantage: Push. Since it is unknown which players will be in the lineup throughout the Finals, one can't make a determination as to who has the edge.
The Sacramento Monarchs officially start rookie Chelsea Newton (4.4 ppg) at this position, though it's not totally hers. Lawson gets plenty of minutes at that spot off the bench when Penicheiro is healthy, giving the Monarchs a nice tandem at shooting guard.
Connecticut boasts the versatile Katie Douglas (11.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.9 apg), who can defend all three perimeter positions. She's a well-rounded player capable of scoring, rebounding and distributing. Although she struggled with her three-point shooting this season, she's been on fire in the postseason, converting .474 from beyond the arc.
Advantage: Connecticut. Only one player can be out on the floor at the position at a time for the Monarchs and it appears that Lawson will be spending plenty of minutes at the point guard spot.
After a solid, but quiet rookie year in Charlotte, Nicole Powell (10.7 ppg, 3.7) showed she could be a starter in this league in her move to Sacramento this season. The former No. 3 overall pick in the 2004 WNBA Draft led the WNBA in three-pointers made (66) and was ninth in three-point percentage (.415).
Nykesha Sales is a perennial WNBA All-Star and one of the premiere scorers in the league. She's also a prolific shooter and ball thief. Although her overall playoff numbers are nothing spectacular, it's probable she'll breakout during The Finals.
Advantage: Connecticut. It's not a knock on Powell's ability -- Sales would win this matchup with nearly any small forward in the league.
Sacramento's DeMya Walker has taken her game to a whole new level this season. She raised her scoring average from 8.1 points per game to a team-leading 14.2 points despite receiving just 1.2 minutes per game more playing time this year. Walker's also a solid rebounder (5.3 rpg).
Like her teammate Sales, Connecticut's Taj McWilliams-Franklin (13.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg) is a perennial All-Star. She's fourth in scoring among postseason leaders at 17.3 points per game. A physical player, McWilliams-Franklin has 16-pounds on Walker despite giving up two inches to her.
Advantage: Connecticut. This was a close one but McWilliams-Franklin is a more proven player and better rebounder.
One of the household names in the WNBA is Monarchs pivot Yolanda Griffith (13.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 0.91 bpg). Now 35, she's no longer the double-digit rebounder she once was, but she still strikes fear in the hearts and minds of opposing centers. The 1999 WNBA Most Valuable Player gets to the line, collects tips, pushes people around in the paint and has the polish to score off skill moves.
At 7-2, Connecticut center Margo Dydek (7.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.29 bpg) is quite an imposing figure as well. She leads the league in blocked shots on an annual basis, and is the WNBA's all-time leader in that category. The Sun sent first round pick Katie Feenstra to San Antonio in order to land the former Silver Stars center this summer and the move worked out well for Connecticut.
Advantage: Sacramento. Griffith's a far superior scorer than Dydek, and ultimately, the game of basketball is about who scores the most points.
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