WNBA Pick One Challenge: 2009 Season Preview

by Matthew Brennan, WNBA.com

June 4, 2009

Pick One Player Per Day, Per Season

Welcome to a new season of the WNBA Pick One Challenge where we will be picking one WNBA player per day and totaling their points, rebounds, and assists. The entry that finishes with the highest total at the end of the season will win two authentic WNBA jerseys, including one signed by a player of your choice. There are several different ways that you can take part in the game, either by taking on the rest of the entries, starting a league with your friends, or taking on my picks in the "Beat The Guru" league. To join my league just search for "Beat The Guru" at this page.

This season's WNBA schedule features 79 days with at least one game between June and September, so you will be selecting 79 different players. That will make the game more challenging than last season, when there were only 73 days of games.

Rookies Double Up

The most crucial rule to know about the Pick One Challenge is that all rookies will be credited with double points. For example, if you pick Atlanta's Angel McCoughtry on opening day against Indiana and she scores 20 points with 10 rebounds and five assists, your entry will receive a total of 70 points. McCoughtry, Washington's Marissa Coleman, and Minnesota's Renee Montgomery are expected to be the top rookies this season (at least according to the WNBA.com GM Survey), but you can be sure that several other rookies will emerge this season as valuable choices in the Pick One Challenge.

WNBA.com Daily Expert Pick
Saturday, June 6

Tina Thompson
Detroit at Los Angeles (ABC)
Sunday, June 7

Janel McCarville
New York vs. Connecticut
This Weekend's Picks

The season gets underway on Saturday highlighted by an ABC game featuring the Los Angeles Sparks hostin the defending champion Detroit Shock. My selection is Tina Thompson, who should be in line for a big game while she makes her Sparks debut and joins college and Team USA teammate Lisa Leslie in purple and gold. This game will air on ABC at 2:30 p.m. ET from STAPLES Center.

The choice for Sunday is New York's Janel McCarville, who will lead the Liberty in their season opener against the Connecticut Sun at Madison Square Garden. McCarville, after earning Most Improved Player honors in 2007, went on to set new career highs in points, rebounds, and assists in 2008 and should take another step forward this year for a Liberty team that will be looking for a trip to the Finals.

Last Season's Top Ten

The top ten returning players in combined average points, assists, and rebounds are listed here along with their outlook for 2009. All of these players should be the ones to choose when you are looking for an almost guaranteed boost in your points total. Please note that Candace Parker, who was ranked second in the 2008 season, will miss at least the first few weeks of the season after the birth of her first child on May 13.

1. Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
PRA: 32.7 (24.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.6 apg)
Diana Taurasi set the pace for all WNBA players last season in PRA (points+rebounds+assists) and ran away with the league scoring title with 24.1 points per game. Expect more of the same this season from one of the most prolific scorers in WNBA history. Taurasi is also one of the most durable players in the WNBA so you can always expect to see her in the starting lineup for the Mercury.

2. Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks
PRA: 30.2 (16.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 4.7 apg)
Candace Parker dominated the WNBA last season as a rookie, taking both the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards and leading the league with 9.8 rebounds. Parker will return at some point this season, but it is to be seen how long it will take her to get back to last year's production. Once she does she should be the best player in the league for the next decade. Also keep in mind that Parker is not a rookie anymore so you will no longer receive double points for selecting her. If you picked on a few select dates last season you might have been able to add over 100 points to your scoring total.

3. Cappie Pondexter, Phoenix Mercury
PRA: 29.2 (21.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.2 apg)
The second half of Phoenix's dynamic duo, Cappie Pondexter enjoyed another great season in Phoenix, posting career highs in her third WNBA campaign. After scoring 21.2 points in 2008, don't be surprised if Pondexter can increase her scoring as Phoenix looks to get back to the playoffs. Like her teammate Taurasi, she also rarely misses a game, sitting out only two last season.

