Do It For The Dream: Atlanta continues to give opponents nightmares

In previous weeks, we at Beyond The W have taken time to give love to teams outside of the WNBA’s Big Three of the Las Vegas Aces, New York Liberty and Connecticut Sun. 

And while those three teams are more than deserving of the flowers they have earned this season for being in the championship picture, we have looked at teams that have either been pleasant surprises or teams that may disrupt the Las Vegas-New York-Connecticut triumvirate at the top of the WNBA’s food chain. 

One of those teams we have shouted out were the Dallas Wings for showing signs that they are finally rounding the corner from their rebuild and are establishing themselves as contenders for years to come. Another one of those teams was the Minnesota Lynx for a surprisingly good 2023 after many of us expected the Lynx to consider if Paige Bueckers or Caitlin Clark would be the long term answer to their woes. 

This time we have Georgia on our minds – and the superb play of Atlanta’s WNBA franchise has its growing fanbase dreaming of much bigger accolades. 

To say that the Dream endured a tumultuous rebuilding period since the departure of Angel McCoughtry would be, arguably, the understatement of the last few years. Atlanta’s history between then and the 2022 season was so much of a roller coaster it involved the ouster of an owner who made incendiary comments about the Black Lives Matter movement – not to mention that ex-owner losing her U.S. Senate race. 

The Dream’s win in the political arena actually set them up for wins on the basketball court – the first one coming when general manager Dan Padover engineered a trade with the Washington Mystics for the first overall pick in the 2022 draft. That selection was Rhyne Howard out of Kentucky.

Since then, the drafting of Howard turned out to be a slam dunk for Atlanta. She was an All-Star in her first season and was last year’s Rookie of the Year. But bringing Howard into the fold with the Dream gave the team something it was devoid of since the McCoughtry years. 

It gave the team an identity. 

The Dream were locked in a stiff fight with the Liberty for the final playoff berth of 2022 before losing out in the final few games of the season. Even with missing out on the playoffs, the 2022 season was a successful one for Atlanta because it had all the makings of a team ready to make its ascent in the WNBA’s standings. 

Fast forward to the 2023 season. It started out rocky for Atlanta because they saw a lot of Aces, Liberty and Sun on their schedule. Now that said 2023 slate has evened out, the Dream have ascended up the standings and are now in firm position to claim one of those eight playoff berths. 

Unless the Dream cross paths with New York or Connecticut in the playoffs, Atlanta is done with the portion of the schedule where Lib seafoam, black and copper or Sun orange and blue is on the other bench. The Dream still do have a pair of get-togethers remaining with Las Vegas. 

Instead of only one All-Star this time, Atlanta sent three to All-Star in Las Vegas. Howard’s naming to All-Star was more under unfortunate circumstances because of an injury to the Mystics’ Elena Delle Donne, but Cheyenne Parker and Allisha Gray were also part of the WNBA’s midseason party because of their stellar play. 

The Howard-Gray-Parker trio has actually become one of the more formidable big threes in the WNBA. Atlanta’s most recent triumph against the Indiana Fever – an 82-73 triumph – saw Howard score 24 points, haul in four rebounds and dish out three assists. Gray went for 21 points and four assists. Parker finished with 16 points, six rebounds and three assists. 

If the postseason were to commence today, Atlanta would be the fifth seed and would face off against the Wings in the first round. Because of the W’s updated postseason format that calls for three-game series in the first round as opposed to sudden death, all the Dream would need to do would be to win at least one of those games at College Park Center to force a Game 3 back on their home floor. 

And that home floor has become a home court advantage on par with some of the best in the WNBA. The Dream have touted that they have the most sellouts in the W, but detractors will, of course, mention that Atlanta plays in one of the smaller venues in the WNBA. 

The Dream may not be championship contenders this season, but remember that Padover was the architect of the Aces team that became the team to beat in the WNBA. He is doing something similar in Atlanta – which is exactly where a team wants to be to make moves in the future. 

A franchise player, the emergence of a big three, pieces such as Nia Coffey and Danielle Robinson around that big three and a coach in Tanisha Wright that has struck the right chord with the locker room (and possibly earned her Coach of the Year votes). 

Throughout their history, the Dream have yet to win a championship, but have participated in WNBA Finals in 2010, 2011 and 2013. This team should have fans daydreaming of that first ring and parade through downtown Atlanta – which may come sooner than we think.