WNBA 2020 League Preview

WNBA 2020 League Preview

With the 2020 WNBA season about to start up, we are looking at some major changes throughout the league. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the schedule was pushed back and condensed, and will now feature three games a night, every night other than Monday. This article will attempt to address the updated roster outlooks for the campaign following the roster changes following an influx of opt-outs and injuries.

Atlanta Dream

Depth chart

GuardForwardCenter
Courtney WilliamsElizabeth WilliamsKalani Brown
Shekinna StricklenGlory JohnsonGlory Johnson
Chennedy CarterMonique BillingsElizabeth Williams
Betnijah LaneyJaylen Agnew 
Blake DietrickErica McCall 
Alexis Jones  

ABSENTEES

POSSIBLE BENEFICIARIES

With all of the Dream's opt-outs coming in the backcourt, it stands to reason that others vying for minutes in that rotation have the most to gain. Courtney Williams was likely slated for a hefty role even before the opt-outs, but the trio listed above could all see a significant minutes boost with Montgomery and Hayes – both 28-plus minutes per game last season – sitting out 2020 and Brittney Sykes heading elsewhere this offseason. Shekinna Stricklen figures to be the top candidate for the starting role off the bat after landing in the starting five for the Sun for all 34 games during the 2019 regular season. She and Williams comprised the Sun's backcourt last season, so the chemistry should already be there despite a limited training camp for this season. Laney lands in a decent spot to contribute off the bench after being released by the Fever this offseason, but No. 4 overall pick Chennedy Carter may also get some run early and often if she proves to be worthy of the pick after posting 21.3 points, 4.3 boards and 3.5 assists per game last year at Texas A&M. Her infusion of scoring could be important for a Dream squad that will be without each of its three top scorers in Sykes, Montgomery and Hayes. There could also be a slight uptick in playing time for Atlanta's forwards, with Elizabeth Williams, Glory Johnson, Monique Billings and Kalani Brown all intriguing options up front.

Chicago Sky

Depth Chart

GuardForwardCenter
Courtney VanderslootDiamond DeShieldsStefanie Dolson
Allie QuigleyCheyenne ParkerCheyenne Parker
Kahleah CopperAzura Stevens 
Sydney ColsonGabby Williams 
Stella JohnsonStefanie Dolson 
 Ruthy Hebard 
 Kahleah Copper 

ABSENTEES

POSSIBLE BENEFICIARIES

Of the three players sitting out this season for the Sky, Jantel Lavender's absence will leave the biggest hole to fill by a long shot. Stefanie Dolson would seem to fit the bill among the beneficiaries in Lavender's absence, but Lavender missed the second half of last season as well and Sydney Colson didn't see any noticeable gains statistically. Instead, it was Astou Ndour, who was traded to Dallas, who moved into a more prominent position. With Ndour out of the picture, Cheyenne Parker and Azura Stevens, part of the return in the Ndour trade, sit as the two likeliest candidates to gain playing time. Stevens has displayed some flashes of what made her the sixth overall pick in the 2018 draft, whose 2019 season ended in the early stages due to a foot injury that eventually required surgery. Parker has been a prominent presence off of the bench each of the last two seasons, so the coaching staff may elect to keep her in that role. However, the absence of some frontcourt depth would likely position her for more minutes, placing Parker squarely in position for a fantasy boost if she can remain anywhere close to the efficiency she's churned out recently.

Connecticut Sun

Depth Chart

Guard    ForwardCenter
Jasmine ThomasDeWanna BonnerTheresa Plaisance
Briann JanuaryAlyssa ThomasBrionna Jones
Bria HolmesKaleena Mosqueda-LewisBeatrice Mompremier
Natisha HiedemanBrionna Jones 
Kaila CharlesTheresa Plaisance 
Jacki GemelosBria Holmes 
 Beatrice Mompremier 

ABSENTEES

POSSIBLE BENEFICIARIES

Jones may be the only player sitting out the 2020 season for the Sun, but that is a massive force on the inside missing for the 2019 season runner-ups. She led the league in rebounding last season and fell just short over averaging a double-double. While the club won't be able to replace her 14.6 points and 9.7 rebounds per contest, it's likely Theresa Plaisance who will be counted on most to do her best impersonation. Plaisance played reasonably well when she was needed for big minutes last season, collecting four double-doubles out of the nine games she was counted on for 20-plus minutes. Brionna Jones and Beatrice Mompremier also figure to add some minutes on the inside with Plaisance likely not headed for the workhorse role that (Jonquel) Jones played last year. DeWanna Bonner is another who could benefit, as the offense will likely run through her more with the team's other primary scoring threat no longer taking the floor in 2020. She also loves to get after boards and won't have to fight Jones for those, potentially heightening her all-around value.

