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WNBA 2020 tipoff — 12 greatest questions earlier than the season begins

Amid the general focus on of the coronavirus pandemic , lifestyles in the WNBA bubble in Bradenton, Florida, and the social justice initiatives the league and avid gamers are pursuing, the countdown to tipoff for the 2020 WNBA season is on. There had been months of uncertainty about whether the WNBA would even accumulate a season, but opening day is Saturday (ESPN, noon ET). It comes two months and 10 days later than on the origin deliberate, and the regular season has been shortened from 36 to 22 games for every personnel.
So it is neither a plod nor a marathon, but more admire a center-distance flee that requires both persistence and tempo, tactics and tenacity. We will salvage to stare gentle legends comparable to Diana Taurasi, Seimone Augustus, Sue Bird and Candace Parker, but also ascending young stars comparable to Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson, plus a rookie class led by Sabrina Ionescu.
Earlier than the season opens, we stare at 12 of the finest questions that can clarify the WNBA’s twenty fourth season, which are its most exclusive but will more than doubtless be amongst its most memorable.
1. Who’s the favourite for the 2020 championship?
In early April 2019, the Seattle Storm appeared a convincing wager to repeat. Nonetheless midway thru that month, 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart suffered an Achilles tendon injury whereas foreign that saved her sidelined the rest of the 365 days, and guard Sue Bird neglected the season as effectively after knee surgical operation. But even with out them, the Storm went 18-sixteen and won a playoff game.
Editor’s Picks 2020 WNBA newcomer impact rankings: DeWanna Bonner, Skylar Diggins-Smith lead formula 2020 WNBA agenda: The 12 need to-speak games of the regular season Ex-Dream F McCoughtry: Loeffler playing politics 2 Associated Both are abet, and the Storm all over again are favorites. Contain in solutions the depth of this personnel, in conjunction with Natasha Howard and Jewell Loyd, Seattle’s scoring leaders very finest season, defensive stalwart Alysha Clark and improved Zero.33-365 days avid gamers Jordin Canada and Mercedes Russell. Rookie Ezi Magbegor, the Storm’s 2019 first-round draft grab who did not play very finest 365 days, Stewart’s venerable UConn teammate Morgan Tuck and 10-365 days gentle Epiphanny Prince are new to the Storm roster this 365 days.
“Or no longer it is nearly admire we want to design shut some steps backwards to salvage all people on the equal web page all over again due to Sue and I accumulate not been here,” Stewart acknowledged. “We added three new objects, after which we want to hunch forward.”
Dan Hughes is no longer in the bubble due to of a medical review that deemed him high threat if he diminished in dimension the coronavirus, so assistant Gary Kloppenburg will have the head-teaching role.
2. Who are the diversified top contenders?
Like Seattle, the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury accumulate experienced stars and what appears to be like to be moderately ravishing depth.
Chiney Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver are sitting out this season , and Alana Beard has retired. Nonetheless the Sparks easy accumulate a “qualified three” in post avid gamers Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike and guard Chelsea Gray.
“Customarily internal the major two weeks yow will stumble on out,” 12-365 days gentle Parker acknowledged of how long this is succesful of well possibly also just design shut to salvage a essentially feel for what more or much less personnel the Sparks will more than doubtless be. “How members tackle adversity, and what’s happening to occur. Up to now we accumulate extensive vitality and personnel chemistry.”
Brittney Griner, left, has played her entire career in Phoenix since being the No. 1 draft grab in 2013. Skylar Diggins-Smith, the No. three grab that 365 days, joins the Mercury this season. Ned Dishman/NBAE by Getty Photography The Mercury’s Diana Taurasi modified into as soon as shrimp to 6 games very finest season by abet and hamstring injuries but acknowledged she feels ravishing coming into her 16th season. Middle Brittney Griner remains to be an MVP candidate. The Mercury misplaced a longtime key participant in DeWanna Bonner, who’s now with the Connecticut Sun, but Phoenix introduced in level guard Skylar Diggins-Smith.
