Atlanta Dream 2017 Season Preview: Concentrate And Ask Again

Atlanta Dream

With the loss of Angel McCoughtry for the season, Atlanta Dream fans are going to need to look to the future and the promise of better days ahead. 

Atlanta Dream
Record last season:  17-17
Finished third (tie) in the Eastern Conference, lost in second round to the Chicago Sky

Projected Starters/Potential Subs:
Layshia Clarendon
Tiffany Hayes
Bria Holmes
Sancho Lyttle
Elizabeth Williams
Alternate guards:  Brittney Sykes, Matee Ajavon, Brianna Kiesel
Alternate posts:  Rachel Jarry, Rachel Hollivay, Damiris Dantas, Aneika Morello, Markeshia Gatling


If you still have your Magic 8-Ball from childhood, you’ll understand the following exchange:

Q:  How will the Atlanta Dream do in 2017?
A:  “Concentrate and ask again.”  “Ask again later.”

In the past, one didn’t need a child’s toy to predict the Atlanta Dream season. For several years, you could depend on Angel McCoughtryTiffany HayesSancho Lyttle and Erika de Souza plus one random point guard that was going to be the great hope and that would prove disappointing. This would be good enough to get Atlanta into the playoffs.

However, all bets are off now. McCoughtry has decided to take a year off. Whether she’ll be gone that long is anyone’s guess. Don’t be surprised to see her come back but don’t count on it, either.

Sancho Lyttle will turn 34 sometime in 2017. Anyone who pays attention to the offseason and European basketball knows that Lyttle has played a lot of overseas. That’s no proof that there has to be a decline and we could see Lyttle playing into her late thirties but we all know what happened to Erika de Souza. One minute she was the Dream’s starting center and the next a timer went off and she evaporated. Dream fans are praying the timer won’t be going off in 2017. The hope is that Damiris Dantas will pick up the slack and we are glad to have her back. (But will she stay back?)

This could be a new era for the Atlanta Dream, with a ten percent chance of feast and a (more likely) ninety percent chance of famine. One thing’s for certain is that Hayes will be expected to carry the load of the Dream’s offense.

The Tiffany Hayes era

How do I think she’ll do?  That depends if head coach Michael Cooper plans on making Hayes the 2.0 version of McCoughtry. I love playing with advanced metrics and there is one called ‘touches’.  Touches estimates how many times a player touches the ball during the season. Overall, Hayes was third in touches behind McCoughtry (of course) and Clarendon.

More important is what players do with those touches. McCoughtry passed the ball about 41 percent of the time and shot 39 percent; Hayes passed 45 percent of the time and shot 34 percent of the time. Hayes shoots about as well as McCoughtry and shoots the three more frequently (but with less success). It’s always hard to get a player to stop making the shots that they’re used to making so expect even more three pointers from Hayes. She doesn’t turn the ball over much, gets fouled on about 15 percent of her touches (best among the starters) and is a good free throw shooter. I expect a few more points to come from the free throw line for Atlanta, which finished at No. 11 in the league last season.

Unfortunately, the Dream’s bench is still suspect until proven otherwise. Rachel Jarry might help, and I put her in the “alternate post” category because I feel she’ll make the team. However, Jarry, Dantas and Aneika Morello aren’t going to be enough by themselves to push Atlanta out of its most likely destination.

More WNBA: Phoenix Mercury 2017 Season Preview

Projected record: had the Dream projected more or less finishing at No. 6, same as last year.  I see that as way too optimistic.

How many wins or losses, you ask?  I predict 12-22, good enough for a tenth place finish. It’s not as bad as the Dream were in 2008, but Atlanta fans will have to live on promise and not on results in 2017.  I’ll be happy to eat crow if I’m wrong.

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