Early WNBA musings — Kayla Thornton talks New York Liberty — Must-click women’s basketball links

The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, May 24, 2023

Happy Basketball Wednesday! We’re less than a week into the 2023 WNBA season, but we’ve already seen some fascinating early action. Let me take you inside what I’ve seen and what I’m hearing…

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…the Connecticut Sun have been an early revelation. Beating the Washington Mystics twice is one thing — but doing it while scoring 80+ points each time is particularly notable for a team who will go as far as its defense takes it. My two biggest areas of concern for the Sun continue to be the perimeter shooting — no one so far is north of 33 percent from three save Bri Jones, and her 100% mark came on… one attempt. I’m also wary of how much Alyssa Thomas is playing, averaging 37 MPG so far. Can the Sun still win if she’s at closer to her career rate of 29.3, or even last season’s 32.1?…

…one WNBA front office member on Aliyah Boston: “She’s exactly who Indiana though they were drafting.” I have predicted that Boston’s rookie year in the WNBA will look exactly like her South Carolina tenure — an exceptional thing to pull off, given the rise in competition — and that’s exactly what’s happened through three games, with one notable exception. Without routine triple-teams, she’s got her field goal percentage up to 64.7%, as opposed to her 55.9 at South Carolina her senior year. The rebounding, the blocks, the low turnover percentage — it’s all carried over…

…after the Liberty lost Friday night, how many points did you think Breanna Stewart would score Sunday: 30? 40? Well, it turned out to be 45, most anyone in a Liberty jersey has ever scored, and it easily could have been more. She took her foot off the gas after three quarters.

But this is what she does. There’s another level to her game that isn’t just “win in big moments”, it is “destroy everything in her wake in key moments”. I’ve covered her doing this since her Connecticut days. I pointed this out again a few weeks ago. She described it, years ago, as chasing perfection. I asked her whether days like Sunday are as close as she comes to feeling like she’s caught it.

“I don’t know, I think that there’s probably some things that I could have done better,” Stewart said with a smile that acknowledged the underlying reality — not many! “But I feel like on days like today, you just have to really appreciate it, enjoy it. First and foremost, be happy that we won. Because if I had 45, and we’d lost, it would suck — it wouldn’t make any difference… But I feel like moments like this, you just have to enjoy it. I mean, the crowd out there was crazy the way that they were cheering — after the game, during the whole game. Like I said, that’s what we want. That’s what we want our standard to be.”…

…that Brittney Griner is back home, safe, and playing is an incredible achievement, full stop. That she’s averaging 22.5 points per game on 72.7% shooting so far while doing it? That has to exceed anyone’s reasonable expectations. Truly, the only sour note so far is that it sure looks like the Phoenix Mercury have not put enough talent around her to maximize her return. What a shame it would be if BG plays like this all season, and then we don’t get to see her in the playoffs…

…the first two games for the Minnesota Lynx in one stat: their only players with assist percentages north of 20 are Jessica Shepard, Napheesa Collier and Diamond Miller. It’s exceedingly early. But the Lynx, once more, may have a hole at point guard. It’s not as easy to replace legends as some may think. (There’s also a point guard or two who might just be available in the 2024 WNBA Draft.)…

…I really like the talent, the balance and the approach early on from the Los Angeles Sparks. But we’re going to learn how well they can handle the top teams on Thursday, when they face the Las Vegas Aces. A win there, and it might be time to start talking about the Sparks as one of those teams…

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This week in women’s basketball

Alex Simon on what could be holding up WNBA expansion.

Layshia Clarendon on what WNBA cuts feel like is worth hearing.

Latricia Trammell in Dallas is such an intriguing storyline.

Jonathan Tannenwald on the stakes for the 2023 Liberty.

Big-picture WNBA look from Lindsay Gibbs, so read it, obviously.

Also enjoy this dive into the archives!

Chelsea Leite with a Canada-specific WNBA preview.

Rhyne Howard on the cover of SLAM.

“Food truck-adjacent fist-fighting”

RIP Demetrius Poles.

Rebecca Prenevost talks with Lynx director of analytics Madison Schiller.

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Five at The IX: Kayla Thornton, New York Liberty

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
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Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.