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WNBA Draft 2018 Preview: Seattle Storm

2017 Record: 15-19, No. 8 seed in Playoffs, Eliminated by Mercury in First Round

Key Offseason Moves:

  • Hired Dan Hughes as head coach
  • Acquired Natasha Howard from Minnesota in exchange for 2018 second round pick (17th overall) and right to swap 2019 first round picks
  • Re-signed Sami Whitcomb, Crystal Langhorne and Noelle Quinn
  • Signed Courtney Paris as a free agent
  • Ramu Takashiki announced she will miss 2018 season

Last Year’s Draft Picks:

  • 2nd Round/No. 15 Overall – Alexis Peterson (from Washington)
  • 3rd Round/No. 30 Overall – Lanay Montgomery

This Year’s Draft Picks:

  • 1st Round/No. 5 Overall
  • 3rd Round/No. 29 Overall

2017 Season Highlights:

Seattle Storm Top 5 Plays from 2017 Season

Team Needs/Draft Strategy:

Many saw 2017 as a potential breakout year for the Seattle Storm. Armed with young talent in back-to-back Rookie of the Year winners Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart along with steady veterans like Sue Bird, Crystal Langhorne and Alysha Clark, the Storm looked ready to make a deep playoff run after a first round exit in 2016, which halted a two-year absence.

And after three weeks, those forecasts looked good as the Storm opened the season 5-2, including a four-game winning streak. In what proved to be an up-and-down season, that 5-2 start was the roller coaster inching its way to the top of the track with the precipice fall looming ahead. Over the next two months, the Storm would go just 5-14 with two three-game losing steaks and one four-game losing streak that finally cost head coach Jenny Boucek her job.

Under interim head coach Gary Kloppenburg, the Storm bounced back with the four-game win streak and closed the season 5-3 to sneak into the playoffs as the eighth and final seed. Of course, that meant a tough first round playoff matchup and another early exit, this time at the hands of the Phoenix Mercury.

The offseason brought additional change with the Storm hiring Dan Hughes as its sixth head coach in team history. No coach has more experience (524 games) and only two have more wins (237) in WNBA history than Hughes. And the veteran coach inherits a strong roster with the chance to make it stronger with the fifth pick in a deep WNBA draft next week.

The team already began addressing some of its needs in free agency, with two-time rebounding champ Courtney Paris bought in to help the Storm control the boards (their 47.5% rebound percentage ranked second-to-last in 2017). Natasha Howard comes over via a trade with Minnesota (2018 second round pick, 2019 first round pick swap) to give the Storm an athletic power forward that can rebound, defend and run the floor in transition.

Seattle was already one of the best offensive teams in the league, ranked fourth in offensive efficiency (104.7) and first in effective field goal percentage (53.0%). They have Stewart (19.9, 2nd) and Loyd (17.7, 9th), two of the league’s top scorers, and Sue Bird, one of the best point guards in league history, who set a career-high with 6.6 assists per game in her 15th season in addition to becoming the league’s all-time leader in assists. To make the next step, the Storm must improved defensively (9th in defensive efficiency, 104.7).

With the fifth pick in the draft, the Storm will have the opportunity to acquire a highly-talented player. The only question is who will be the best available player when their pick comes up? Should the Storm consider taking a young point guard like Duke’s Lexie Brown or UCLA’s Jordin Canada to learn from Bird as she puts the finishing touches on her Hall of Fame career? Could there be a UConn reunion for Stewart and one of her former teammates in Gabby Williams or Kia Nurse?

And whichever players the Storm acquire in the draft, will they be able to help make 2018 less of a roller coaster ride and instead push the Storm deeper into the playoffs?