The Summitt Slack Summit: The Lynx, the Sparks, and everyone else

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14: Guard Alana Beard
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14: Guard Alana Beard /

Every Monday, The Summitt staff takes a few minutes to talk about the latest happenings from around the WNBA. Below, you’ll find the transcript of our discussion, which took place in our Slack room this morning.

Howard Megdal: Welcome to the latest edition of The Summitt Summit

None of us have the right to be tired, I just realized, talking to Glory Johnson, a WNBA player and mother of twins

But this week of WNBA action has me energized anyway.

Place I’d like to start

With @splitthepost who was live for Sparks/Mystics Sunday in LA

Ben, what do you think we learned about these two teams?

Ben Dull: My lone thought on the Mystics has been to wait things out. Meesseman just got back. Their group needs time to mesh. Thibault has talked defense a lot, but I think they’re pretty solid there. As seen in yesterday’s second half, they need time to get all their talented players humming along together

Howard: That makes sense, is that your sense as well @lindsay? I know you saw their least impressive offensive game Thursday in DC against the Liberty.

Lindsay Gibbs: Yeah — they are not at all consistent yet, particularly on the offensive end. They have now followed up 97 and 100-point outings with their two worst offensive games of the season.

Obviously, Meesseman is going to need a bit of time. Coming back from such an emotional Euros just to land in the States and immediately embark on the biggest road stretch of the season is rough.

More from Connecticut Sun

Howard: It’s really interesting—I’d say it is worth noting they did so against the Liberty and Sparks, a pair of excellent defensive teams, but I agree, it feels like your cited factors are the bigger reason

Lindsay: But my biggest takeaway has been Tayler HIll’s struggles. She was carrying her load well until the last two games — the Mystics really need to be able to count on at least 15 points from her each game. Hopefully this is just a brief slump — or else perhaps I am the curse!

Howard: A fear we’ve all experienced at one time or another.

Ben, on the Sparks, the biggest difference statistically over early on this season, when they were merely treading water, is the defensive return to last year

What have you seen out of them defensively that’s responsible for it, in your opinion? Alana Beard is a constant, so I’m wondering what changed?

LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 13: Alana Beard
LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 13: Alana Beard /

Ben: Yeah, Beard essentially took Toliver out of the game yesterday. Their guards all apply a lot of ball pressure. They all just look more comfortable in doing that. And both Parker and Ogwumike are looking like all defense locks in all they do to protect the hoop.

Seeing Parker really get down in a stance and square up Delle Donne in the second half was awesome to see. Definitely swung the game with that charge she drew

Howard: Totally. Now the big question is the showdown on July 6: Lynx and Sparks. Curious about this to all of you: does this feel like the 50-50 ball it was last year, both regular season and in the playoffs? Have the Sparks ascended that high lately? Or is Minnesota the favorite?

Blake DuDonis: Minnesota still has to be he favorite in my opinion. LA looks great, but I feel like the buzz around the Lynx has died down simply because people got bored/use to the dominance

The Sparks on their hot streak is new so it’s all the rage in convo, but Minnesota still has only lost one game last time I checked.

Lindsay: Yeah, I don’t see them really challenging the Lynx right now, even the Sparks.

Mike Peden: The Lynx got through one litmus test with the Mercury over the weekend

Howard: That one was fascinating imo Mike.

Brittney Griner is making a huge leap forward, and it’s like it gets lost in the shadow of Sylvia Fowles having maybe the best season ever by a true 5.

Ben: I see both alone in that top tier. LA’s guard depth is huge for them and in general they have the most options of anybody in matching up with MIN’s stars.

Mike: But I agree that because Minnesota has dominated for so long, seeing them still at the top isn’t much of a surprise. I want to see how the Sparks respond to the Lynx’s increased reliance on three-pointers.

LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 21: Rebekkah Brunson
LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 21: Rebekkah Brunson /

Howard: Right: so we talked about this a bit, that the Brunson move to the perimeter creates matchup problems for every team in the league

How do you attack that if you’re LA? IF anyone can, it’s LA, especially with Brian Agler coaching

Mike: Likewise, Alana Beard gave the Lynx guards fits last year, so how will they respond to her defensive prowess?

Howard: Because you obviously have to double Syl

Well, that’s the thing, right? Alana can take someone out

But not everyone

Blake: Unless they feel like Oguwmike can handle Syl?

Howard: So she can decide she’s going to blanket Lindsay Whalen

Then Seimone is guarded by, say, Sims or Wiese

Well that’s the choice, right?

Nneka guards Syl single coverage, so Candace Parker is guarding Maya

And then who is on Brunson?

You send Lavender out?

Blake: It is. All the “analytics don’t matter” might jump on me, but I would much rather force Minnesota to try and beat me with 2’s than 3’s.

Ben: Maybe we don’t see it in a reg season game, but I don’t think 3s would be LA’s primary concern. Moore is the only one shooting those at a high volume.

Howard: To be fair, Blake, feels like Seattle tried to do that. And no, none of their bigs are Nneka, but Syl had, and I believe I have this right, 3781 points in the first half against the Storm

Agree to an extent, Ben, but Minn is taking many more of them than last year, when it was a toss-up. But it’s also a question of spacing. That’s the bigger issue.

Blake: That’s how I remember it.

Also, LA allows their opponents to score the 2nd most points in the league from three.

Howard: Like these choices are a big deal regardless of whether shots ultimately found are twos or threes because Brunson forces new options on defenses.

Blake: Not a good sign

Howard: And one you can be sure Cheryl Reeve sees.

Mike: Blake makes a good point. Minnesota is favoring the three more often, but Los Angeles may want to consider testing just how effective they are.

