With all the things that was unusual in regards to the 2020 WNBA season in a bubble, one factor went just about as predicted: The Seattle Storm won the title, the fourth for the franchise and level guard Sue Fowl.
We do not know a lot now about what the 2021 season will seem like. Will groups be again of their residence arenas, as an example? There’s a lot to ponder, together with free company and offseason strikes. Listed here are just a few of the issues we shall be watching:
1. How will the WNBA’s social justice initiatives stick with it?
Yearly, there’s dialogue about find out how to get extra consideration for the WNBA in the course of the offseason. That may be a problem, particularly with what number of gamers go abroad. However there was viewers progress this season; ESPN scores for Seattle’s title-clinching Recreation 3 of the WNBA Finals had been up 27% over the Washington Mystics’ Recreation 5 championship win in 2019. And there additionally was an enormous dedication by the league and gamers to points past basketball.
“We needed to convey consciousness and provides a voice to the Black girls which are usually forgotten on this nation,” Storm ahead Alysha Clark stated after Tuesday’s victory. “We are sometimes missed and sometimes unheard, and this championship was for them, for us.”
Clark gave credit score to Las Vegas Aces ahead Angel McCoughtry, who got here up with the thought of carrying Breonna Taylor’s identify on the backs of gamers’ jerseys. The Say Her Identify marketing campaign, which seeks to convey consciousness to girls who’re victims of police violence, was one of many main focuses of the WNBA, as was the push for individuals to register to vote.
“We’re constructed to face up for what is true on this world, and we’re going to proceed to do this,” Clark stated. “Whether or not it is right here successful championships, or being in market and abroad in these subsequent few months.”
2. Can the Storm repeat?
Seattle has stored its core collectively for just a few years now, and that has resulted in two championships. The Storm now have some free company points to resolve — Fowl is among the many unrestricted free brokers — to take care of their core. And we’ll see if Kitija Laksa, Seattle’s 2020 first-round draft choose, performs within the WNBA subsequent 12 months.
Ahead Breanna Stewart was a unanimous choose as WNBA Finals MVP. She and guard Jewell Loyd ought to proceed to be two of the most effective offensive duos on the league. Fowl stated after the Storm received the title on Tuesday that she is optimistic about taking part in subsequent season, which might be her 18th. However it’s going to rely on how her physique feels at age 40.
Backside line: If the Storm look related in 2021 to 2020, they will go into subsequent season the favourite once more. No franchise has received 5 titles, in order that may very well be a primary for Seattle.
This one meant one thing particular, although.
“This season wasn’t straightforward in an entire bunch of various areas,” Stewart stated. “With the coronavirus, with the social injustices occurring on this nation and the day-to-day being caught right here within the bubble.
“However our staff is resilient. We continued to maintain going, it doesn’t matter what’s occurring, and I am tremendous proud to type of be part of this. This one is completely different than 2018 … it was more durable, and it means extra.”
3. How will the Aces reply to their Finals loss?
Contemplating they had been with out heart Liz Cambage and guard Kelsey Plum, you can say the Aces overachieved to succeed in the Finals. After an 18-4 common season and hard-fought 3-2 semifinal win towards Connecticut, Las Vegas simply did not have sufficient firepower to face Seattle. By the decisive Recreation 3, a 92-59 loss, the Aces had been spent.
Cambage was out this season on a medical exemption, and Plum had a torn Achilles. In the event that they return, and Sixth Lady of the Yr Dearica Hamby is again robust after lacking a part of the semifinals and all the Finals with a knee damage, there’s lots to love in regards to the 2021 Aces.
Ahead A’ja Wilson was the league MVP. She has performed effectively each with and with out Cambage. Wilson stated Tuesday’s loss was one in every of her most painful. However she’s simply 24 and all the things is a progress expertise.
“The largest factor that I realized from that is typically you might want to let the confetti hit you,” Wilson stated of watching the Storm have a good time the title. “I have been in loads of conditions the place the confetti fell on me, it was in my favor. The confetti hit; it isn’t for me. All proper, that is not enjoyable. We will attempt it once more.”
McCoughtry was a giant assist to the Aces after signing as a free agent, and earned her fourth journey to the WNBA Finals. However she’s nonetheless on the lookout for her first victory within the championship sequence, as her earlier three journeys with Atlanta had been additionally sweeps. She stays optimistic.
“It’ll occur,” McCoughtry stated. “It is coming.”
4. Who’re different key challengers in 2021?
Contemplating that the 2019 champion Washington Mystics made the 2020 playoffs regardless of everybody who did not play for them this season — together with 2019 MVP Elena Delle Donne — they may very well be a powerhouse. However it will depend on how Delle Donne, who missed this season after again surgical procedure, feels and what the remainder of the staff round her appears to be like like. The Mystics have a number of issues to determine with gamers equivalent to ahead Emma Meesseman being an unrestricted free agent.
Identical goes for 2019 runner-up Connecticut, which has a number of unrestricted free brokers, together with ahead Alyssa Thomas and guard Jasmine Thomas.
Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi and Los Angeles Sparks publish gamers Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike are amongst different huge names up free of charge company. The Mercury, who misplaced heart Brittney Griner in the course of the season when she left the bubble for private causes, and the Sparks had been each thought of contenders for the 2020 title. However each misplaced within the second spherical, and there are giant questions for the Mercury and Sparks about subsequent 12 months.
The Minnesota Lynx made the semifinals regardless of not having heart Sylvia Fowles for a lot of the season due to a calf damage. The Lynx have been in a position to nonetheless attain the playoffs the previous two years even throughout what’s principally a rebuilding interval, which says lots in regards to the franchise.
There have been instances this season when the Chicago Sky actually appeared good — and different instances it simply appeared one thing was lacking. Guard Diamond DeShields wasn’t absolutely wholesome when she was taking part in, after which she left the bubble for private causes. The priority for the Sky for 2021 is similar because the previous two years: Can they actually make a sustained playoff run?
5. Which staff that missed the playoffs may make a leap subsequent season?
The Dallas Wings, who went 8-14 this season, had been within the playoff hunt till the final day of the common season, and so they have two of probably the most thrilling younger gamers within the WNBA in guard Arike Ogunbowale and ahead Satou Sabally. The Wings may must get one other veteran to assist them take the subsequent step.
The Atlanta Dream (7-15) at instances appeared like a playoff staff, however in addition they had a 10-game shedding streak. Guard Chennedy Carter was a really thrilling rookie, solely slowed by an ankle damage that stored her out six video games. The Dream appear to have one thing to construct on.
The New York Liberty had the league’s worst file at 2-20, little doubt impacted by the lack of No. 1 choose Sabrina Ionescu (ankle) three video games into the season, and the truth that fellow guard Asia Durr, the No. 2 choose in 2019, was out all season after battling COVID-19. The return of each might imply lots to the Liberty.
The Indiana Fever had been one in every of three groups to beat champion Seattle, however the items simply are not including up general. Indiana, which went 6-16, hasn’t made the playoffs since 2016, when longtime star Tamika Catchings retired. Now the staff’s normal supervisor, Catchings may must make just a few huge strikes to maintain 2021 from wanting the identical as 2020.