Silver Stars 2012 Preview
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Isn't everything supposed to be bigger in Texas?
On the perimeter, SanAntonio is one of the most talented and versatile teams in the WNBA, and that is only enhanced by the selection of do-it-all guard Shenise Johnson with the No. 5 pick in the draft. In the paint, however, San Antonio comes up a little short.
The Silver Stars were outrebounded by a league-worst 5.7 rebounds per game in 2011, a margin 2.5 rebounds greater than the next worst team. San Antonio's leading rebounder last year was 6-foot-1 Sophia Young, who averaged 6.4 per game, so adding rebounding help, otherwise known as size, is an area that the team has tried to address in the offseason, despite losing last year's starting center in 6-foot-5 Ruth Riley.
"With length, if you're doing that at several positions, it has the ability to maybe impact rebounding," San Antonio Head Coach Dan Hughes said. "It's been a common theme in free agency."
As a result, the Silver Stars added 6-foot-3 veteran center Tangela Smith, 6-foot-4 rookie center Ziomara Morrison and Shameka Christon, who has valued size at 6-foot-1 for the small forward position. The addition of these bodies is key because San Antonio's lack of depth showed in 2011 as it really struggled when Danielle Adams, the teams best post player despite only playing 21 minutes a game off the bench, missed several games due to injury.
The biggest acquisition of the offseason will be Smith, the versatile 14-year veteran that is seventh in WNBA history in career rebounds. Her impact, however, will be more than just on the glass.
"When you analyze what happened, we lost a lot of close games in the middle because we couldn't spread the floor from the post position and Tangela is great at that," Hughes said. "Tangela gives us another big that can really stretch the floor whether I'm playing her at the 3 or 4 or whatever I'm playing her at. She's a post player that stretches the floor and she's also a shot maker and you can always, always benefit by having a shot maker like Tangela."
Smith, in 2007 and 2009, was a major contributor on the championship squads in Phoenix. Once again, like with those teams, Smith will be surrounded by a stacked backcourt.
Becky Hammon leads San Antonio's group of guards. In perhaps her best season yet in the WNBA, Hammon finished 2011 averaging 15.9 points and a career-high 5.8 assists. Her supporting cast is no letdown. Guards Jia Perkins and Danielle Robinson combined for 18.2 points and 5.3 assists per game last year. Perkins is the more compete player and can stretch the floor 3-point range, but Robinson is also an efficient scorer, shooting 46 percent from the field.
The addition of the rookie Johnson, though, is what makes this backcourt foursome truly elite. The Miami product has as much upside as any player in the 2012 draft and her proficiency in piling up points, rebounds, assists and steals will be a big an X-factor for the Silver Stars.
Lastly, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention Young again, the team's most well-rounded player. From scoring to rebounding to defense, Young can do it all. She is the glue between the potent group of guards and the reworked frontcourt, and her play has the potential to elevate this team that finished fourth in the crowded West to a higher Playoff seed.
PLAYER TO WATCH
While much of San Antonio's energies have been focused on bringing in extra size externally, it could receive its biggest boost from an internal source.
Jayne Appel, who the team selected with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2010 draft, is entering her third year in the WNBA and this could be a breakout year for the 6-foot-5 center. After averaging 3.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in just under 15 minutes last season, Appel's role will likely increase in 2012.
"This is an important year for Jayne because a year ago she really split time with Ruth Riley and with Ruth signing in Chicago it gives Jayne more opportunity, I think, to grow," Hughes said. "It's also the first year where she's been able to play overseas in the offseason and have that experience going into our season. So, it's an important year for her. I think we've seen pieces of Jayne, my hope is this year we see the whole package kind of grow."