Sky is the Limit
By Drew Ivery
Most Dallas Wings fans and media were expecting for Dallas to be without two all-stars from last years team, but from the looks of it, the leader of this team, Skylar Diggins-Smith, will be back and ready to play in 2019 (While Diggins-Smith was at training camp the timetable for her return is still unknown at this time).
The beginning of the WNBA season is under three weeks away and Skylar Diggins-Smith is on the training camp roster. This is MAJOR for this team, especially if she starts off the season in Atlanta with the team on May 24 in the season opener. When it comes to the success of the Dallas Wings and competing for a championship, it all comes down to Skylar Diggins-Smith. This team will go as far as she takes them. When you sit back and think about it, you would think that last year’s team was poised for more than an eight seed in the playoffs and a first-round exit since that’s where they were in 2017 as well. The addition of Liz Cambage didn’t matter as much as one would think in terms of garnishing wins. Now, you could look at that situation one of two ways. You can look at it as if Liz is a great player but doesn’t make her team better, or you can blame it on coaching.
When it comes to Cambage, it’s no secret she’s a great player and an all-star, along with being 2nd in MVP voting in 2018. She can score as well as any player in this league and protects the rim very well, but one thing she doesn’t seem to do, is make her team better. Yeah, the numbers look great and the milestones are fantastic, but in the end, it’s about winning and competing for a championship. The Wings finished 15-19 last year when Liz was added to the team. Adding one more all-star to a playoff team should not equal a worse record. Shows that the team didn’t get much better or become any more of a threat with her addition. Although, it is important to note that Cambage finished third in the league in offensive wins shares, which comes largely from her scoring and only attributed to fifteen wins.
Former Head Coach Fred Williams during his tenure as coach of the franchise, in Tulsa and in Dallas, only garnished one winning record in his almost five full seasons at the helm. Struggling in his first season winning just twelve games and no playoff appearance, to winning eighteen games and a playoff berth in year two. When the franchise moved down to Dallas, the record went down with it. Third year with the team and first year in Dallas his team only had eleven wins (his worst record as a head coach when coaching a full season) and no playoffs, to bouncing back in 2017 with sixteen wins and a playoff appearance. Then went 14-17 in 2018 before an abrupt altercation with CEO Greg Bibb which led to his firing shortly afterwards, but the team still managed to make the playoffs.
Although it is her team, Skylar shared the leading of this team with Cambage last season, but it’s time for Skylar to take the reins again. The Sky is the limit for this young team, and they need their leader and four-time all-star to lead them to the promise land. Dallas keep acquiring a bevy of young talent over the last few years. Some players are gone, but those that remain have improved and the talent that we draft keeps on getting better and better each year. With all four rookie draft picks with a chance of making the team this year, Skylar may have her most talented and underrated team yet. After coming off a recent pregnancy, the team doesn’t have a set date as to when they expect Skylar back on the court during the season yet. When the child was officially birthed by Diggins-Smith is a question many are wondering since she was not expected to even play this season and the fact that she is on the training camp roster and already working out in the Wings facilities means she is not as far away from a return as anyone had thought. Skylar is a difference maker on and off the court for Dallas. On court she is their leading scorer and assist leader, as well as, being the fieriest player in the entire league. Her intensity and dedication to the game is unmatched, which shows even more now considering she JUST birthed a baby and is already back to working out trying to come back and help her team. She’s a fierce competitor.
Looking at the numbers from last season, when the Dallas Wings lose Skylar posts averages of just 15.9 points, 5.9 assists, and 2.8 rebounds. Not terrible numbers, but not great either. Though in victories for Dallas, it’s a noticeable difference as she garnishes 20.3 points, 6.5 assists, and 4 rebounds.
Before the beginning of last season, the general managers of the WNBA participated in a survey voting on the best coaches and players in the WNBA and Diggins-Smith received heavy praise from around the association. Skylar was atop a handful of these rankings beginning with the best guard in the WNBA, where she placed in a tie for third with Sue Bird and behind Courtney Vandersloot in second and Diana Taurasi taking home first. She also tied for third in the voting for most underrated player in the league with seven other players behind Chelsea Gray and Tiffany Hayes ahead and tied for first. Skylar also tied for fourth in voting for most dangerous player in the open court with Erica Wheeler and behind Maya Moore/Jewell Loyd who tied for second and Angel McCoughtry taking first, as well as, most athletic in the league tied with four other players and behind teammate Glory Johnson who got third, Brittany Sykes in second and Angel McCoughtry in first. Diggins-Smith has been an all-star four out of her six years in the league, but only made the playoffs twice, with those being in the past two seasons. The league deserves to see playoff Skylar way more than just two games and two first-round exits in six seasons and I believe we may get that sooner than we think.