2017 WNBA Preview: Lynx, Sparks in top tier

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 20: Rebekkah Brunson
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 20: Rebekkah Brunson /
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PHOENIX, AZ – MAY 7: Jewell Loyd
PHOENIX, AZ – MAY 7: Jewell Loyd /

They’ll be good, but how good?

Seattle Storm

These teams should be contenders, but we need to see more.

Leading the Seattle Storm are two players in their second and third WNBA seasons. It’s hard to carry a team to the Finals when you’re that new to the league, even when you have the talent Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd have. If everything goes right, Seattle could absolutely win the WNBA title, but that requires significant steps forward from both of their young stars.

Stewart was already a top-ten player last year, so just how much better she can get is unknown. Loyd still needs to improve her consistency and shooting from deep to truly maximize her talents. Seattle will also be banking on newly-acquired Carolyn Swords to turn its below-average defense around, and legendary point guard Sue Bird is now 36 years old and coming off a knee scope.

It’s safe to say Seattle’s going to be a postseason lock, but predicting anything else is pretty much a crapshoot.

Phoenix Mercury

We’ll skip right to the point here: Phoenix has Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner, which is enough to make them quite good. The flip side is this team could not defend at times, finishing ninth in the league in points allowed per possession last season. Sharpshooter Penny Taylor retired, and they’re also short DeWanna Bonner for the season, a rough blow to both ends of the court. The rest of their roster is filled with newcomers that will need to make an impact, five of which are rookies.

But, still, Taurasi and Griner. The former took a step back after returning to WNBA ball in 2016, as her assist numbers and efficiency dropped. Defensively, DT was a sieve. She’s still a top player in this league by means of being an offensive killer and constant deep-ball threat off the pick-and-roll, but with the least amount of talent she has played with in years, Taurasi should look to create easy looks for her teammates more.

Another option is letting Griner dog the paint. As The Summitt’s editor-in-chief Howard Megdal has brought up in the past, we’ve yet to see the defensive terror get a ton of offensive opportunities night in and night out. This could be the year Phoenix is forced to give it a try, and her efficiency on that end would lift the Mercury considerably.