At the end of the 2012 WNBA season, the Tulsa Shock and Chicago Sky had both failed to reach the playoffs yet again. The Phoenix Mercury – who for most of the season played without starters Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor, Candice Dupree – finished with the second-worst record in the league behind the Washington Mystics. Some media outlets and fans even accused the Phoenix Mercury of tanking. They reasoned that Taurasi had been the leading scorer for the USA National Team, yet sat out the remainder of the summer. They blamed Phoenix for trying to increase their chances at getting arguably the most sought-after draft pick in league history: Brittney Griner.
Before Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, and Skylar Diggins started their senior season of college, media outlets were already flagging these three as being potential game changers at the next level. Dubbed the “3 to See”, they were expected to make an immediate impact, and help the aforementioned struggling franchises. They were so prized in fact, that when the league-worst Mystics learned they would get the 4th overall pick in the draft, ESPN caught owner Sheila Johnson’s look of horror. Phoenix ended up with the first pick, followed by Chicago and Tulsa.
Whether or not Phoenix truly meant to tank remains unseen (and for the record the W investigated and determined no foul play), yet it begs the question:
What makes these three so special?
The 2013 WNBA season may be one the most highly anticipated in league history. Most of the hype stems from the ESPN “Big 3” campaign, where rookie sensations Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, and Skylar Diggins are expected to make an immediate, lasting impact. Bill Laimbeer hopes to create some of the magic from his days as Detroit Shock head coach, as he returns to the league after a four-year absence, where he reunites with his former Detroit star Cheryl Ford in New York. Can they bring the Liberty to their former prominence? Phoenix returns former league MVP Diana Taurasi and all-star Penny Taylor after sitting out last season due to injuries. Will Phoenix when a third title? Seattle lost Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson for the season, leaving a young team and a thin bench. Can Tina Thompson lead this team to post-season in what may be her final year in the league? Finally, can Tulsa and Chicago finally make the playoffs for the first time?
The 2013 WNBA Season kicks off on May 24, when the San Antonio Silver Stars host the Indiana Fever in the season opener. Between now and Friday, I will be posting my own thoughts, commentary, predictions, previews, and story lines for this upcoming summer.