Talented Wings Team Seeking Consistency

 

By Dorothy J. Gentry

There’s no shortage of talent on this year’s Wings’ roster.

All-Star and floor general extraordinaire Skylar Diggins-Smith. Australian sensation Liz Cambage. Reigning Rookie of the Year Allisah Gray. Two-time All-Star Glory Johnson. Former UCONN player and 2018 No. 6 draft pick Azura Stevens. International players Cayla George and Leticia Romero and a deep bench that includes Kayla Thornton and Aerial Powers.

Yet, the talented team has been hovering at the .500 mark for the past month, riding a treadmill of winning a game, losing a game, winning a game, push repeat. The team, currently 7-7 and in fifth place in the West, has managed to put together only one back-to-back win, early last month when they beat Seattle on June 2 and Indiana on June 8.

The team starts a three-game homestand this week, hosting the reigning champion Lynx (to whom they’ve already lost twice this season but who are struggling themselves this season at 8-6 and No. 4 in the West); the Chicago Sky, and the Indiana Fever.

With 14 games under their belt, 11 games until the All-Star break at the end of July, and 20 games until the end of the season, the Wings need to fan the flames, put together a convincing multiple-game win streak and show the rest of the league that skill, talent, teamwork and yes, defense, does indeed win championships.

How The West Will Be Won

The Wings sit in seventh place in the league and fifth in the West. Against the Western Conference, they are 5-5; Sparks (1 win, 1 loss); Mercury (2 losses); Storm (1 win, 1 loss); Lynx (2 losses) and Aces (2 wins). The Wings lost the opening game of the season to the Mercury and fell to the Lynx twice on the road. Against the Storm, the Wings were led by Diggins-Smith and Cambage, who combined for 52 points in a 94-90 win. Most recently the Wings beat the Sparks at home, 101-72, behind a balanced performance in which 10 players scored, but fell to them 5 days later in a close game, 87-83.

In their remaining 11 games before the break they will face the top four teams in the West - the Lynx, Mercury, Storm and a third battle with the Sparks. It’s clear that the path to the playoffs will go through these teams and the Wings must be ready to do battle.

Since moving to Dallas, the Wings have never finished above seventh in the final standings. In their inaugural season, the Wings finished 11th in the league before improving to seventh in the 2017 season. The Wings are looking to record their first winning season since moving to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

Wings Dynamic Duo

With only 1/3 of the season under the belt, Cambage and Diggins-Smith have cemented their place as one of the most dominant duo’s in the WNBA. Whether correctly reading each other’s cues, passing the ball and scoring in transition, or completing plays, the duo is fun to watch. Some of their highlights so far include combining for a season-high 58 points in a win against the Fever; scoring 52 points,12 rebounds and 8 assists against the Storm and on Wednesday night, they combined for 48 points in win against the Aces.

Cambage is fourth in scoring, averaging 20.1 points per game while Diggins-Smith is ninth averaging 19 points. Their combined 39.1 points per game makes the pair one of the highest scoring duo in the WNBA. Diggins-Smith is third in assists with 6.4 per game while Cambage is second in the WNBA, averaging 10 rebounds per game and second in the league with 2.1 blocks per game.

Whether individually or together, Cambage and Diggins-Smith are vital to the Wings’ plans to make a deep playoff run. As they go, the Wings will go.

Changing Roster

The current Wings roster is not the same as the one they started the season with. Six games into the season the shuffling began. Gone are second-year players center Breeanna Lewis and guard Saniya Chong, and in their place the Wings signed George and Romero.

“We just needed to make some changes. I think with our bench production, we just wanted to see some other players that were out there,” Wings coach Fred Williams said at the time.

The gamble paid off as the Wings bench – powered by Johnson (coming off a hamstring injury, Aerial Powers, Kaela Davis and others) has been one of the most productive in the league, regularly outscoring that of its opponents, including registering 30 points for the night in their recent Aces win. The Wings are currently 4-2 when they outscore the opponents’ reserves. Romero and George have also provided quality minutes and points off the bench.

Season-ending knee surgery to veteran Karima Christmas-Kelly brought in Teana Muldrow of West Virginia, who was drafted by the Seattle Storm in the third round (29th overall) of the 2018 WNBA draft. The Wings are also still missing Theresa Plaisance, who is recovering from ACL injury.

Wings management has also tinkered with the lineup, inserting Stevens and go-getter Thornton into the starting lineup the past few games. In her first WNBA start last week, Stevens scored a career-high 13 points, tied a career high with six rebounds and added 2 blocks and 2 assists. She has scored in double digits the past four games. Thornton returned to the starting lineup in last Friday’s home game against the Sparks and scored eight points on 2-for-6 from the field, pulled down three rebounds and dished out three assists in 28 minutes of action.

Moving Forward

The Wings have all the right pieces: a dynamic duo, deep bench, supportive fan base, skilled and hard-working players and will likely make the playoffs again. However, if they want to avoid a repeat of last year’s first-round exit, they must find “it”; that extra something that is missing, that spark, that burst, whatever you want to call it. They must find it and when they do – hold on to it with all their might and ride it – and their talent – deep into the playoffs.