4. Lauren Jackson, Seattle Storm
PRA: 28.5 (20.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.2 apg)
Lauren Jackson missed a lot of time last season as she prepared for the 2008 Olympics and battled an ankle injury, playing in only 21 games for Seattle. Due to the injury, her numbers were down a bit from 2007, when she led all WNBA players in PRA and recorded the best season of her career. Although her 2008 numbers would be a career season for most players, I'm expecting a return to her 2007 form after choosing to resign with Seattle in the offseason. Don't be surprised if a healthy Jackson tops the Pick One rankings by the time this season ends.

5. Tina Thompson, Los Angeles Sparks
PRA: 27.2 (18.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.2 apg)
Tina Thompson takes a new path in her Hall of Fame career as she moves to Los Angeles to join a Sparks team that is considered the preseason favorite for the title. I think Thompson will have a good season and Los Angeles will be the team to beat, but her numbers might take a dip in 2009 as she moves from a Houston team where she was offensive option number one, two, and three and the only player to average double-figure scoring. There won't be as many shots to go around in Los Angeles with Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker on the court so Thompson might not score as much, although it won't be due to a decline in her skills. Of course she is still likely to have plenty of big games this year as she looks for another WNBA title.

6. Candice Dupree, Chicago Sky
PRA: 26.4 (16.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.3 apg)
Plain and simple, Candice Dupree is the franchise player in Chicago and one of the WNBA's best young players. Her numbers in 2008 were very similar to her 2007 stats, but I think she can take a leap forward in her fourth season while she looks to lead Chicago to the playoffs for the first time in team history. A full season of a healthy Sylvia Fowles to draw attention from defenses can only help Dupree's production.

7. Lisa Leslie, Los Angeles Sparks
PRA: 26.4 (15.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.4 apg)
Lisa Leslie returned to action in 2008 after missing the 2007 season due to pregnancy, and she had an excellent season but posted the lowest scoring average of her career with 15.2 points, which was as much due to the presence of Candace Parker shouldering more of the scoring load than anything else. Despite the lower scoring, Leslie is still one of the league's top players and should pile up the double-doubles again this season. Leslie will retire from the WNBA after this season so this will be your last chance to see her in action with the Sparks.

8. Seimone Augustus, Minnesota Lynx
PRA: 25.6 (19.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.7 apg)
Quick trivia question... who is the WNBA's all-time career leader in points per game? It's Seimone Augustus, who has scored 21.3 points per game in her career, edging Cynthia Cooper (21.0) Her numbers have been pretty consistent over the first three seasons of her career, as the former LSU star is usually good for around 21 points, four rebounds, and four assists during a game. This could be the most talented Lynx team since she has arrived in Minnesota and I'm looking for Augustus to pick up the pace as she enters the prime of her career. I think she could challenge Taurasi as the WNBA's leading scorer this season.

9. Asjha Jones, Connecticut Sun
PRA: 25.5 (17.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.5 apg)
Asjha Jones had a career year in 2008, her seventh WNBA season but only her second as a full-time starter with the Sun. Jones scored a season high 17.0 points last season with the Sun and there is no reason why she won't be able to match those numbers again. She is in the middle of her prime and will team with a healthy Lindsay Whalen as the Sun try to maintain their status as an Eastern Conference power after losing in the first-round of the 2008 playoffs.

10. Sophia Young, San Antonio Silver Stars
PRA: 25.4 (17.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.3 apg)
2006 was a pretty good year to have a high draft choice, as Sophia Young is the fourth player from that class to finish in the top ten in PRA in 2008 after Pondexter, Dupree, and Augustus. Young enjoyed the best season of her young career in scoring (17.5) points and assists (2.3), although she hasn't matched her rookie season mark of 7.6 rebounds over the past two years. I'm expecting a leap forward from Young this season as she takes on an even bigger role for a San Antonio team mostly comprised of veterans who can't be expected to maintain their production forever.