2017 WNBA Preview: San Antonio Stars, let’s get small

2017 may live on forever as the year that “Let’s Get Small” no longer merely conjured up memories of the epic comedy album by Steve Martin.

That’s because the San Antonio Stars are embarking on a journey into the world of the giants, armed with a trio of guards capable of creating havoc on the offensive end, Gulliver’s Travels-style.

What it will mean on the defensive end, and how this tradeoff affects the remainder of the lineup and new coach Vickie Johnson’s rotation, will determine whether this is the season San Antonio breaks back into double digits in the win column.

And so a team that already employed Moriah Jefferson and Kayla McBride drafted Kelsey Plum with the top overall pick, much to the consternation of Plum’s agent. Training camps are truncated in the WNBA anyhow, and Jefferson and Plum have yet to play together at all, with Jefferson arriving earlier this week from her overseas commitments, and Plum nursing an ankle injury that isn’t serious, but enough to keep her out since May 4.

SAN ANTONIO, TX – APRIL 29: Kelsey Plum

Rookie general manager Ruth Riley has insisted that the focus on positions is overblown, and she has a supporter in longtime positionless basketball advocate and Washington Mystics coach Mike Thibault.

“I think the clear decision for them was regardless of everything else that Kelsey was the best player in the draft, so you take the best player and you try to figure it out,” Thibault told The Summitt during a conference call Thursday. “I don’t think you can ever have enough good guards in this league.”

The Stars certainly have good guards. Jefferson, as a rookie, finished in the league’s top ten in both assist percentage and steal percentage while making 37.5 percent of her threes. That’s a combination of skills few point guards can boast of, and one WNBA talent evaluator rates her as easily a top 15 WNBA player already.

INDIANAPOLIS – JULY 1: Kayla McBride

Then there’s McBride, who saw her season cut short, but like Jefferson has only impressed since the Stars took her as a lottery pick back in 2014.

They’ll be joined by Plum, who didn’t simply dominate as a ball-dominant guard with Washington, but did so with incredible efficiency, falling just a handful of free throws short of a 50-40-90 season as a senior.

It is worth noting that while Plum did control the action in college, she was deadly as a spot up shooter (1.42 points per possession, per Synergy) and off cuts (1.60 points per possession, per Synergy), suggesting that her skills will translate when Jefferson has the ball. Those happen to be two strengths for Jefferson as well, who played in a Connecticut system where nobody dominated the ball.

The trio will have plenty of help this year as well. Kayla Alexander’s emergence was revelatory last season for the Stars, with the 6’5 post improving her field goal percentage from 41.6 percent in 2015 to 54.6 percent in 2016. Monique Currie returns to provide a broad base of skills at the three, and she’ll be joined there by rookie Nia Coffey, who is ready to defend WNBA wings on day one in the league.

[More at The Summitt: Kayla Alexander: Post presence, artist]

Dearica Hamby is also back after missing the end of the 2016 season due to pregnancy, where her strong work on the glass, particularly defensively, will be vital. Erika de Souza, the Brazilian veteran, is also around, hoping to turn back time and relive her elite seasons in Atlanta.

But the bold experiment, turning the slowest team in last season’s WNBA over to a trio of rabbits, will be appointment viewing this season, to say nothing of the continued development of all three as individual talents.

Will it work? Well, that’s part of the fun.