Storm’s a brewin’
The Seattle Storm were the best team in the league last year, winning both the regular season title as well as the WNBA Championship. The 2018 team was led by league MVP Breanna Stewart. 2019 will see a new MVP, as Stewie will miss the entire season with an achilles injury suffered overseas. Other players will need to step up in order for the Storm to replicate their great 2018 season. Though Stewart will not be playing, the other four remaining starters are returning. This will be a very interesting season for the Storm both in real life and for daily fantasy. Without further ado, let’s hop into the Seattle Storm DFS Preview!
A New Look
As stated above, Seattle had a great 2018 season. A 9.4 net rating put them at the top of the league. By offensive rating, the Storm were the second best team; right on the heels of Connecticut. By defensive rating, the Storm were the third best team. This combination of elite offense and elite defense drove the Storm towards the championship.
Obviously, this impressive season cannot be expected to be replicated without Breanna Stewart, and using last year’s data to inform this year’s decisions may be a misstep as the team is missing such a huge piece. I would expect both the offense and defense to be worse, which could open up opposing player options. Last season, it was very difficult to play players against the Storm, as their suffocating defense and average pace did not provide great fantasy value.
Though I expect the pace to remain similarly average as no coaching chance or philosophy change has occurred (as far as I can tell), I do think the defense will regress back over an 100 defensive rating. An interesting Storm statistic to monitor in 2019 will be the amount of points given up via free throws. In 2018, they were elite at not fouling, and thus, not giving up free throws. With different personnel (and less length) on the floor, this number may move more towards average.
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The Storm ended the 2018 season starting Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd, Alysha Clark, Breanna Stewart, and Natasha Howard. Obviously, the injury to Stewart opens up a new slot, but it is unclear where coach Dan Hughes will go to replace those minutes.
Jordin Canada, a promising sophomore, could slot in, moving Alysha Clark to the 4. Alternatively, Hughes could opt to play Natasha Howard at the 4, and play Crystal Langhorne at the 5. Howard flashed some three-point range last year (17 makes on 52 attempts), which could make her more comfortable at the 4. Likely, this starting lineup decision is based on the type of team the Storm are playing.
A close eye will have to be kept on the starters in the beginning of the year. In terms of fantasy point production, Stewart was an absolute all star. She was around 1.3 fantasy points per minute last year, which is just absurd production. Obviously, her shots and rebounds will be distributed around the new (and old) starters. Because of this, I would expect Jewell Loyd (1.02 fpm in 2018) and Natasha Howard (1.08 fpm in 2018) to have jumps in production as they take and make more shots. Sue Bird could also be more of a scoring threat, having produced 0.95 fpm last year. I believe it is more likely that Loyd and Howard see usage bumps, rather than Bird.
Alysha Clark, though elite on defense, produces fantasy points at a 0.64 fpm clip. She is definitely a more valuable player in real life than in daily fantasy. Other bench options of Jordin Canada, Courtney Paris, and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis produce around 0.8 fpm, save for Mosqueda-Lewis, who is closer to Alysha Clark’s range. A big piece in projecting this team will be watching and seeing the type of minutes players are playing. There definitely is a lot of uncertainty regarding the last starting spot and the types of lineups that will be played.
The Storm took Ezi Magbegor at pick number twelve of the first round, but she will not come stateside until 2020. There is, however, more opportunity in the Seattle frontcourt than the crowded and talented backcourt, which could mean some production out of second round pick Anriel Howard.
This team definitely has changed without Breanna Stewart. They will need to find a new identity, and other players will need to step up. This should present us with value in the early parts of the season where the rotation and usage changes are still being decided. I expect Loyd and Howard to be DFS superstars in Stewart’s absence, and step into the spotlight that has been vacated.
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