2018 Season Preview: Five Reasons To Watch The Atlanta Dream Work

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2017 Record: 12-22, 10th place in league standings, did not qualify for Playoffs

Key Offseason Moves

  • Re-signed Angel McCoughtry, Elizabeth Williams, Damiris Dantas
  • Signed free agents Renee Montgomery and Jessica Breland
  • Selected Monique Billings with No. 15 pick in 2018 WNBA Draft, which was acquired by trading Bria Holmes to Connecticut
  • Named Nicki Collen as head coach and Chris Sienko as general manager

2017 Season Highlights

Atlanta Dream Top 5 Plays from 2017 Season

1. Return of an Angel

After sitting out the 2017 WNBA season, Angel McCoughtry is back in Atlanta and ready to wreak havoc on the league like she did in her first eight seasons in the WNBA. If you need a reminder of how great McCoughtry is, here’s a quick rundown of her WNBA career: No. 1 pick in 2009 Draft, wins Rookie of the Year, a four-time All-Star, a six-time All-WNBA selection, an eight-time All-Defensive team selection, a two-time scoring champion and owner of the record for most points in a playoff game (42) and four of the top seven performances in league history.

McCoughtry is one of the best two-way players in the game and her return lifts Atlanta’s ceiling as soon as she steps on the court.

2. A New Voice

Atlanta’s 12-22 finish in 2017 was its worst mark since the Dream’s inaugural season in 2008 (4-30). In response to the subpar season, the Dream decided to make a coaching change as Michael Cooper was let go after four years at the helm of the team and was replaced by first-time head coach Nicki Collen.

Collen comes to Atlanta after serving as an assistant under Curt Miller in Connecticut in each of the past two seasons. And she didn’t come alone, as former Sun general manager Chris Sienko joined the Dream in the same position.

Collen has said that she wants to run (the Dream ranked 4th in pace last season) and she wants to defend (the Dream ranked 8th in defensive efficiency last season). How quickly the Dream are able to adapt to Collen’s coaching and style of play will be something to watch this season, especially with limited practice time in a condensed season compared to years past.

3. A Bolstered Lineup

McCoughtry wasn’t the only significant player addition by the Dream over the offseason. Atlanta was one of the clear-cut winners in free agency as they landed two highly sought-after players in Renee Montgomery and Jessica Breland.

Montgomery comes to the Dream after playing in Minnesota the past two-and-a-half seasons and winning two titles with the Lynx. The nine-year veteran fills the need for a backup point guard and adds a 3-point threat to a team that finished last in the league in 3-point percentage in 2017. Breland adds depth to the Atlanta frontline, which lost Sancho Lyttle to Phoenix in free agency.

On draft day, the Dream traded Bria Holmes (who will miss the 2018 season due to pregnancy) to Connecticut in exchange for the No. 15 pick in the draft. With that pick, the Dream selected Monique Billings, a 6-4 athletic power forward out of UCLA, who should fit in nicely with Collen’s fast-paced style of play.

4. Finding The Right Mixture of Talent

McCoughtry and the new additions join an already talented roster that makes the Dream a prime candidate for a quick turnaround from last year’s struggles. Consider this: There were four teams that had three players make the 2017 All-Star teams – Minnesota (who went on to the championship), Los Angeles (runner-up), Connecticut (playoff team, 21 wins) and the 12-22 Atlanta Dream. Tiffany Hayes (16.3 PPG), Layshia Clarendon (10.7 PPG, 6.6 APG) and Elizabeth Williams (10.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG) all had great seasons, while Brittney Sykes made a run at Rookie of the Year as the team’s second leading scorer at 13.9 points per game.

There is talent on this roster that is greater than that of your average 12-win team. What will be interesting to watch is how these players from last year’s squad mix with the influx of talent with the newcomers and especially the returning McCoughtry. With McCoughtry out last year, these players had to step into larger roles, take more initiative and take more shots on offense, resulting in career-best seasons and All-Star selections. Finding the right balance with McCoughtry back in the lineup will be a challenge for the players and coaching staff. It is a welcome challenge, but players’ roles will have to change (at least slightly) with her back in the lineup.

5. The Beginning of Decade No. 2

The Dream made their WNBA debut in 2008, and following some early struggles in their inaugural season, the franchise quickly found success. Atlanta has made the playoffs in seven of its first 10 seasons and has three Finals appearances on its resume.

The Dream begin their second decade in the WNBA ready to bounce back from last year’s 12-22 season and get back to the perennial playoff team that they have been for much of their existence. There is new leadership in place and a returning star to help guide them back. How quickly can they turn their fortunes around?