Dream close season with same offensive issues
In the end, the Atlanta Dream’s season came to a close exactly how it was supposed to. The final game against the New York Liberty featured just about every issue, especially the difficulties on offense, that plagued the Dream throughout a disappointing 8-26 season, right down to the fact that the Liberty came away with the win, 71-63.
It all came down to not making shots, just as the vast majority of the games this season. As Atlanta coach Nicki Collen has said numerous times throughout the 2019 campaign, it’s hard to win in the WNBA when you shoot 35.8 percent. The Dream learned that better than any other team in the league this year.
“It’s hard to get momentum when you don’t make shots,” Collen said. “I don’t know what the exact number is, but we’re gonna be able to look at the stats at the end of the day when they come up on Synergy and show that we missed more unguarded shots than any team in the WNBA over the last two years.”
All season long, the problems have been the same. The offense struggled, the ball didn’t go in the basket and Atlanta lost the game. After the final nail was put in the coffin on Sunday afternoon, Collen offered an interesting statistic that sums up the season for the Dream.
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“If you look at our statistics across the board, individually and collectively, from (2018) to (2019), there isn’t a single player on our roster who had a better statistical season in (2019) than they did in (2018),” Collen said. “When one person was struggling, we didn’t consistently have three or four others kind of raising their game to make up for that. We tended to struggle as a group.”
So it wasn’t just that five-time All-Star Angel McCoughtry missed the entire season, and it wasn’t just that Alex Bentley had the worst shooting season of her career. It wasn’t even that the defense couldn’t keep up it’s 2018 pace and wasn’t always there to bail out the offense.
It was that when the chips were down and Atlanta needed someone to step up, there frequently wasn’t anyone to do it. A team can absorb a few players having a down year if other players elevate their game. But when everyone has a down year, there’s nowhere else to go.
And when it came down to it, the offense just wasn’t there.
Against New York, in the last gasp of a season fading away, Atlanta went 4-of-23 from beyond the arc. Renee Montgomery made the team’s first two attempts from deep, which emphasizes the poor shooting performance the rest of the way.
“Was that not a microcosm in one game of what the rest of our season has looked like?” Collen said after the loss. “Really good effort, good intensity, we just didn’t put the ball in the basket. 4-for-23 from the arc and we made our first two, so when you think about what that means — Renee made her first two threes of the game and then we proceeded to go 2 for our next 21.”
The loss was a fitting way to sum up the season, bringing all the issues that the Dream have dealt with to light one final time.
Next year, this team may well look very different. McCoughtry may be in Atlanta, she may be with a different team or she may be out of the league entirely. Dream assistant coach Mike Petersen says that the goal of offseason moves is simple: Atlanta needs to draft players who can shoot, sign players who can shoot and trade for players who can shoot.
The question then becomes who will remain of this squad. Many of the Dream’s players are capable of — and have exhibited — better shooting seasons than they showed this year. But when making moves this offseason, the priority has to be on fixing the offense.
“We’re in an analytical league,” Collen said. “We have to make layups and threes, and we didn’t do either well this season. At least going into today, we were second to last in the league in making shots within five feet of the basket and we were last in the league in three-point percentage. When you think about the takeaways, we were able to weather not being a great three-point shooting team last year with our defense. I think we have to understand that we have to be better offensively and we have to be able to make open threes and score within five feet.”
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