The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, February 10, 2021
WNBA go boom — Brittney Sykes talks return to Los Angeles Sparks — Must-click women's basketball links
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Originally, this was going to be a space for telling you about some trades that I think should happen.
Then many of them happened. ALL. AT. ONCE.
Yes, in what is essentially a five-team deal, 41.6% of the entire league made major changes.
NEW YORK LIBERTY: Add Natasha Howard, Sami Whitcomb, Phoenix’s 2022 first round pick
SEATTLE STORM: Add Katie Lou Samuelson, the rights to Stephanie Talbot, Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, Minnesota’s 2022 second round pick, Dallas’ 2022 second round pick
MINNESOTA LYNX: Add Phoenix’s 2022 first round pick
PHOENIX MERCURY: Add Kia Nurse, Megan Walker
DALLAS WINGS: Add 2021 top overall pick
Some teams are telling us some things here, and the two biggest statements made are by New York and Seattle.
Let’s start with the Liberty. Walt Hopkins did not bend in his first season with New York, creating a system and looking to see which of his players would fit in it. Very few did! That’s how the Liberty ended up 2-20. That was not a surprise to anyone, especially once Sabrina Ionescu went down with a season-ending ankle injury, and Jonathan Kolb is providing Hopkins with a dramatically different fit for 2021.
The biggest acquisitions of this offseason for New York, Howard and previously-signed Betnijah Laney, are two-way standouts who can guard multiple positions and shoot it from anywhere. Adding Whitcomb to an array of shooters that include Rebecca Allen and Marine Johanes and Ionescu means both a significant improvement in efficiency for the threes New York already generated last year, and acres of space for Howard to use.
New York won’t be 2-20 next season.
But the other moving part that raised the most eyebrows came when Seattle, having acquired the top overall pick, then sent it to Dallas for Katie Lou Samuelson. Now, here’s the case for Katie Lou: she’s yet to get the chance to play regularly, she was enormously important to UConn for four years, a stretch 3/4 who can get her own shot and make them from anywhere, and she’s been dominant in Euroleague this winter.
As one WNBA talent evaluator put it in response to that case: “So was Haley Peters”.
Put another way, Samuelson is now on her third team, with a career points per game average of 3.8 and a career shooting percentage of 38.8. And Seattle gave up the right to draft Dana Evans or Aari McDonald, Arella Guirantes or Awak Kuier, let alone if they come out early, Charli Collier or (though there’s little reason to expect she can, let alone will graduate early) Rhyne Howard.
You can probably argue for Katie Lou, individually, against any of these players. WNBA front offices are all over the place on the 2021 potential draft class. But everyone has their preferences, and it is almost impossible to imagine a process that determined Katie Lou would be the top pick unless Seattle has come to believe that every player of note is going to choose a free, extra year of college eligibility over coming to the WNBA in 2021.
Or in the words of another WNBA talent evaluator: “What the F is Seattle doing”?
From this view: I remain bullish on Katie Lou Samuelson’s potential. But it’s hard to believe, given her first two WNBA seasons, it took the first overall pick in the 2021 draft to get her and give her an opportunity to prove her first two teams wrong.
This week in women’s basketball
So glad WKU Athletics flagged this for me. (SIDs, do this! We are here to amplify.)
Good to see Layshia Clarendon, media member. Welcome, Layshia!
Jenn Hatfield writes about what an Ivy League basketball season looks like when there’s no season.
Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird in GQ. What else do you need to know?
Erica Wheeler caught up with her new teammate Sydney Wiese and Stacy Paetz on the duo’s latest podcast.
And listen to Renee Montgomery’s retirement announcement. I dare you not to get emotional.
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Five at The IX: Brittney Sykes talks return to the Sparks
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