The WNBA season is in full swing! With two undefeated teams, a surprise out of Atlanta, several early Rookie of the Year candidates, a new league president, and the Olympics on the horizon, we recently decided to chat a bit with Doug Feinberg of the Associated Press to get his insight on what he’s seen so far and what’s to come!
BTW: What has been your overall assessment of the season so far?
DF: Well it’s been an exciting season so far especially if you’re a fan of Minnesota or Los Angeles.
BTW: It is early but based on what has happened so far, does it appear as if we practically already know one of the participants in this year’s WNBA Finals (Minnesota)?
DF: The new playoff format certainly looks like it will reward the top teams and Minnesota is on its way to being one of them. I never would never put anyone in the Finals this early in the season, but would definitely start penciling them into one of the top spots.
BTW: What is your take on this sort of season being one of unexpecteds with the Atlanta Dream at the top of the East and the Phoenix Mercury, who were heavy favorites at the beginning of the year, somewhat struggling?
DF: Phoenix had a lot of its players and coaching staff report right before the season began because of overseas commitments. Defensively they have been way out of sorts and that’s a big reason why. Also since Diana and Penny sat out last year it takes a little longer to get everyone on the same page. They can’t really afford to dig themselves too big a hole though. Atlanta has been a pleasant surprise and one that I didn’t see coming. People were questioning their offseason moves of acquiring Elizabeth Williams and trading Shoni Schimmel, but both transactions have looked good so far.
BTW: Does it appear as if the rookie of the year so far is between Breanna Stewart and Tiffany Mitchell or are there others such an Aerial Powers or an Imani Boyette that may build up a case?
DF: Breanna Stewart is definitely the overwhelming favorite to win the award which almost isn’t fair to the rest of the rookies. Tiffany Mitchell is by far the biggest rookie surprise in that she’s been the most consistent scorer of all of the first-year players. One third of the way into the season she’s the only one who could give Stewart any chase for the award.
BTW: It is early but what team(s) that are struggling now do you expect to see as contenders for the postseason by year’s end (especially with the playoff format being now what it is)?
DF: As I said earlier, if Phoenix can turn it around I definitely wouldn’t to see them in my side of the bracket because they have experience winning championships and Diana Taurasi is still one of the best players on the planet. Chicago is starting to figure things out a little bit and although they are only .500 right now, could be a legitimate threat for a championship. Also would like to throw Dallas in the mix. They got off to a great start last year before Skylar Diggins got hurt. She’s still working her way back and they are now getting Glory Johnson back from her suspension, so they could be a team that could create waves the rest of the season.
BTW: How do you feel that being an Olympic year this year will affect teams later on?
DF: There’s a massive sprint going on right now until the Olympic break and teams will not have too much time after the month-long hiatus to catch up if they are that far behind. You could think that with four Olympians the Lynx might be tired after the break, but they might have already clinched home court throughout the playoffs by that point.
BTW: How favored is the USA to claim gold once again at the Olympics (even with the snub of Candace Parker)?
DF: Well they haven’t lost a game in the Olympics since 1992 so I’d say they are still heavy favorites. The only team that could give them any sort of trouble would be Australia, but the U.S. would need to have a really off-game for that upset to happen.
BTW: What has been your impression up to this point of new league president Lisa Borders?
DF: She’s definitely doing her homework and understands the league having been a fan for so long. She’s engaging and is doing her due diligence to learn what she doesn’t know. It helps that she has a strong connection with NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
BTW: The last league president, Laurel Richie, had floated around the idea of expansion. Do you think that is possible under Lisa Borders or in general at this point in the league?
DF: I mentioned that to her and she has kept the same party line that expansion will happen when the time is right. I think the key thing is you need to add two teams when they expand. I think they have one already that has shown interest, now they just have to lock in another one. Clearly there is enough talent to support 2 more teams easily.
BTW: Closing thoughts?
DF: Excited to see how the rest of the season plays out. June 21 will be an interesting day for the WNBA if Los Angeles and Minnesota can stay unbeaten that will be their first meeting of the season which would set up an intriguing matchup. There’s also that other game between Dallas and Phoenix which will be nationally televised. Also really excited how the new AP WNBA power poll has taken off this year. It’s created a buzz around the league which is always a good thing.
We appreciate Doug for taking the time to share his insights. You can follow him on Twitter @DougFeinberg.