Kalani Brown, Glory Johnson: ‘Dreamy’ additions to Atlanta’s frontcourt

Washington Mystics v Dallas Wings

In seven seasons with the Tulsa Shock/Dallas Wings, Glory Johnson has amassed career averages of 12 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. | Photo by Tim Heitman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Dream acquired Kalani Brown this week from the Los Angeles Sparks and signed unrestricted free agent Glory Johnson, who played all seven seasons of her WNBA career with the Dallas Wings organization. Both should inject Atlanta with needed offensive energy.

On Thursday, the Atlanta Dream further bolstered their frontcourt by signing unrestricted free agent Glory Johnson, who played all seven years of her WNBA career with the Dallas Wings organization.

Upon announcement of her addition, Atlanta head coach Nicki Collen emphasized the attractiveness of Johnson’s expanding game:

She came into this league as an incredible athlete who scored mainly around the basketball but has added a consistent 3-point shot. Her ability to rebound, handle the ball, and defend multiple positions gives us a versatile weapon to utilize in a variety of fun ways.

If Johnson can unleash her exciting skill set consistently, the Dream’s offense should escape ineptitude in 2020.

The Dream struggled with the most basic objective of basketball — scoring the ball. In particular, scoring points in the paint was a challenge, as only 37.4 percent of their average of 71.2 points per game came inside. These stats are not entirely unsurprising: The Dream’s primary bigs, Elizabeth Williams and Jessica Breland, are defense-first players and neither is equipped to be more than a complementary offensive option.

Before the 2019 season, the Dream sought to make their big rotation more offensively dynamic by acquiring Marie Gülich from the Phoenix Mercury to serve as a stretch big. Yet, Gülich’s shot eluded her in Atlanta. The Dream thus entered the offseason still searching for a big who could be an offensive force.

On the first day of the free agency signing period, Atlanta addressed one of its biggest needs by trading for Kalani Brown, the national champion Baylor Lady Bear who was the seventh pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks.

Brown, like Johnson, brings exactly what the Dream need.

On a Los Angeles squad teeming with bigs, Brown did not receive consistent opportunity during her rookie season but flashed her offensive potential anyway, despite limited minutes. At 6’7’’, Brown possesses the size needed to play with power in the paint, and her quickness and soft touch on her jumper make her a multidimensional offensive threat. Brown can score from the midrange, and, possibly, from behind the arc.

In a statement, Dream head coach Nicki Collen shared her enthusiasm for Brown’s diverse skill set, stating:

While Kalani’s size is important on the boards and around the rim, she also has the ability to consistently step outside the lane and hit the face-up shot. In a league full of exceptional centers, we believe we have added a player who has all the tools to be very successful in our system.

Brown turned in one of her best games of her rookie season against the Dream last year — allowing Collen to see Brown’s potential up close. Brown scored 12 points in 20 minutes on 6-of-10 shooting in that game. Brown showed similar offensive efficiency in the WNBA offseason. Before the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association paused the season due to the Coronavirus outbreak, Brown was averaging 24.8 points per game for the Xinjiang Magic Deer on 67.8 percent shooting.

With Brown and Johnson joining Breland and Williams, plus Monique Billings, Collen has a versatile rotation of bigs to work with. Most intriguingly for Atlanta, though, is Johnson’s transformation into a stretch big last season. She took a career-high 3.7 attempts from 3-point range per game, converting them at a career-high 34-percent rate. Additional evidence of Johnson’s shift from the paint to the perimeter: She scored 51 percent of her points from behind the arc and 24.5 percent in the paint for the Wings in 2019. In 2018, only 21.9 percent of her points came from 3-pointers and 42.9 percent were scored in the paint.

Atlanta is sending Gülich, along with Brittany Sykes, to the Sparks in exchange for Brown.