“This is the finest I’ve felt in a very very long time,” Taurasi acknowledged, although she acknowledged that the general shutdown due to of COVID-19 saved her from playing anything else that resembled 5-on-5 for a pair of months. “The more years you pile up, you wish those reps and that form of game action to salvage you ready. Optimistically when the season starts, I will be ready to hunch.”
three. How will the Sparks reply to very finest season’s playoff implosion?
The Sparks would doubtlessly ravishing as quickly no longer speak how 2019 ended : a seventy eight-Fifty six Game three loss as Connecticut swept them out of the semifinals, with Parker benched by first-365 days coach Derek Fisher. Longtime current supervisor Penny Toler modified into as soon as then fired after a locker room tirade modified into as soon as revealed, and she therefore filed a lawsuit towards the franchise. All which would possibly well just own members neglect that earlier than the fireworks, the Sparks went 22-12 and performed Zero.33 in the regular season.
Parker acknowledged she’s physically in higher form than she modified into as soon as very finest season, and Fisher acknowledged he has realized plenty. Both appear ready to switch on, as does the personnel.
“I speak my role is to back the finest wants of our avid gamers,” Fisher acknowledged. “To total whatever it is that is major to enable our avid gamers to be the finest versions of themselves.”
four. What regarding the Mystics and the Sun?
Closing 365 days, the Washington Mystics and Connecticut Sun played an exhilarating WNBA Finals that went to a decisive Game 5, won 89-seventy eight by the Mystics for his or her first title. Getting that a long way all over again will more than doubtless be a dilemma, as both teams stare diversified in 2020.
For the Mystics, Natasha Cloud and LaToya Sanders opted out this season, and Toliver left as a free agent. Elena Delle Donne is no longer anticipated to play after being denied a medical exemption. Middle Tina Charles, the Mystics’ key addition, bought a medical exemption and can just no longer play.
Nonetheless Emma Meesseman, the Finals MVP, is ravishing 27 and in the coronary heart of her top. She averaged 21.eight facets per game in the 2019 postseason, incomes the nickname “Playoff Emma” — and she would possibly well possibly want to be closer to that version all season for the Mystics.
The Sun are with out three key avid gamers from 2019: Courtney Williams and Shekinna Stricklen are long gone to Atlanta, and Jonquel Jones opted out for this season. As talked about, Bonner is in her first season with the Sun and can just own an instantaneous impact . And Alyssa Thomas and Jasmine Thomas, who had been so major in very finest 365 days’s Sun playoff flee, are the toughest of rivals.
5. Which teams would possibly well possibly shock us and accumulate the championship?
The Storm, especially, are at threat of own that refined. Nonetheless pondering it is a shortened season and nobody can own definite how bubble lifestyles will impact avid gamers and teams, maybe a “shock” would no longer be that surprising.
How regarding the Chicago Sky? They suffered a heartbreak very finest 365 days in losing their second-round playoff game to Las Vegas and Dearica Hamby’s half of-court heave. Nonetheless the Sky accumulate a gentle backcourt in Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley, a rising well-known person in Diamond DeShields and a promising rookie in Oregon’s Ruthy Hebard.
Would possibly maybe furthermore level guard Courtney Vandersloot and Chicago accumulate the expertise to shock some and accumulate the 2020 WNBA championship? Ned Dishman/NBAE by Getty Photography Then there are the Las Vegas Aces, who would be a convincing championship contender if Liz Cambage, who is no longer playing this season , and Kelsey Plum, who is sidelined with an Achilles dash, had been with the personnel. Because it is, they’ve easy bought avid gamers comparable to A’ja Wilson, Kayla McBride, Hamby and new addition Angel McCoughtry.
“We easy accumulate a few key objects, even with Liz being out,” acknowledged McCoughtry, who spent her first 10 seasons in Atlanta but sat out very finest 365 days rehabbing a knee injury. “I am angry to play with them and elevate some leadership.”
