The WNBA teaching carousel has seen fairly the exercise over the past eight months, with three first-time WNBA head coaches getting nods to steer franchises, one main West-to-East changeover and, for the reason that 2022 marketing campaign tipped, two midseason firings inside underperforming squads.
With the season nearing its midway level and separation between tiers of groups starting to materialize, we provide a have a look at the early front-runners for WNBA Coach of the 12 months. All three of the picks are, coincidentally, former WNBA gamers, together with two first-time head coaches who’ve surpassed expectations of their first season.
First-year juggernaut: Becky Hammon, Las Vegas Aces
Individuals weren’t positive what to make of the Aces earlier than the season. Gone have been Liz Cambage, Angel McCoughtry and Invoice Laimbeer, and in got here a first-year head coach in WNBA legend Becky Hammon, returning to the league after serving as a longtime assistant within the NBA.
Quick ahead six weeks into the 2022 marketing campaign, and Hammon has propelled the WNBA-best 13-3 Aces into the group to beat this summer season because of her high-octane offense predicated on tempo and area. She inserted Kelsey Plum and Dearica Hamby into the beginning 5 – for the primary time in 4 years, Sixth Girl of the 12 months will not go to a member of the Aces! – the place each have thrived, whereas additionally shifting A’ja Wilson to the 5, the place she has had an MVP-caliber season. Jackie Younger won’t have had a lot of a 3-point shot her first three years as a professional, however she’s now main the group with 45.7% accuracy from deep.
Alongside the way in which, Hammon earned the very best 10-game begin to a head-coaching profession in WNBA historical past, going 9-1 in Might.
A standard counterpoint to Hammon’s case is that the Aces’ core 5 had already been enjoying collectively for years – advancing to a minimum of the semifinals every of the final three seasons – and that that chemistry helps gas their 2022 success. Nonetheless, Hammon deserves credit score for unlocking these gamers in a distinct system plus, in some circumstances, new roles, and for turning the Aces right into a juggernaut all through a season in any other case formed by parity.
Greatest turnaround: Tanisha Wright, Atlanta Dream
Expectations have been low for the Atlanta Dream coming into 2022: After a franchise overhaul from possession down over the past year-plus, in addition to a bunch of off-court drama that marred the 2021 season, the Dream had simply 4 holdover gamers from final season . Atlanta gave the impression to be constructing for the long run, too, when it determined to commerce up and choose Rhyne Howard with the No. 1 general decide in April’s draft.
Recent off a two-season stint as an assistant for the Aces, Wright steered the Dream to a 4-1 begin, displaying from the get-go that Atlanta wasn’t going to be toiling on the backside of the standings this summer season. Following Tuesday’s win over the Dallas Wings, Wright has the Dream at .500, their eight wins thus far tying their 2021 win complete, and if the season ended at the moment, they’d earn the No. 6 seed and attain the playoffs for the primary time since 2018. What’s extra, Wright has managed to do it with out the luxurious of leaning on Dream franchise stalwart Tiffany Hayes, who continues to be recovering from a knee harm.
As she did as a participant and an assistant within the league, Wright established a gritty defensive identification in Atlanta that has made the Dream a headache for groups to face – they’re at present first in defensive ranking after by no means ending higher than eighth of their earlier three seasons. And whereas Howard has been wonderful, the first-year coach has additionally gotten nice play out of Aari McDonald, Cheyenne Parker and even AD Durr – who solely joined the group two weeks in the past after a muted begin in New York – as of late , serving to Atlanta catapult from afterthought to seemingly playoff contender.
Darkish horse: Sandy Brondello, New York Liberty
Do not cement Brondello – who’s in her first season in Brooklyn after spending the earlier eight with the Phoenix Mercury – on this dialog simply but; despite the fact that the Liberty have gained six of their final 9 video games, together with a giant one Wednesday over the Connecticut Solar, it is powerful to put aside their 1-7 begin. However she’s included right here as a result of if New York continues on this trajectory, it has a powerful shot at making the playoffs and coming away with its finest season in years.
Marine Johannes and Han Xu have been game-changers. Sabrina Ionescu has thrived since Brondello began enjoying her alongside Crystal Dangerfield and, extra just lately, Johannes. Natasha Howard and Stefanie Dolson have helped spearhead a greater defensive effort, and on the opposite facet of the ground are more and more settling into Brondello’s system. Throughout their final 9 video games, the Liberty are No. 2 within the league in internet ranking; their on-court chemistry, capacity to make in-game changes and ball motion have taken huge leaps in current weeks.
