Heading into the 2015 WNBA Playoffs presented by Boost Mobile, the title is as up for grabs as ever. Each of the eight contenders can state their case for why they will take home the trophy come October. With that in mind, WNBA.com is profiling all eight one-by-one as the Sept. 17 tip-off approaches.
It seems like more than 10 weeks ago when the Tulsa Shock were the league’s hot, up-and-coming team, sitting atop the Western Conference at 8-1.
That portion of the Shock’s season ended when star Skylar Diggins tore her ACL; they soon proceeded to lose 10 straight games. But they’ve picked themselves back up and enter the playoffs having won eight of 10 to cap a roller-coaster of a regular season.
Here are three reasons why Tulsa will win the 2015 WNBA title:
They are — or could be — a team of destiny.
One of the oldest cliches in sports certainly applies to the 2015 Shock. Their season could have easily derailed following the devastating Diggins injury, but instead they rallied together, riding a new star in second-year guard Odyssey Sims and valuable role players like Plenette Pierson and Riquna Williams.
The announcement that the team will be relocating to Dallas-Fort Worth next season came on July 23 — in the middle of the 10-game losing skid. Rebounding to make the playoffs for the first time since their move to Tulsa in 2010 showcased a grit that could help the Shock write an underdog story against the league’s power teams in these playoffs.
Odyssey Sims and Riquna Williams form a backcourt that presents a difficult matchup for any opponent. Most teams have one play-maker who thrives with the ball in her hands and can create offense off the dribble; Tulsa has two of them.
In fact, their season numbers are nearly identical — 16.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists for Sims and 15.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists for Williams. Sims is more of a slasher and distributor while Williams is the better shooter, but combined they have the ability to lift the team on their backs in a three- or five-game series.
How does a team with the second-worst shooting percentage in the league (39.5% FG) finish with the second-best offensive rating (103.9 points per 100 possessions)? The Shock are a unique squad thanks to Sims’ and Williams’ relentless attacking of the rim and Courtney Paris’ and Karima Christmas’ relentless rebounding.
They attempted a league-high 785 free throws in 34 games — 58 more free throws than any other team — with Williams, Sims and Christmas finishing fourth, sixth and eighth, respectively, in individual free throw attempts. They also grabbed a league-high 11.6 offensive rebounds per game, with Paris leading the league in rebounding (9.3 per game) for the second straight year.
It’s that type of extra effort that makes the Shock dangerous. Pierson, a 13-year veteran and first-time All-Star who won two titles with the Detroit Shock, is the glue that holds them together.