6. Which non-playoff personnel from 2019 would possibly well possibly own the finest leap?
The Indiana Fever , Dallas Wings , Original York Liberty and Atlanta Dream , in insist, performed 9-12 in the standings very finest season. The Fever and the Wings is at threat of be most efficient positioned to switch up in 2020.
Indiana has a new coach in longtime WNBA presence Marianne Stanley, who won a title as an assistant very finest 365 days with Washington. And the Fever elevate abet quite a lot of the personnel that went thirteen-21 very finest 365 days. Indiana has been rebuilding since Tamika Catchings’ retirement in 2016, and possibly the Fever can own it abet into the postseason.
“We want to set a convention of winning,” Stanley acknowledged. “We accumulate a relatively young neighborhood with some veterans sprinkled in, so developing avid gamers and serving to them develop in their game will more than doubtless be half of the mission this season. I would suspect you might well speak us toughen whenever we hunch accessible.”
Dallas is even more youthful, and the Wings are remaking themselves.
“I am locked in, and I speak the total personnel is able to hunch,” acknowledged Moriah Jefferson, who modified into as soon as traded to the Wings in 2019 but did not play very finest season. “Or no longer it is never easy to own a resolution to sit down down down out and no longer play. I knew for me, in insist to be my most efficient self, I major to total that and design shut the time to rehab and enhance.”
7. Who are the leading MVP candidates?
Las Vegas’ A’ja Wilson, who is coming into her Zero.33 WNBA season, is anticipated to be in the conversation for MVP honors. Stephen Gosling/NBAE by Getty Photography Closing 365 days, Stewart modified into as soon as searching to alter into the major repeat MVP since Cynthia Cooper did it the major two seasons of the WNBA (1997, ‘ninety eight). Then came Stewart’s injury and the MVP door opened for Delle Donne, who had a 90-50-forty season with her shooting percentages from the line, the discipline and three-level vary.
Peak effectivity has defined the MVP flee the previous several years. Stewart, who does not turn 26 till August, all over again turns into the entrance-runner. She modified into as soon as in a place of living to return to playing with the U.S. nationwide personnel in late January after which also competed foreign in Russia.
“She’s improved her ballhandling, her accuracy from three, and she’s added to her game,” Kloppenburg acknowledged. “I speak the adversity of that injury made her even more definite to alter right into an even bigger participant.”
Los Angeles’ Nneka Ogwumike (2016) will more than doubtless be any other second-time MVP. Or maybe Phoenix’s Griner or Las Vegas’ Wilson turns right into a first-time winner.
eight. How will the beginners, led by No. 1 grab Sabrina Ionescu, fare?
For the most half, No. 1 picks accumulate made a moderately qualified splash in their first season. That wasn’t as noteworthy the case very finest 365 days as guard Jackie Young joined a convincing Las Vegas personnel. She had a convincing season, but the rookie of the 365 days flee modified into as soon as between No. 5 grab Arike Ogunbowale of Dallas and the winner, No. 6 Napheesa Collier of the Minnesota Lynx .
This 365 days, Oregon’s Ionescu would possibly well possibly combat a pair of her venerable Ducks teammates for the award — or even maybe some of her recent Original York Liberty teammates. Ionescu is surely one of seven beginners on the roster.
Dallas selected Oregon’s Satou Sabally at No. 2, and the Wings even accumulate two diversified beginners who would possibly well accumulate an impact in No. 5 grab Bella Alarie and No. 7 Tyasha Harris. The Sky’s Hebard, also from Oregon, will more than doubtless be searching to trace she went too low at No. eight.
There’s also No. three grab Lauren Cox of Indiana and No. four Chennedy Carter, who will more than doubtless be to blame for a few Atlanta’s offensive manufacturing. For that reason, Carter — a scoring whiz at Texas A&M — is at threat of be the favourite grab of many.