Marine Johannes goes off one leg and knocks down a large triple to contribute to Liberty’s 10-0 run.
That New York has managed to compile this streak – which additionally consists of two wins over the Mystics and shut losses to the Storm and Sky – with out 2021 All-Star Betnijah Laney and Jocelyn Willoughby and as DiDi Richards, Rebecca Allen and Lorela Cubaj additionally missed time on account of accidents, makes the run all of the extra spectacular.
There’s a number of floor to be made up, they usually’d have to shut out tight video games in opposition to nice groups, reminiscent of how they did Wednesday in opposition to Connecticut, higher than they must date. Nevertheless it’s not completely infeasible for Brondello to information the Liberty to a .500 or higher end for the primary time since 2017, when Invoice Laimbeer was the coach.
Stat of the week
It may possibly’t be something aside from the Aces scoring a WNBA-record 41 first-quarter factors in opposition to the defending champs Tuesday night time solely to surrender a 28-point lead because the Sky put collectively the biggest comeback in league historical past to return away with the 104-95 victory.
“That first quarter was one of the crucial good quarters I’ve ever seen of basketball,” Hammon mentioned. “Mainly after that, they kicked our ass.”
Sport of the week: Washington Mystics at Seattle Storm
The primary assembly this summer season between the 2019 and 2018/20 champs occurs Thursday (10 pm ET on CBS Sports activities Community). Elena Delle Donne (relaxation, again) didn’t play within the Mystics’ loss to the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday, however is anticipated to rejoin the group in Seattle. Washington is 8-3 with its two-time MVP and 3-5 with out her
Each groups have struggled to ascertain consistency with gamers out and in of the lineup on account of harm, sickness, and so on., however are nonetheless within the dialog of title contenders and could be harmful in the event that they peak on the proper time.
How will the Storm’s offense, which at instances has struggled to get a lot manufacturing exterior of Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Ezi Magbegor, fare in opposition to the Mystics’ stingy protection? Can Washington bounce again after a disappointing loss to the Sparks and channel the hassle it got here out with in its decisive victory (with Delle Donne) this previous weekend over Connecticut?
Do not miss Katie Barnes’ ESPN story on 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones and who will get to be the face of the WNBA.
“I need it to have the ability to get to the purpose the place we will simply share these tales and permit girls of our league to simply actually thrive and flourish,” Jones informed Barnes. “And so, if me sitting up telling my fact and being open and sincere goes to do this, then I actually do hope it’s higher for women sooner or later.”
Fantasy girls’s basketball picks
Who to begin: New York’s Johannes has lit the WNBA world on fireplace since arriving in Brooklyn from France along with her flashy facilitating and, much more just lately, her sizzling capturing (she’s 8-of-15 on 3-pointers her previous two video games). She might be a very good pickup.
Allisha Grey has been among the many vivid spots for the Dallas Wings this summer season, her 14.9 factors and 5.8 rebounds per recreation each career-best marks. The 6-foot-0 guard, who has a powerful case for an All-Star reserve bid, was No. 20 in ESPN’s most up-to-date fantasy rankings.
Emma Meesseman is an efficient particular person to begin this upcoming week because the Sky face the struggling Sparks and Minnesota Lynx. Her 38.2 fantasy factors per recreation over the past 5 video games are tied for third-best within the league.
Who to sit down: The Sparks have a troublesome stretch developing with video games in opposition to the Sky, Storm and Aces. Chennedy Carter performed simply two minutes within the Sparks’ upset over the Mystics, and interim head coach Fred Williams warned that her minutes could go down with the return of Kristi Toliver.
Washington’s Myisha Hines-Allen has struggled in current video games, and Thursday’s matchup in opposition to the defensive-minded Storm, a unit led by the likes of Gabby Williams, Stewart and Magbegor, might be a tricky one.
Diamond DeShields scored a season-low 5 factors in opposition to Minnesota earlier this week and scored a meager 14 in opposition to Dallas after they performed final week. On the whole, her utilization has gone down as of late. The Mercury have rematches in opposition to these squads this week, so it is perhaps price contemplating sitting DeShields for these matchups when you have stronger choices to play.