I could have done the longer statistical season preview for the Atlanta Dream, but ultimately it would have rehashed the same three things that we’ve already discussed previously,
I do believe statistics can help you put a team’s potential in perspective, but the Dream’s season is going to be far more about the following intangibles that we have already laid out in detail elsewhere (and will be obvious to those of you who follow the league closely anyway.
You can just click the links to see our previous articles on each point.
Since the beginning of their existence, the Atlanta Dream have been searching for a reliable starting point guard that coach Marynell Meadors could rely upon.
It began with Kristin Haynie and Ivory Latta, then Latta and Shalee Lehning, then Lehning, Coco Miller and Nikki Teasley, then Coco Miller leading them to the 2010 WNBA Finals, then finally came Lindsey Harding who looked to be the answer they’d ride into the future.
Then she left for the Sparks this season, leaving new coach Fred Williams at square one with his point guard situation.
Having released Ketia Swanier this offseason, the Dream will be one of a surprising number of teams this season not to return any of their point guards from last season. And like a few other teams, they decided to fill one spot in that point guard rotation with a rookie, which has been a tough thing to do in the league over the last few years.
Alex Bentley is one of the more intriguing players of a talented 2013 point guard class: she wasn’t an especially efficient point guard at Penn State, but has tendencies very similar to those that Danielle Robinson did as a prospect which might help negate some of that inefficiency in projecting her future value. The hope would be that on a team where point guards don’t necessarily have to be playmakers – though Harding’s playmaking was a major part of what got this team to the 2011 WNBA Finals – Bentley can fill the spot and use her quickness to keep defenses off-balance, while not hurting the team with turnovers.
Interestingly enough, their other point guard option is Jasmine Thomas who had similar college tendencies – inefficient scoring point guard – and struggled to contribute efficiently in two years with the Washington Mystics. But regardless of numbers it’s clear what these two bring to the table: speed and, especially in Bentley’s case, quickness in the passing lanes.
Their other find in the draft – Anne Marie Armstrong – is quite possibly the most surprising player to make a roster this offseason, but listed at 6-foot-3 she adds size on the wing that can never really hurt a team. The bigger surprise: Courtney Clements making a roster after going undrafted. She was a volume scorer at San Diego State who defied the odds a bit by making a roster with a 43.6% 2-point percentage, but – again – listed at 6 feet she brings size to the guard spot.
James Bowman summed it up well in his post about star Angel McCoughtry re-signing with the team:
“If Lindsey Harding was irreplaceable, then Angel McCoughtry was superirreplacable.”
You always hate to say that the fortunes of a team playing a five-on-five sport depend on one player, but in the Dream’s case it’s just unavoidable: with McCoughtry on the floor, it’s impossible to count them out of the playoff picture. Without her – and Harding – that would have been a lot more uncertain.
Statistically, this team’s identity is actually more about rebounding and with Erika de Souza, Yelena Leuchanka, and Sancho Lyttle missing time last season in addition to losing the rebounding presence of Alison Bales and Courtney Paris, the Dream took a step back in that area last season. But they also had just 24 games from McCoughtry.
If they can put that core of de Souza, Lyttle, and McCoughtry on the floor together for a majority of their games, they’ll be a tough team to contend with. If McCoughtry puts up the type of numbers she had either of the last two seasons – efficient scoring and strong rebounding at that high usage rate, they might even surprise some people again.
There just isn’t really an answer for McCoughtry in the league right now and if they get a season of her while focused and scoring efficiently it could significantly shape the Eastern Conference standings.
The Dream can go as far as McCoughtry takes them, but she’ll need support from that young and unproven backcourt rotation which could make things a little rocky.
For more on the Dream, check out our offseason storystream.