The 2016-2017 NBA season concluded Monday night with the Larry O'Brien trophy being presented to the Golden State Warriors. Whether you view the Warriors as a historic team playing a beautiful brand of basketball, Silicon Valley front runners who vaporized all meaningful parity in the league, or some combination of both, this season belonged to Golden State.
All of that is behind us now. The NBA likes to fancy itself a 12 month league these days, but it's not. The NBA Draft is a week away and the early party of free agency is fun, but from July to September the NBA is a quiet, boring place. So what's a true basketball junkie to do? If you're like me (or LeBron James), you tune into the WNBA.
Comparing the WNBA and NBA is complicated, and there are many layers to that discussion. But generally speaking if you love basketball being played at the highest levels, you will enjoy the WNBA. Athletically and stylistically there are differences between the two leagues, but both feature world-class skills, strategy and competition. Great basketball is great basketball. I asked Cheryl Reeve about comparing the NBA to the WNBA.
"It's going to look different. No doubt about it. There's many ways that (someone) would enjoy elements more than maybe the NBA, its not 'instead of' its just in a different way, to me its a no-brainer to embrace it and for someone like LeBron for that to be on his mind at the end of a hard season that means its from the heart, that means its what's really in his belly and we've seen a lot of NBA guys feel that way. They're growing up differently from the guys before them. They're growing up with a professional womens basketball league and there is respect for it. I give a lot of credit to obviously Adam Silver," Reeve said after Wednesday's practice.
Here's what you need to know to get caught up with what's happened so far this season:
The Minnesota Lynx Are Undefeated
They have the best defense in the league. The rotation is nine-deep with veteran players who fit together seamlessly. Sylvia Fowles has been the best player in the WNBA through 9 games. There are so many reason why the Lynx are atop the standings again this season, but these are the main three.
Ok cool so the Lynx are the best team again. Who are the other teams that look like contenders?
Washington Mystics - A work in progress. They still have not assimilated their three best players (Delle Donne, Meesemen, Tolliver) yet for various reasons. I have a feeling they'll be rounding into shape just as the playoffs start.
Los Angeles Sparks - Last year's champs have had a couple disappointing losses early in the season. Chelsea Gray and Alana Beard have stepped up their production after losing guard Kristi Tolliver in free agency.
New York Liberty - Defense is a hallmark of any Bill Lambeer Liberty team and this year is no different. They're super deep and Tina Charles is a top five player again this year.
Seattle Storm - With last year's rookie of the year Breanna Stewart as well as two all-league players in Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd, everything seems to finally be coming together for Seattle. This team is probably too thin to win a title this year, but its only a matter of time until Stewart morphs into the best player in the WNBA.
Post Players dominate
The best players in the WNBA this season have been post-players like Sylvia Fowles, Brittney Griner, Tina Charles and Elena Delle Donne. This is in sharp contrast to the NBA where perimeter players vie for the MVP each season. In addition to being the tallest players on the court, and easily scoring in the paint, they each contribute in so many other ways for their respective teams.
You should totally be watching the WNBA this summer. Twitter is streaming 20 games for free and WNBA League Pass is the best value in live sports at $17 for the entire season (local blackout rules apply, duh). Your hometown Minnesota Lynx are the best team in the league, another good reason to start watching some women's hoops.
Meanwhile, we’ll be writing about their journey in search of another championship all summer here at Canis Hoopus.
Next up for the Lynx: Hosting the Connecticut Sun at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night.