Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ga-Ga over Bird

Every local paper and the Storm website are ALL focused on Sue Bird's arrival. Expect more of the same tomorrow with LJ's arrival today.

It is interesting to hear Agler's vote of confidence in Bird's defense. I have always thought that Sue was one of the better guards in the league at transition defense, but she has not shown her ability to guard one on one. Of course, Coach Donovan was focused on team oriented defense, but I am not sure whether that was preference or a reaction to the available personnel.

It is a given that the Storm's defense should improve this season. They have added three solid defenders to the starting lineup in Cash, Griffith and Swoopes. Two of them may be a step slower than their prime, but I am betting they are still better than average, making up in experience and smarts for what they have lost in athleticism and strength. The championship year the Storm had around the same offensive efficiency, averaging 101-102 points per 100 possesions (though they had 104 last season) but their defense fell from 95 to 100 over the same span with drops each year. That is what cost them...they just let the opponents score too many points.

If they can shave that 5 points back and maintain their offensive prowess, then I don't think anyone will match them.

I realize that I am a bit of a homer, but Phoenix's offense was only a point and a half better than Seattle's last year based on 100 possessions. Their defense was just under a point worse. Detroit on the other hand was significantly better defensively but their offense was 5 points below Phoenix's mark. LA is a question mark, I don't know how well Leslie will play or how much better Parker will make them. San Antonio hasn't changed much since last year, and they played better in the playoffs than their season hinted.

Last year the best regular season point differentials were in order...

Detroit: +5.81 (they lost Cash and gained Hornbuckle and Sam)
Indiana: +4.23 (how far do they go without Catchings despite getting Douglas?)
Phoenix: +4.22 (how far do they go with Taylor?)
Seattle: +3.31 (swapped Lennox, Burse and Castro for Cash, Swoopes and Griffith)
Connecticut: +3.05 (lost Douglas and Sayles for...Deforge?)

I expected better things this season from Minnesota, but then they lost Harding again.

Chicago looks better with Sylvia Fowles in the middle. They could do some serious damage in the East.

Atlanta will not play like an expansion franchise...they are going to disrupt the East as well.

Given all that, I think that the Storm are flying under the radar again, just like they did in 2004. Of course, the chemisty could just choke, but I just can't see that happening. Swoopes, Cash and Griffith all WANTED to come here and be a part of this. Robinson turned down better money to stay and be a part of this.

The Storm cut two decent guards from camp, not because they aren't ready for the league, but because they weren't a right fit for a tight roster. I think O'Neil, Beck, Lewis and Hodges are all better players than Michelle Greco and Trina Frierson were in 2004. I think Cash, Swoopes and Griffith are better collectively than Sam, Lennox and Vodichkova were in 2004. Top to bottom of the roster, as Swoopes has said, this is a mighty impressive team. Of course the league wide talent is also better than it was in 2004. That didn't stop the league from still being the five teams listed above being separated by a reasonable gap from the rest of the teams last season. I think the Storm really have a chance to compete this year. Key Arena should maintain or grow its home record with an energized fan base and the looming shadow of relocation removed. The team was 11-6 at home last year after going 9-8 in 2006. They were 12-5 in 2005 and 11-6 in 2004. The potentialis high...I, for one, am excited to see where it takes us.

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