The Seattle Storm have been one of the bigger disappointments of the WNBA season, so what do they need to fix to make the postseason?
Last Wednesday’s game between the Seattle Storm and the Connecticut Sun was a tale of two teams heading in opposite directions.
The Sun went into the 2017 WNBA season with low expectations and few thinking a playoff berth was a possibility. Instead, to the surprise of everyone except the most hardcore Sun fan, the team is 11-8 at the halfway point in the season and in first place in the Eastern Conference. Barring a complete collapse down the stretch, the Sun should not only make the postseason, but could realistically win a round or two.
At the other end of the spectrum you have the Seattle Storm. Breanna Stewart was expected to follow up her Rookie of the Year debut season with an even better sophomore performance. The addition of Carolyn Swords in January was supposed to give head coach Jenny Boucek additional options and a chance to rest Stewart more.
Everyone was fully expecting the Storm to improve on their 16-18 record last season and first round exit in the 2016 playoffs.
Instead, there are real questions if the Storm will even make the postseason this year.
Seattle currently sits at 8-10 and second to last in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. They are 3-7 over their last 10 games and won just twice in the entire month of June. This was after starting the season winning five of their first six games.
A closer look at Seattle’s record and you can see where part of the issue lies. Currently the team is an impressive 6-5 at home, which is no shock considering how dominant the team has always been at KeyArena. The problem is that on the road the Storm is an abysmal 2-5, and if you want to win in the WNBA, you need to be able to win away from home.
In addition, the Storm have not been able to close out games late. Most of the losses have been close, coming down to a possession or two. For some reason the shooting goes stone cold in the fourth quarter and leads disappear and with them, the win.
The Storm trio of Stewart, Jewell Loyd and All-Star Sue Bird have all been having solid seasons with Stewart carrying the bulk of the load. She is averaging 19.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks, playing almost 32 minutes per game.
So what is the problem?
Part of it is Swords, who has not fit in with the Storm as well as anticipated. She is only playing 8.5 minutes a game and is averaging only 2.1 points and 1.7 rebounds per game. If the idea was to bring Swords in so Stewart would have more time to rest, it hasn’t worked out that way.
The issues with Swords is a great example of what may be the biggest issue for the Storm: the lack of a deep bench. Each of the Seattle Three is averaging over 30 minutes a game and providing the bulk of the scoring. To win in the WNBA, you need to be able to rest your starters and know that the bench can come in and at least hold down the fort. If not, you’re starters are going to be gassed by the fourth quarter and inevitably, the losses will pile up.
Lucky for the Storm, there is still a lot of season to be played. The WNBA trade deadline is quickly approaching and with it a chance to deepen the bench a bit. If Storm GM Alisha Valavanis can get creative, they may be to add some help that will give Stewart and the rest a chance to catch their breath late in games.
If that happens and the Storm can figure out how to win on the road, the playoffs are still a very real possibility. But the window is closing. Fast.