Pass The Ball: Fixing the Aces, Fever and Liberty
The Aces, Fever and Liberty are off to a combined 0-10 start to the season. What has gone wrong and can they get things back on track? Our WNBAinsidr staff weighs in.
1. Why are the Aces 0-3 and how can they turn things around?
Tyler Berry: I think the obvious answer is the fact that a franchise in a brand new city went all of training camp and the start of the season without two extremely vital players in Kayla McBride and Kelsey Plum. The offense dealt with some struggles while those two were finishing up seasons in Turkey. With both players back and expected to step into even bigger roles, Vegas should be able to space the floor better and create more open shots on the perimeter. Cutting down on the 19 turnovers per game will help, too.
The other issue has been defense. You can’t win very many games giving up a league-worst 94 points per night on 47 percent shooting. This showed against Seattle the other night when the Aces gave up 105 points and lost by seven despite a solid all-around performance on offense. McBride can score 21 per game, but it’s not going to mean much if the team doesn’t limit the opposition’s production.
Nicholas LeTourneau: The Aces are 0-3 for two reasons, they have an offensive system that Michael J. Fox probably ran in the movie Teen Wolf and they have been without two of their primary scorers. A’ja Wilson is extremely talented and has a good start to the season, but she can't do it alone. Las Vegas just got Kelsey Plum and Kayla McBride back (who scored 21 points while going 3 of 6 from deep in her Aces' debut) so once the team gets used to playing together they should be on to greener pastures.
Aryeh Schwartz: Simply put, they didn’t have their best players playing. It will be tough for them to become a winner, but if they buy into defense they can drastically improve from last year.
2. Why are the Fever 0-5 and how can they turn things around?
Berry: Youth and inexperience. The Fever suit up four rookies and really have just a couple of veterans -- Candice Dupree and Erica Wheeler – to look to for leadership. The team is deep into a rebuilding phase and trying to develop chemistry on both sides of the ball. The offense has shown flashes of success, especially with Kelsey Mitchell on the floor, but inconsistency and sloppy play (13.6 turnovers per game) have kept Indiana from putting together a complete game on that end. Right now, Dupree and Kelsey Mitchell are the only two Fever players in double figures, so finding a third, consistent option on offense to help space the floor and get more open opportunities will help. Team defense needs to improve, as well. Opponents are shooting over 48 percent from the field and averaging 86 points. The best ways to lower those numbers are slowing down the transition game (goes hand-in-hand with the turnover issue) and eliminating second-chance opportunities. Height will be an issue from a rebounding perspective all year, but getting to those 50-50 balls will help.
LeTourneau: Indiana has been very unlucky to start the season. Not only have they played a back-to-back already, but they have also gone up against some of the premier talent in the WNBA. Chicago dismantled them on opening day and they played the undefeated Mystics twice. Los Angeles was able to handle them with ease, and on Saturday they went up against the best coached team in the league in Connecticut. Kelsey Mitchell and Candice Dupree are probably their best bets to turn things around. They should try to do whatever they can to squeeze production out of them and inserting Mitchell into the starting lineup was a good choice.
Schwartz: They are 0-5 due to a hard schedule and also because they didn't start the rookies. To me, if you are in a rebuild, start the rookies.
3. Why are the Liberty 0-2 and how can they turn things around?
Berry: You know, of these three teams, I’m least concerned with the Liberty’s slow start. Like the Aces, New York is dealing with players missing from the active roster – Brittany Boyd, Sugar Rodgers and Epiphanny Prince are all out with injuries, while Kia Vaughn just finished up her Turkish season. With a full-strength roster, new head coach Katie Smith will have more to work with from a gameplan standpoint. A shot in the arm offensively will also help. Tina Charles has been her expected level of fantastic, averaging 18.5 points and 8 rebounds per game and rookie Kia Nurse is already proving to be a wonderful draft choice, averaging nearly 16 per game. But besides these two, the Liberty have no other scorers in double figures and are averaging just 74 points per night (11th in the league).
LeTourneau: The Liberty are in the best position of any of these winless teams. They have fought hard in both of their games (losing to last year’s champion Lynx by only 6 points and losing to an upstart Sky team that looks poised for the playoffs by only 4 points) and are without a lot of their core. To start training camp, eight players were missing while finishing up their overseas seasons and three players are currently out with various injuries. New York is 0-2, but once they see a steady lineup and get some time to gel, they should be back on course for a decent season.
Schwartz: The Liberty have suffered two tough losses to start the season. With a new coach and a talented roster, I expect this to correct itself. Tina Charles is in midseason form, but they need to to fix what has been bothering them for years - transition defense.