Thursday 22 October 2020 12:08, UK
Seattle Storm stars Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird celebrate after winning the 2020 WNBA championship
What are the most-anticipated storylines that will shape the 2021 WNBA season? Huw Hopkins examines six of the biggest talking points.
It is now two weeks since the WNBA crowned the Seattle Storm as the 2020 champions to culminate possibly the most unusual season yet in its 23-year history.
- Breanna Stewart leads Seattle Storm to second WNBA title in three years
But as we turn our attention to watching the WNBA players compete for teams in Europe, China, Australia and South America, it is time to reflect on the achievements of this season and look ahead to the next one.
Will we see the best of Sabrina Ionescu?
Sabrina Ionescu in action for the New York Liberty
Ionescu was arguably the most anticipated WNBA rookie since Breanna Stewart, but our first look at the New York Liberty’s No 1 overall pick was short-lived. The guard stumbled out of the gates, facing one of the league’s best defensive units (Seattle) in her season opener, and the pressure was huge. She didn’t play badly but it took her a few games to get her rhythm.
No 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu erupted for 33 points but could not prevent the New York Liberty from falling to defeat against the Dallas Wings
Unfortunately, by the time she did, an ankle injury caused her to miss the rest of the season. She attempted to come back and saw specialists but the Liberty’s season was effectively over and they were not going to make any impact on the standings. It seemed best not to force an early return, especially without fans paying tickets to see her in action live at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
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Ionescu has seemingly taken the decision to not play overseas this year. She doesn’t need to for money, after signing a shoe deal with Nike, but it might have benefitted her to play against strong competition. Her second WNBA season could be major. She will either show us what she is truly capable of, or a year with little development could catch up to her as the next crop of young talent comes through the draft.
As someone with such a good track record, Ionescu will definitely get plenty of opportunities to show what she is capable of, but the WNBA can be unforgiving, especially when there is so much talent that can easily fit in a 12-team league.
Can Wings fly with a different coach?
Dallas Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale celebrates a basket
A surprising move last week saw Dallas Wings head coach Brian Agler step down. His departure comes after a new roster was put together this year with the youngest average age in the league, and Agler managed them to the precipice of playoff success.
On the shoulders of Arike Ogunbowale, who led the league in scoring, their season came down to the final game. They were edged out by defending champions the Washington Mystics but Agler had done enough. The Wings were ready for the next step.