With the WNBA getting ready to tip off tonight, here’s a look at our previews for each team in the Western Conference, and some interviews.
SAN ANTONIO STARS
2014 record: 16-18, 3rd seed in the Western Conference, lost to the Minnesota Lynx 2-0 in the playoffs first round
Additions: Dearica Hamby, Alex Montgomery, Nikki Moody, Toni Young, Sydney Colson, Brittany Chambers, Ashley Paris, Dragana Stankovic
Losses: Becky Hammon, Shenise Johnson, Shameka Christon, Astou Ndour, Heather Butler, Davellyn Whyte
The San Antonio Stars managed to squeeze themselves into the playoffs of the brutal Western Conference, outmatching opponents fire for fire (they were the 4th-best offensive team) during the regular season. But being unable to stop their foes’ offense (Stars ranked second-worst in defensive rating) eventually took its toll as the Stars bowed down to the superior Minnesota Lynx.
The team kept a core that is still competitive enough to contend for another playoffs berth, but with the absence of Becky Hammon to retirement, will the Stars be able to surpass what they’ve accomplished in the previous season?
What Hammon’s absence means
Becky Hammon, now an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, led the Stars to the playoffs in 7 of her 8 seasons with the franchise, including all the way to the finals in 2008.
In the 2014 season she ranked 7th overall in assist rate with a team-best 28.8% even if she only played over 24 minutes per game. She was not the Stars’ premium scoring option (8.33 PPG) but as a seasoned player, she provided the team with ability to create (4.2 assists/game) and efficiency from three-point land (39.8% 3-PT FGs).
Her impact and leadership whether on the court or inside the dugout will surely be missed, and a compelling storyline for the team is which player/s would be her replacement/s this season.
Robinson and McBride’s time?
It would be interesting to see both Danielle Robinson and Kayla McBride playing on a different plane this season following the absence of Hammon. McBride has shown how she can take charge in crucial games; she averaged 22.5 points per game in the West semis against the Lynx last year while shooting almost 60 percent overall.
Robinson is another key component of the Stars’ offense. She led the team in assists and is 9th overall in the league in assist rate (28.4%). She is coming off a championship with USK Prague in the 2015 EuroLeague Women where she scored 24 points in the final.
She should be able to set up her teammates more often this time around while also trying to increase her production. There is no question about the two players’ ability to take charge, but they have do it in more significant volumes without Hammon. This year will be a good acid test for both.
How Dearica Hamby fits
Wake Forest alum Dearica Hamby is a welcome addition for the Stars having an immense potential to become the squad’s premier stretch four for the years to come.
Hamby has a unique combination of size, length, and athleticism at the forward position and the league has been seeing that trend with the likes of Candace Parker and Elena Delle Donne and in the future, Breanna Stewart.
The 6-foot-3 forward runs up and down the floor with ease, can finish strong, and can post up. If she can knock down her long range attempts more consistently while also sucking the defense at the low block, she would be a grat complement to the Stars’ handful of shooters.
In the 2014 season, three members of the Stars were in the league’s top 10 of three-point field goal percentage.
How far can they go?
This is a roster that is definitely there to compete and try to book another playoff berth. It helps that the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury will be dealing with the absence of their superstars, and taking those into consideration, the Stars are poised to catch at least the last bus to the West first round, if not overwhelm observers and take it to the next level.