Connecticut won in part because they didn’t let Syl explode, and Phoenix hung with Minnesota by doing the same thing with Griner and Syl as a check on each other

Howard: Totally. Brunson beating you from corner three is possible, but Syl beating you single covered at the hoop feels inevitable.

Lindsay: yeah, that seems like the best option

Mike: Not like 17 and 8 is a bad stat line, haha

Howard: Seriously

Mike: But when it comes to depth, that’s where Minnesota has the edge.

Blake: They are so good. I mean, duh, but when you really try to dissect them it’s just… man. Good luck.


Just kidding.

Howard: LOL

Ben: Everyone in LA’s top 8 moves their feet well. I buy that they can double and rotate when they need to. We can’t fail to mention that the Sparks are just as hard to guard. At the end of the day who makes shots?

Howard: It’s a great point, Ben, though no shortage of options to do so.

Nneka is down slightly from her most efficient shooting season in the history of the league, but still among the league’s best

Mike: That’s why it appears the best bet for the Sparks is keeping an eye on Syl. If she breaks free even for a moment, there’s a high-percentage shot to be had.

Howard: And note who made several key shots late against Washington: Alana Beard. Low-key one of the most valuable players in this league.

Mike: Shooting 60.8 percent right now, Alana Beard is

Ben: And if we’re talking players shooting more 3s, Nneka need to be mentioned, and Fowles is going to need to guard 20+ ft from the hoop most of the time these teams meet

Lindsay: wow

Howard: Unbelievable. And getting to the line a ton, too.

I mean, Brunson needs to be defending Nneka, I feel like

Mike: That would put Beard in second place on the league leader board if she qualified, I might add

Howard: With Syl at the rim and Maya chasing Parker

Blake: So ridiculous. Minn and LA are clearly in a league of their own, so it’s probably unfair of me to say this, but I need to see LA perform well against the Lynx to be a true believer

Howard: It feels like that’s what this game sets up, though

We talked about LA/MINN as the top two last year

Blake: Their comeback against Washington was really impressive… but I also watched them lose to Atlanta and Dallas in unspectacular fashion

Howard: LA needs to stake a claim for that again, by virtue of their slow start


Blake: For sure

Howard: Okay, so that is going to be epic, and we all can’t wait.

Beyond that big one, what else do you all have your eyes on? Me? I’m pleased to see Kelsey Plum got 22 minutes and McPlumerson got some run as a trio, and curious whether it continues in San Antonio

Mike: With Currie traded, perhaps that’s the direction San Antonio is heading.

Howard: You’d certainly hope so. That franchise needs to figure out whether Plum/Jefferson/McBride works. It’s essentially the only thing that matters in 2017 for the Stars.

What else are you guys looking at this week?

LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 15: Isabelle Harrison
LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 15: Isabelle Harrison /

Blake: Can Connecticut continue to build and improve? They are so scary right now and it’s fun seeing some of the potential being realized

Ben: I don’t really think about the Stars’ record at all. They have really interesting players. Isabelle Harrison is playing great.

Howard: Totally, Ben. Record incidental, and the frontcourt is fascinating with Harrison/Alexander. They just need to figure out 1-2-3.

Blake: Harrison has to be considered for Most Improved right now, right?

Howard: Absolutely. Jasmine Thomas, too,

who took another leap forward

And here’s something to chew on, Blake. Connecticut is shooting better than 44 percent from three.

Mike: Both may be overshadowed by Jonquel Jones

Blake: That is so absurd

True that Mike

Howard: Are they the best three point shooting team ever? Or is that a stat likely to regress?

Jonquel was SO good last year though, just in limited minutes

Lindsay: I think Washington/Phoenix is really intriguing, esp w/ Meesseman back; curious to see if the Storm can really right the ship — quite a game from Stewart the other night, first 30-point game of the season I think.

Howard: YES Lindsay. The path to contending for Seattle is that Breanna Stewart.

Right now, by the way, in obscenely early playoff projections? 5/8 is Seattle traveling to Connecticut.

How’s that for a fun one?

Mike: Jones’ PER confirms it, if nothing else, but it may come down to what voters evaluate when we reach that point

Blake: Yep, you’re right Lindsay. Kinda crazy but her and Maya both have had a similar trajectory this season. Started so poorly (for them) but are figuring it out

Howard: I mean, ultimately, who is betting against Breanna Stewart and Maya Moore with their combined lifetime records of like 1846-21?

Lindsay: Yeah — the storm just had two three-game losing streaks in a row, which is rough. Haven’t won back-to-back games since May!

Mike: And going from a limited role to a new face of the franchise is a pretty strong campaign model, but as Howard noted last month, Connecticut’s for real, and they’re not going anywhere for a while.

Howard: Wow, did not realize that

Totally. A problem the 2018 Sun are going to face is finding enough shots for both Jones and Ogwumike when she returns. It’s a really good problem to have.

Last thought from me: Dallas, 8-9, is about to embark on home-and-homes with Atlanta, Chicago. This might be when they make their move.

Mike: Indeed, it’s a great opportunity to take the initiative for a playoff spot

With slots 4-10 separated by a game

Ben: On Atlanta – Brittney Sykes is getting a lot of run and injecting energy into a team that needed it in ATL. They’re scary when they can run and get Liz Williams 3-4 more good touches per night. Plenty of time for the 4-10 teams to find a groove. They hit a rough spot and Coach Cooper has done well to mix things up.

Blake: It’s going to be really interesting one which team misses the dance and comes in 9th. While the top of the league is clearly heads above the rest, whoever falls into that 8th slot could cause real issues

Howard: Yes, essentially a playoff-quality team is going to end up in the lottery. Two, maybe.

Blake: Exactly

Howard: Well, this was fascinating, and we didn’t even discuss out All Star picks. But we’ll save that for our next Summitt Summit! Happy Fourth of July, everybody, and thank you!