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2019 Season Preview: Dallas Wings

The 2019 WNBA season tips off on May 24. will be previewing every team in the league. See below for a breakdown of the Dallas Wings.

2018 Recap

Record: 15-19; 8th in league standings; Lost to Phoenix in First Round (101-83)

Leaders: Points: Liz Cambage (23.0), Rebounds: Cambage (9.7), Assists: Skylar Diggins-Smith (6.2), Steals: Diggins-Smith (1.4), Blocks: Cambage (1.7), 3-Point Pct: Kayla Thornton (35.5%)

Team Stats: Offensive Rating: 106.0 (5th), Defensive Rating: 104.7 (8th), Net Rating: 1.3 (7th), Rebound Percentage: 53.2 (2nd), True Shooting Percentage: 54.4 (6th), Pace: 81.6 (3rd)

Offseason Moves

Free Agency: Re-signed Glory Johnson, Kayla Thornton and Cayla George; Signed free agents Nicole Seekamp and Brooke McCarty-Williams

Draft: Arike Ogunbowale (No. 5), Megan Gustafson (No. 17), Kennedy Burke (No. 22), Morgan Bertsch (No. 29)

Front Office: Hired Brian Agler as head coach

Trade Request: Liz Cambage informed the Wings of her desire to be traded in January. As of this writing, no deal has been struck, but rumors have swirled for the past few months about where she will land.

Players To Watch

Skylar Diggins-Smith

In addition to being without Cambage following her reported trade request, the Wings will at least open the season without their All-WNBA point guard, as Diggins-Smith recently gave birth to her first child. She did appear at the opening day of Wings’ training camp (where she made the announcement) and will be working her way back to the court. Diggins-Smith is coming off an outstanding season that saw her average 17.9 points (10th in WNBA) and a career-high 6.2 assists (3rd in WNBA).

Azurá Stevens

Cambage’s absence will leave a major hole to fill on the Wings’ frontline. Cambage led the WNBA in scoring last season at 23.0 points per game, while also leading the Wings in rebounds and blocks. It will take a group effort to replace that production, but second-year forward Azurá Stevens should play a major role. Last season, she earned All-Rookie Team honors after averaging 8.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 20.6 minutes per game. Now let’s see what she can do when given a larger role.

Azura Stevens of the Dallas Wings (Tim Heitman/NBAE/Getty Images)

Glory Johnson

Johnson is coming off a season that saw her post career-lows in points (8.0), rebounds (6.0), field goal percentage (41.7%) and minutes (22.5). She started 17 of 29 games for the Wings. With more opportunity available on the Wings frontline, will she return to her 2017 numbers (14.9 points, 9.1 rebounds) before Cambage’s arrival?

Arike Ogunbowale

The Wings added Ogunbowale with the fifth pick in this year’s draft, adding an outstanding scorer at the collegiate level. Ogunbowale averaged 21.8 points during her senior season at Notre Dame, though her attempt to lead the Irish to back-to-back NCAA titles fell just short in the national championship game. The year prior, Ogunbowale hit two of the most famous shots in Women’s Final Four history and proved she is ready, willing and able to take big shots in clutch moments.

Arike Ogunbowale of The Dallas Wings (Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images)

Allisha Gray

The 2017 WNBA Rookie of the Year saw her scoring drop from 13.0 points per game in her first pro season, to 9.2 points per game as a sophomore. But that regression should be more attributed to fewer opportunities, and less about inefficiency. Gray improved her shooting percentage by 2.2% from the field, but attempted 146 fewer shots in 2018 (100-248) than she did in 2017 (150-394). The addition of Cambage last season meant other players – especially starters – had to adjust their games around a star center. While Gray’s shots went down, her assists nearly doubled (2.4 per game). How will Gray’s role adjust this season?

Three Questions

Will Liz Cambage be traded, and if so, when will the deal happen?

The question surrounding Liz Cambage has been a cloud hanging over the Wings organization for most of the offseason. On Jan. 22, Wings President & CEO Greg Bibb today issued the following statement on the situation:

“Liz Cambage has communicated through her representation a desire to play elsewhere in the WNBA during the 2019 season. While Liz is currently under contract with the Dallas Wings, we will work to resolve this issue while keeping the interest of our organization the priority.”

Despite various rumors, no deal has been made official yet. There are two keys surrounding a Cambage trade for the Wings:

    1. What do they get in return? Getting equal value for the MVP runner-up is likely not going to happen, but what will the combination of players and draft picks look like that comes back to Dallas?
    2. How soon can this be resolved? While the Wings don’t want to rush into a deal, getting one done before the season begins has its benefits. It will end the months-long drama surrounding the potential move, and the move itself could reel back in returning players that can begin working with their new coaches and teammates before the season tips off.

Will Skylar Diggins-Smith return this season and if so, when?

Nobody knows the answer to this yet – not even Skylar Diggins-Smith herself. She is just weeks removed from becoming a new mom and has begun working her way back to the court. But as she says in the video below, she is not putting a timeline on when she’ll be ready to suit up and play.

How different will the Wings look under Brian Agler?

Dallas made a coaching change at the tail end of the 2018 season, with the team in a free fall that saw the Wings go from battling for a top four seed in the playoffs, to facing a must-win game just to squeak in as the eight seed. Fred Williams was out and Taj McWilliams-Franklin took over on an interim basis. The Wings snapped their nine-game losing streak and made the postseason, but were bounced from postseason play in the first round by Phoenix.

During the offseason, the Wings hired Brian Agler as head coach shortly after he resigned from the Los Angeles Sparks. During his four years in L.A., the Sparks went 85-51, made the playoffs all four years and won the 2016 WNBA championship. It was the second title for Agler, who led the Seattle Storm to the 2010 WNBA championship. Agler has coached in the WNBA for 12 years and is the only coach to win titles with multiple teams.

A new coach means a new system and a new culture. It will likely take some time for this team to fully come together with the new staff, especially with Diggins-Smith sidelined to start the season and a trade that could potentially add new players into the mix. But Agler has a proven track record of getting the best out of his teams. The Storm won the 2010 title in his third season at the helm. The Sparks won the title in his second season.