WNBA Preseason 2019: 10 Things to Watch

Just days after WNBA training camp began on May 5th, preseason is already upon us. Here are 10 things to watch out for.

The pace at which things go at this time of year means that WNBA teams need to make a lot of decisions (in particular, trimming their roster from the preseason maximum of 15 players to the regular season limit of 12) in a short time period, oftentimes with key players still carrying out overseas commitments.

Because of this, WNBA preseason is never short of intriguing storylines. The games might not count in the standings, but there’s still a lot going on. Here are 10 things to watch for during exhibition.

1. Who plays point guard for Dallas

With the Elizabeth Cambage saga on hold -- for now -- our attention turns to the other noticeable absence from the Dallas Wings: Skylar Diggins-Smith. The star point guard recently gave birth and was seen working out with the team, but we don’t know when she’ll be back on the court.

Until that happens, the Wings’ point guard situation is completely up in the air. It’s an opportunity that South Dakota product Nicole Seekamp could seize, and former Big 12 Player of the Year Brooke McCarty-Williams is also in the mix. First-round draft pick Arike Ogunbowale could find herself playing some minutes at PG as well, although it’s not her natural position.

2. Will Sky defense improve under Wade?

One of the biggest questions on draft day was how the Chicago Sky would improve its league-worst defense. A month later, the same question remains; Chicago has lots of shooting, but first-year head coach and general manager James Wade hasn't made many defensive-minded acquisitions. They’ll have to improve on that end with their current personnel. Look for Chicago to experiment with different defensive schemes during the preseason.

3. How will Fisher manage his frontcourt?

It was a surprise to more than a few people when the Los Angeles Sparks hired Derek Fisher to coach their team. Fisher -- who went 40-96 as head coach of the NBA’s New York Knicks from 2014 to 2016 -- inherits a roster featuring Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, and the recently acquired Chiney Ogwumike, as well as 2019 first-round pick Kalani Brown. How will the minutes be distributed among all that talent? It’s common to see star players be limited during the preseason, but it would behoove Fisher to use the Sparks’ exhibition games to figure out his frontcourt rotations.

4. Who on Seattle gets Stewart’s minutes?

The WNBA community cringed when reigning MVP Breanna Stewart went down with an Achilles injury in EuroLeague play. The Seattle Storm will be without arguably the most dominant player in the league for all of 2019, so how can they replace her production? Specifically, who will fill the void at power forward? 2018’s Most Improved Player Natasha Howard is an obvious choice, but beyond her, it’s a huge question mark: veterans Courtney Paris and Crystal Langhorne are best suited for low-post play, so Seattle will have to adjust some things schematically.

5. Young’s fit in Las Vegas

While there was some speculation on draft day about whether the Las Vegas Aces would trade the No. 1 overall pick Jackie Young, training camp is here and she’s all but made the team. Young showed solid playmaking ability as a wing during her collegiate career, and head coach Bill Laimbeer has suggested that she’ll be playing some point guard as a rookie. That’s a steep learning curve, and the Aces already have Moriah Jefferson and Kelsey Plum to fall back on. Young’s versatility ensures that she’ll get her reps; it’s where she’ll be playing that’s the question.

6. New-look Lynx

Maya Moore is taking the 2019 season off. Lindsay Whalen is retired. Rebekkah Brunson is still dealing with the effects of a concussion sustained last year, and Seimone Augustus probably won’t be playing much longer.

Needless to say, the Minnesota Lynx will look significantly different in 2019 than in years past. That’s not to say they won’t be trying to compete: they traded for guards Odyssey Sims and Lexie Brown, signed forward Karima Christmas-Kelly in free agency, and drafted one of the greatest players in UConn history in Napheesa Collier.

That’s a lot of moving parts. How will head coach Cheryl Reeve arrange them?

7. Who makes the Sun?

Even after trading Chiney Ogwumike to Los Angeles, the Connecticut Sun has a tough roster to crack. Head coach and general manager Curt Miller has spoken very highly of second-round pick Bridget Carleton, but guard/forward Bria Holmes will be making her WNBA return and could cost Carleton a spot on the team. Center Brionna Jones might have a difficult time as well; the Sun drafted Kristine Anigwe in the first round, and she has a significant athletic advantage over Jones and third-round draft pick Regan Magarity. No matter who Miller is forced to waive, it won’t be for a lack of individual talent.

8. New York’s new backcourt

In addition to drafting Louisville guard Asia Durr at No. 2 overall, the New York Liberty seems fully committed to a rebuild of their backcourt. Epiphanny Prince and Marissa Coleman remain unsigned free agents Sugar Rodgers was traded to Las Vegas, and Shavonte Zellous signed with the Seattle Storm.

These moves suggest that the Liberty is content with handing the keys of the team to Durr, along with second-year guard Kia Nurse. Nurse played well in the team’s recent exhibition game versus the Chinese National Team, and she figures to have a larger role than she did in 2018.

9. Indiana’s third-round picks

It’s normally a rare occurrence to see a third-round draft pick make a WNBA roster, but the Indiana Fever has two that have good chances. Paris Kea, drafted at No. 25 overall, has little competition in training camp as a third-string point guard, should head coach and general manager Pokey Chatman decide to carry three PGs. Meanwhile, No. 28 overall pick Caliya Robinson brings a long-distance jumper and impeccable defensive instincts to the Fever’s frontcourt; Indiana has a little more depth there, but at this point, not much is guaranteed beyond veterans Candice Dupree and Natalie Achonwa and first-round pick Teaira McCowan.

10. Washington’s perimeter rotation

The Washington Mystics are projected by many to be 2019’s championship favorites, but they have some kinks to work out this preseason. After losing Monique Currie (retirement) and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt (free agency), head coach and general manager Mike Thibault will be putting his faith in a pair of former first-round draft picks to soak up minutes on the wing: Aerial Powers and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. Their performance this preseason will be especially important after it was announced that the Mystics’ 2019 first-round pick Kiara Leslie had undergone arthroscopic knee surgery.

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