One of the biggest misnomers in sports is that basketball as a whole is over once the NBA Finals conclude. If you subscribe to that theory, hopefully you’ll understand why it’s false by the end of this column.
A little bit of backstory here: I first fell in love with the WNBA a few years ago when I was assigned to create highlights for regular season games and a few postseason games. Watching all that film meant I became enamored with the game of Maya Moore and the sheer dominance Minnesota Lynx pretty quickly.
Sure, some might say that it’s convenient to love this team, considering that they’re the most accomplished squad in the WNBA. The Lynx have won four out of the last seven WNBA titles, boast two players (Moore and Sylvia Fowles) who have MVP trophies, and have not won fewer than 25 games in more than four years.
They’ve been so dominant that it stands to wonder why they haven’t been covered more and talked about as one of the greatest basketball dynasties. They deserve to get more praise in the middle of the August, when the primary basketball topic of discussion is some sort of Twitter beef involving two NBA players or something stupid. WNBA players deserve better and have for many years, and “Get The W” is going to be about more of that, highlighting the simple fact that the WNBA is great.
So about the Lynx…
I started this by waxing poetically about the Lynx being one of the premier organizations in sports and they’re currently sitting at 2-5 to start the season. Granted, two of the losses are on buzzer-beaters in which credit must be paid to Angel McCoughtry and Chelsea Gray for hitting big shots in the waning moments of a game.
That said, Moore is averaging 17.4 points per game, which is just below her career average, and Fowles is slowly coming back from an ankle injury. Is it too soon to panic about this team? Yes, but it’s not too soon to at least raise an eyebrow to a slow start, and due to the league’s 34-game schedule, that could play a huge factor in seeding come playoff time.
There’s something brewing in Washington
When discussing the Washington Mystics, it would make sense to think the focus would be on Elena Delle Donne. Somewhat surprisingly, that has not been the case.
Kristi Toliver has been one of the better complimentary players in the WNBA, particularly out in Los Angeles for the Sparks. Thus far, she’s achieving career highs in every statistic, especially from beyond the arc, where she’s connecting at a 40.9 percent clip on 5.5 threes a game. The Mystics will take all the scoring they can get as Delle Donne has been sidelined with an illness.
But as previously mentioned, it hasn’t been just the career resurgence of Toliver carrying the Mystics. Ariel Atkins, the No. 7 pick from the 2018 WNBA Draft, has shown up in a major way, providing essential scoring for the Mystics and quickly adjusting to the pro game. The crazy part is that Atkins wasn’t even invited to the draft, and now, she is proving to be a dangerous shooter, hitting 44.7 percent of her attempts from behind the arc.
The team seems to be hitting an early groove that, maybe, they can carry into the postseason. Plus Delle Donne’s eventual return makes this one of the candidates to prevent either the Sparks or the Lynx from reaching the Finals.
A’ja Wilson leads a loaded rookie class
Being a number one overall pick will place some heavy burdens upon a player. For A’ja Wilson, the burden has been especially heavy considering she’s now the face of a brand new franchise out in Las Vegas.
That said, she’s handling the pressure well, as Wilson finds herself among the top ten players league-wide in scoring, with her name in the same ledger as players like as Tina Charles, Breanna Stewart, Nneka Oguwmike and Skylar Diggins-Smith. Like every rookie, Wilson hasn’t been perfect, but she’s still been outstanding and is as close to a sure thing as you’ll find.
Take a look at the footwork she displays in getting to the basket in the clip above. Wilson beat her defender to the spot and sealed her off with her off hand, all while pulling the ball towards the rim. Any forward worth their salt has that move in their repertoire, but usually it takes a lot of time and practice to master. The fact that she has it this early should cause nightmares for the rest of the league.
The coolest thing I saw this week
I know that I’ve shouted out Moore and the Lynx, but I had to praise this. Around the start of the season, Jordan Brand decided to recreate the iconic “Wings” poster of Michael Jordan with Moore. So in one of the best ways to grow the WNBA, we saw a young girl with Moore recreating the poster a second time for one of the coolest sports photos you’ll see this year.
Perhaps this is a trend, and soon, we’ll see other WNBA stars recreate or (even better) be at the center of new, iconic moments that play a major role in growing the game. I can’t wait to see what comes next.