Noelle Quinn isn’t particularly fond of comparisons, but the Storm coach points to the Chicago Sky for perspective on Seattle’s uninspiring 5-5 start.
“The thing I always think about when I go through adversity is that Chicago was the plan,” she said. “They won a championship and they were 15-15.”
Few fans outside of Sky’s most ardent fans would have believed they would recover from a terrible 3-7 start and win their first WNBA title last year.
Quinn, who was forced to shuffle four different starting lineups, will have everyone available for only the second time at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 7, when Seattle takes on the Atlanta Dream (7-4) at Climate Pledge Arena.
“This group hasn’t had (many games) together,” she said. “We are learning. … I am in no way trying to look at our record and panic.
“But it’s encouraging to know that we don’t want to be big in June. We want to be great in July, August, September and peak at the right time.
After 10 games, here’s a look at five things we’ve learned about the Storm.
1. Stewie is having a potentially historic season
Breanna Stewart is the only WNBA player to rank in the top 15 in the league in points per game (20.4 – 1st), steals per game (2.9 – 1st), blocks per game ( 1.0 – tied for 11th) and rebounds per game (7.0 – 14th).
Stewart is virtually a lock on earning her fourth All-Star selection and is likely to make her third All-Star Game start.
Granted, it’s far too early to seriously think about post-season awards, but 2018 WNBA MPV winner Stewart has become an MVP favorite and is in a position to compete for her first WNBA Defensive MVP award. .
“What I wanted to do was make an impact on both sides,” Stewart said. “Knowing our defensive patterns and becoming a vet and understanding where you want to be on the pitch offensively and defensively.
“Trying to disrupt the other team’s attack, that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Stewart could become the first player to win league MVP and defensive MVP awards since former Storm star Lauren Jackson in 2007.
Only four players have won both awards in the same season, including Sheryl Swoopes (2000 and 2002), Lisa Leslie (2004) and Yolanda Griffith (1999).
2. Ezi goes up
In her third year, Ezi Magbegor is giving off major Natasha Howard 2018 vibes when the former Storm star had a breakout year that propelled her to stardom.
The 6-foot-4 center leads the league with 2.9 blocks per game and is 10th in the league in steals at 1.6. Magbegor is also no slouch in the scoring and rebounding departments, averaging 12.0 and 7.0, respectively.
“She’s really starting to understand herself more and understand the game a little more at this level,” guard Sue Bird said. “Ezi has always known how to do things, and now she’s starting to see when to do things.
“It’s funny because I still see so much she can do and areas she can grow in, which is a good sign. The kid is still 22. … Now she’s coming off as a mature WNBA player who knows exactly what she’s doing there.
Magbegor, who missed three games while under league health and safety protocols, started seven games in place of Mercedes Russell, who missed the first eight games while recovering from injury not related to undisclosed basketball.
Quinn was unsure if Magbegor would return to the bench once Russell was ready to start.
“She’s showing she’s very capable in this position,” Quinn said. “What Ezi can do with any unit she’s with, I don’t want to hold back. I think she has done a good job this year.
3. Less than 3, more FT would probably help
Jewell Loyd rationalized “three is better than two” to explain why the Storm leads the WNBA with 27.7 3-point attempts per game.
At its current rate, Seattle would finish the season with a league-high 997 shots from behind the arc.
No WNBA team relies on 3-ball as much as the Storm, which gets 35.5% of its score from the perimeter.
Conversely, Seattle ranks last in the league in free throw attempts per game (14.2) and line-point percentage (14.5%).
“It starts with me setting the tone in that direction just because it’s something I can do,” said Loyd, who leads Seattle with 65 3-point attempts. “But when we get great 3-point shots, we’re not going to turn them down. We’re all shooters on this team. Our ability to shoot when we need it has been part of our DNA for a long time. It’s like that changes the game too.
“But we really want to get to the free-throw line.”
The Storm have attempted no less than 24 3-pointers in any game this season. However, in the past three games, Seattle has made 13, eight and seven free throw attempts.
4. Reservists need a leader
We all know the Big Three and how fundamental they are to Seattle’s success.
But when the Storm really got going a few years ago and won WNBA titles in 2018 and 2020, they could count on significant and somewhat consistent contributions from a handful of backup players.
For the past two years, bench production has been lacking in Seattle.
So far, Seattle hasn’t been able to define the roles as the planned roster of 11 players have only played one game together.
But Quinn has made it clear she expects Epiphany Prince and Stephanie Talbot, who both average 5.6 points, to take command of the reserves.
5. Climate Pledge is good, but…
The Storm love locker room amenities at the $1.15 billion Climate Pledge Arena along with the team’s average attendance of 10,312, which is on course to set a team record and leads the WNBA over 3,000.
However, the spacious new venue, which measures 800,000 square feet and nearly double the size of its KeyArena predecessor, is not without its downsides.
“There’s depth perception in this building,” Stewart said Friday night after a 68-51 loss to the Dallas Wings when the Storm shot 31.7 percent from the field and 17.2 percent on 3. points. “It’s not an excuse, but you get used to it.
“Something’s a little funky.”
Loyd added: “There is something, but whatever it is, we have to get used to it.”
The Storm’s 5-3 home record has as much to do with their fluctuating roster and player availability as anything else.
At home, Seattle is shooting 41.4% from the field, 32.5% from 3-pointers and 80% from the line. On the road, these percentages are 36.7, 35.5 and 77.8, which is not very different.
Still, perception — pun intended — is everything and Storm thinks their new building is part of why the offense missed.
“We’re trying to get comfortable shooting in a new stadium,” Stewart said. “It’s not (KeyArena). It’s not the same depth perception and hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later because you can feel the fans are just waiting for a reason to explode, and we have to give it to them.