And place no longer neglect the Lynx’s No. 6 grab this 365 days, Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, who would possibly well possibly be conscious Collier’s lead.
9. What stop we request from top avid gamers who neglected very finest season?
Seattle level guard Sue Bird, about to tip off her seventeenth WNBA season, neglected 2019 with a knee injury. Stephen Gosling/NBAE by Getty Photography Bird acknowledged even for any individual as experienced as she is — she’s coming into her seventeenth WNBA season — it is easy moderately of a shock to the machine to return to league play after a 365 days away. She has experience with that, having sat out 2013 and returned the next 365 days.
“I know what to perk up for,” Bird acknowledged, “but it completely does not essentially mean I will be ready for it.”
Peaceable, the reality that all people’s preparation modified into as soon as altered by the pandemic would possibly well possibly own it moderately more uncomplicated for the avid gamers returning. For Bird, Stewart and Diggins-Smith, who modified into as soon as out on pregnancy leave, their time with the nationwide personnel over the wintry climate helped salvage them abet onto the court.
10. How noteworthy will teams be damage by no dwelling-court advantage or fans this season?
This can impact every personnel due to of the vitality that fans can elevate, along with the familiarity of being at dwelling versus the fatigue factor of shuttle. Now every game will more than doubtless be at a neutral place and not using a spectators in attendance, and it is laborious to know what impact that would possibly well accumulate on teams.
Augustus, in her first season in Los Angeles after 14 years in Minnesota, acknowledged she would possibly well possibly also just no longer miss going to Phoenix.
“Phoenix is at threat of be surely one of many hardest locations to play in the league,” Augustus acknowledged. “That vitality that Diana and BG and all of them feed off of, and the reality that their fans are right up on you and so that they place no longer solutions talking exact ravishing smack to you.
“And there is a design admire Dallas, that is smaller, but after they pack that [arena], it is essentially laborious to hear.”
The Aces’ Wilson acknowledged she’ll miss the road trips, especially to Phoenix — “Their fan defective is moderately electrical” — and that she modified into as soon as namely waiting for going thru the Liberty, who had been speculated to be in their first elephantine season at Barclays Middle in Brooklyn.
“Pointless to deliver, the Residence is the finest design to play,” Wilson acknowledged, referring to the Aces’ Mandalay Bay Events Middle in Las Vegas.
eleven. How will the destroy day this spring impact avid gamers’ health and health?
WNBA teams are ragged to shorter training camps and shrimp preparation time collectively, in half due to some avid gamers advance in at diversified times from foreign play. Nonetheless with the pandemic shutdowns, a few avid gamers did not accumulate a chance to total anything else shut to regular preparation for this season. They did salvage rest — but too noteworthy of it in some instances.
“Let’s be frank: The avid gamers are going to be off form going into the regular season,” Aces coach Invoice Laimbeer acknowledged. “We are succesful of strive to salvage into the finest form we are succesful of right thru the games.”
After a relatively transient preparation, they’re going to want to leap straight away right into a season in which they’re going to play about three times per week. Nonetheless there is no shuttle, so that helps.
12. What’s going to the glorious of play be admire?
As talked about, avid gamers are working to salvage abet into elephantine-court form. Plus, there are no longer any male be conscious avid gamers in the bubble, which all teams are ragged to having, and that has effects on what’s going to even be accomplished in be conscious.
Laimbeer acknowledged he thinks practices at some level of the season would possibly well possibly more closely resemble what they’re admire at some level of the playoffs, with teams doing more stroll-throughs and particular movie preparation.
“You is at threat of be going to want to be moderately more easy to boring them out,” Laimbeer acknowledged, “and saving their legs for games.”
Peaceable, the teams are definite to place on a extensive demonstrate.
“One among our greatest issues modified into as soon as, ‘How will we navigate this world?’ You is at threat of be searching to prepare,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve acknowledged. “A range of games are gonna be on TV, and you have to verify your product looks essentially ravishing.”

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