6 storylines to watch out for as WNBA offseason begins

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

The 2020 WNBA season, somehow and some way, is in the books and was completed with the Seattle Storm winning its fourth championship in franchise history. The Storm are now tied with the Houston Comets and Minnesota Lynx for the most crowns all-time in the WNBA.

We know the storylines that usually proceed a WNBA season – players going overseas, the start of the college basketball campaign and the way-too-early speculation on where free agents will land for the next season.

Because of the coronavirus, though, all of that has never been in more flux. The date of the WNBA’s draft lottery that will involve the New York Liberty, Indiana Fever, Dallas Wings and Atlanta Dream is up in the air. And because of the pandemic, it remains to be seen if teams will only play teams in their conferences or if teams will sell tickets.

There are lots of us out there that are already experiencing W-ithdrawals – yes, even wubble withdrawals despite its circumstances of it being in a single location. But so many players do great things in the offseason, which is why outlets like Beyond The W exist – to put a greater spotlight on what these women partake in away from the game.

We will, of course, keep a close watch on what offseason happenings will take place, but here are six notable storylines that have a great chance to dominate the offseason conversation.

1 – Sparks Fly?

When the Los Angeles Sparks were eliminated from the playoffs (again) by the Connecticut Sun, it was not only notable since it occurred in the throes of the Sun’s hot streak that nearly propelled Connecticut into the Finals. It was notable because of what awaits Los Angeles in the offseason.

The eyes of the WNBA once free agency begins will be peeled on to Staples Center. Among the free agents LA will have to try to keep include Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, Chiney Ogwumike, Chelsea Gray and Seimone Augustus. Those are marquee names – three of whom were key pieces in the Sparks’ run to a championship in 2016.

LA has prided itself these last few years on reloading as opposed to rebuilding which is why they made the moves for Kristi Toliver and Augustus in the last free agent period. Resigning a good number of these free agents could determine if the Sparks remain contenders or if the process towards a rebuild finally begins in Tinseltown.

2- Wubble Part 2?

In commissioner Cathy Engelbert’s State of the League address prior to Game 1 of the WNBA Finals between the Las Vegas Aces and Seattle Storm, Engelbert did not dismiss the possibility of there being a second wubble if the Covid-19 pandemic still is not contained by the planned start of the 2021 season. But several teams are already doing season ticket drives and/or advertising as if 2021 will be back in home arenas.

In an ESPN interview prior to the start of the 2020 season, Aces coach Bill Laimbeer stated that the WNBA typically follows whatever the NBA does. After all, the W quickly followed the NBA to Florida after it was announced that Disney World would be where its bubble would emanate from.

The hot NBA rumour is that the NBA wants the upcoming season (whenever it tips off) to be back in home arenas – likely with capped attendance and also likely with temperature checkpoints and mask requirements. If this is the case for Adam Silver, something tells us the wubble may only be a 2020 thing.

3 – Contenders and Pretenders

The Storm had a major advantage on its competition that almost its entire roster made it to the wubble. Other would-be contenders – such as the Washington Mystics, Las Vegas Aces and Connecticut Sun were not as lucky. The Mystics were without Elena Delle Donne and Tina Charles. The Aces were sans Liz Cambage. The Sun played the season without Jonquel Jones.

Not to mention, other teams had a number of its key players leave the wubble early – such as Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury) and Diamond DeShields (Chicago Sky). Sami Whitcomb also left early and Dearica Hamby suffered an ankle injury prior to the Finals.

It may be way too early to make any prognostications for the 2021 season – after all we have not even approached free agency or the draft yet. But for now, the Storm have to be considered the odds-on-favorite to repeat and make it three out of four. Also – a Mystics team with EDD and TC31 as well as an Aces team with Lizzie may not be too far behind. And as Connecticut showed us this year, they belong on the court with the best of the best.

4 – This Is It?

Every offseason now brings us a consistent point of speculation … will this be the final season of basketball for two of the WNBA’s greatest players in Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi?

And while this has to be something that is weighing on the minds of both UConn GOATS, our guess is no – and here is why.

The pandemic not only forced the WNBA to the Florida wubble, it postponed the Olympics in Tokyo to next year. Our educated guess is that even if either Bird or Taurasi do not come away next season with a WNBA championship that they will want to end their careers with one last Olympic gold medal. If Team USA can get past Spain (as they did at Rio 2016) or Australia (as they did at the 2018 FIBA Worlds) both Husky GOATs can head off into the sunset with one more gold medal draped around their necks.

5 – VOTE.

In addition to the presidential race, one political race that is sure to catch the attention of many a WNBA fan is that involving the “jungle primary” involving Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler, an outspoken critic of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Many WNBA players wore shirts in the wubble in support of one of Loeffler’s opponents, Reverend Raphael Warnock. That began a slow but sure rise of Warnock in the polling of the race.

If current polls hold, Warnock is in prime position to make it into a runoff. A latest poll from WSB-TV Atlanta shows Warnock with 36% of the vote with Loeffler at 26%. Doug Collins, another Republican running for the seat, stands at 23%.

6 – Sabrina going global?

Raise your hand if you had the Minnesota Lynx’s Crystal Dangerfield winning 2020 Rookie of the Year. Unless you are in Minnesota, your hand should not be raised as you definitely thought the Rookie of the Year trophy should have had Sabrina Ionescu’s name engraved on it the night of the draft.

Unfortunately, she only played in three games because she rolled her ankle against the Atlanta Dream and was sidelined for the rest of the season. As she continues healing from the ankle ailment, a common question that has come up is if she intends to do what many in the W do after the conclusion of the season and head overseas.

Ionescu held a virtual media availability this week and hinted that if she were to go overseas that it would be for basketball reasons and not money. We agree. The combination of her Zion Williamson-esque hype plus being No. 4 in jersey sales plus the New York market tells us she will be better off than a number of her WNBA counterparts. What overseas team, though, would not be salivating at the thought of the Liberty’s No. 20 donning their team’s colors – and drawing that unbridled hype?

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