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Off-Season WNBA Shakeups

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A quick look at the major off-season moves in the WNBA, and what it means for the league as we gear up for another season.

Olympics: Basketball-Women's Team-Gold medal match -USA vs ESP Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: The Lynx get underway tonight in their pre-season opener against the Atlanta Dream at 7:00 pm. Please welcome Neil Olstad to the Canis Hoopus fold—he’ll be handling much of our Lynx coverage this season. We’re excited to have Neil on board and excited for another Lynx season. EiM.

This spring, the heartbreak of losing in the WNBA finals is still fresh in the minds of the Minnesota Lynx and their fans. While it may seem like yesterday that the Los Angeles Sparks were crowned WNBA champions in Minneapolis, it has been six months. Over that time, the league-wide roster churn has been as tumultuous as any in recent memory, with many current and former all-stars changing teams.

The WNBA’s 21st season tips off on May 13th. Here are the five off-season moves that mattered most, and the teams that project to be title contenders come October.

Elena Delle Donne & Kristi Toliver to WAS

Elena Delle Donne’s trade to the Washington Mystics has to be the biggest blockbuster in the history of the league. Former MVPs who are still in their prime simply do not change teams in the WNBA. It happened this offseason due to Delle Donne wanting to be closer to her home in Delaware, and her dissatisfaction with the Chicago Sky franchise. After adding arguably the best player in the game, the Mystics also signed Kristi Toliver, who was the starting point guard for last season’s league champs, the Los Angeles Sparks. These two star additions combine with stretch-big Emma Meessemen to give the Mystics three of the four best 3-point shooters by percentage from last season.

Odyssey Sims to LAS

With the aforementioned Toliver bolting in free agency for the nation’s capitol, the defending champs found themselves needing to make a move to re-stock their starting lineup. They found their point guard of the future in Odyssey Sims, the 2nd overall pick in 2014’s draft. She’s impressed many as a member of USA Basketball’s select team, thanks to her quickness and ball handling skills. While she won’t be able to fill it up from long range like Toliver, she should fit in nicely with all the offensive firepower the Sparks already have on roster with Nneka Ogwumike, Candice Parker and Alana Beard.

Carolyn Swords to SEA

Swords is one of the most underrated bigs in the league. At 6’6”, she is a fantastic rebounder, defender and understands how to finish in the paint. She headlines a three-team trade that sends her to Seattle, Bria Hartley and Kia Vaughn to New York and the #6 overall draft pick (Shatori Walker-Kimbrough) to Washington. The Storm finished their 2016 campaign strong, winning seven of their final 10 games. With Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd, Seattle has two of the best young stars in the league. Swords gives them depth and a veteran post presence that will help the Storm make noise in the 2017 postseason.

Danielle Robinson to PHX

No WNBA team returns fewer players from their 2016 roster than the Phoenix Mercury. While perennial all stars Diana Taurasi and Brittany Griner are back, the rest of the roster underwent a major upheaval. Enter Danielle Robinson, the three-time WNBA all star who is looking to get back on track after missing all of 2016 due to injury. Phoenix is the team with the most variance when projecting their season. Scenarios where they make a deep playoff run or end up in the bottom four are in play.

Plenette Pierson to MIN

The Minnesota Lynx are a unique WNBA franchise for many reasons. One of those reasons is how they attract veteran free agents with a championship pedigree that runs throughout the organization. This season Plenette Pierson, who played for Reeve earlier in her career in Detroit is the latest in this ilk. A decorated veteran whose best days are behind her, she can still produce at a high level in the right situation. Pierson will be counted on to backup Rebekkah Brunson and be a defensive enforcer off the bench for a stacked Lynx squad.

Predictions

Despite all the roster turnover around the WNBA this offseason, the two best teams remain the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks. The Lynx bring back essentially the entire roster that won a league-high 28 games last season. The Sparks lose Toliver to Washington but reload with Odyssey Sims. However, the rest of the table could undergo quite the transformation year-over-year. The Washington Mystics could throw a wrench into any hopes of a Lynx/Sparks finals rematch if they can match their 3-point firepower with an above average defense. New York and Seattle also appear to be ready to make a surprise Finals run if things break right.

Regular season predictions:

  1. Minnesota Lynx
  2. Los Angeles Sparks
  3. Washington Mystics
  4. New York Liberty
  5. Seattle Storm
  6. Indiana Fever
  7. Atlanta Dream
  8. Phoenix Mercury
  9. Connecticut Sun
  10. Dallas Wings
  11. San Antonio Stars
  12. Chicago Sky