Picking up where we left off yesterday, let’s take a look at some lineup combinations worth watching for in the WNBA this season.
Teams don’t have the same luxury to feel things out, or even to “save it” for the playoffs. Six of the eight playoff teams in this league are immediately thrust into single elimination games. They don’t have the runway to try things out later on in the season. Going into a game with those stakes, a coach will already need to know what combinations can be trusted most to help them survive and advance.
I’ll be tracking every lineup listed below throughout the regular season. Each could help swing a playoff game or series in addition to simply being a vehicle that gets a team’s best players all on the floor together.
Lineups to watch for
Phoenix: Brittney Griner, DeWanna Bonner, Diana Taurasi and two of Leilani Mitchell / Briann January / Yvonne Turner
Why this group is dangerous: Griner must be doubled on the catch by just about everybody. Even facing a double, she’s so tall and long that she can turn and pass over the top with relative ease. Sliding Bonner up to the four spot could allow the Mercury to station four people around the arc to force opposing defenses into really difficult rotations.
Instead of closing out to Sancho Lyttle at the elbow, defenders will need to run even further. An added bonus for Phoenix: all of those players are skilled enough to attack poor closeouts to get all the way to the rim, or initiate a drive-and-kick for an even better look from three.
Washington: Elena Delle Donne, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, Monique Currie, Tayler Hill, Kristi Toliver
Why this group is dangerous: Currie returning to the Mystics might be the most underrated move of the offseason. I’m less convinced we see this group, but her presence makes it possible. We’ll need to wait for Hill to work her way back into the lineup later this summer coming back from that ACL tear. But against some playoff teams, this group just might get by on defense and set them up to really blitz teams with how they’ll be able to spread it out.
Seattle: Breanna Stewart, Natasha Howard, Jewell Loyd, Sue Bird, Jordin Canada
Why this group is dangerous: We already saw it log some time in the preseason and in their opener against the Mercury. Loyd and Howard had some great sequences in the pick and roll together. There are no hiding places against that five when Howard is rolling hard to the rim.
New York: Tina Charles, Marissa Coleman, Shavonte Zellous and two guards
Why this group is dangerous: Charles started at center in the opener, though Katie Smith didn’t have much choice as she opens the season without the services of Kiah Stokes and Kia Vaughn. Coleman and Zellous are two scrappy, physical wings with some size. They could try switching everything one-through-four. The burden would be heavy on Charles to cover ground and clean up on the glass, but her ability to do both is what made her such an easy choice for All-Defense honors last year.
Minnesota: Lindsay Whalen, Alexis Jones, Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles
Why this group is dangerous: An obvious caveat first. Minnesota’s starting group is their best lineup, no matter what five an opponent throws at them. It’ll be tough for the Lynx to get to this group for extended minutes without taxing their starters too much, but Jones is a perfect fit to be parked in a corner waiting for catch and shoot three-pointers. When Minnesota is at its best, Fowles, Augustus and Moore are involved in screening actions in the lane that will get them uncontested layups if the defense doesn’t send extra help.
Indiana: Erica Wheeler, Kelsey Mitchell, Victoria Vivians, Candice Dupree, Kayla Alexander
Why this group is dangerous: Wheeler and Mitchell really could go off for some 35+ point games if this group gets significant run together. Dupree and Alexander would form one of the more dangerous shooting combinations in the league up front. Neither ventures much beyond 18 feet, but their ability to credibly space out and drag people with them will really clear the runway for those guards to get to the rim.
Links I like
Here’s Jack Maloney with a recap of opening weekend.
Here’s Joseph Zucker on Storm-Mercury. (The two teams play again on Wednesday.)
Here’s Lyndsey D’Arcangelo with insight from WNBA players on playing overseas.