Dallas Wings

Depth Chart

GuardForwardCenter
Arike OgunbowaleKayla ThorntonIsabelle Harrison
Allisha GraySatou SaballyAstou Ndour
Moriah JeffersonIsabelle HarrisonMegan Gustafson
Tyasha HarrisBella AlarieLuisa Geiselsoder
Katie Lou Samuelson  
Marina Mabrey  
   

ABSENTEES

POSSIBLE BENEFICIARIES

Dallas doesn't really have any players sitting out 2020 for the main reasons the majority are taking a seat, but they will lose Imani McGee-Stafford for the next two seasons while she pursues a law degree. Her departure may have played a role in the team's acquisition of Astou Ndour from the Sky this offseason. McGee-Stafford's absence should benefit Ndour and No. 2 overall pick Satou Sabally The Wings are still in the early stages of a rebuild after finishing 2019 with the league's worst record (10-24), but they did find themselves a gem with the fifth overall pick in the draft in the form of Arike Ogunbowale. Head coach Brian Agler was forced to play Ogunbowale at an unnatural position on the ball last year due to Skylar Diggins-Smith and Jefferson sitting out. While Diggins-Smith was shipped away this offseason, Jefferson has a freshly-penned multi-year deal to her name and should slide into the primary point guard duties for the Wings. This will allow Ogunbowale to her normal shooting guard slot. While that will likely result in a decline for Ogunbowale in the assists category, it should also allow her to flourish as a scorer.

Indiana Fever

Depth Chart

GuardForwardCenter
Kelsey MitchellCandice DupreeTeaira McCowan
Victoria ViviansLauren CoxNatalie Achonwa
Erica WheelerStephanie Mavunga 
Tiffany Mitchell  
Julie Allemand  
Kennedy Burke  
Kathleen Doyle  

ABSENTEES

  • None

POSSIBLE BENEFICIARIES

  • N/A

There isn't much to point out for a Fever team who will have all of its players on the floor in 2019, except that the squad as a whole should benefit from the fact that they will have the entire roster available while most of the other squads will be down some production. Teaira McCowan figures to take on an even more prominent role in her second year with the Fever after putting down five double-doubles in the last six games of the 2019 campaign. They do receive some reinforcements in the backcourt, with Victoria Vivians slated to rejoin the fold after missing last season due to an ACL tear. She impressed as a rookie by compiling 9.9 points and 3.1 rebounds per game and could be depended on for a lot again this year with the Fever trading Shenise Johnson to the Lynx this offseason.

Las Vegas Aces

Depth Charts

GuardForwardCenter
Kayla McBrideA'ja WilsonCarolyn Swords
Danielle RobinsonAngel McCoughtryAvery Warley-Talbert
Sugar RodgersJackie YoungA'ja Wilson
Jackie YoungDearica Hamby 
Lindsay AllenAvery Warley-Talbert 
   

ABSENTEES

POSSIBLE BENEFICIARIES

Wilson's stats took a slight downturn in 2019 following the addition of star center Liz Cambage, but she should regain her spot as the clear top dog after Cambage decided to sit out the 2020 campaign. With her figuring to see more time at center this season, 2019 first-overall pick Jackie Young could be positioned for an increased role in her sophomore season. Young started to piece things together just before the playoffs. She could be counted on to contribute more for the Aces in 2020, while veteran addition Angel McCoughtry, Dearica Hamby and Carolyn Swords also figure to factor into Cambage's vacant minutes. Plum's absence in the backcourt opens the door for Robinson to handle a starting guard spot alongside Kayla McBride, Sugar Rodgers and Lindsay Allen should also see a fair amount of minutes off the bench, especially given the condensed schedule.

Los Angeles Sparks

Depth Chart

GuardForwardCenter
Chelsea GrayCandace ParkerNneka Ogwumike
Seimone AugustusBrittney SykesKristine Anigwe
Riquna WilliamsTierra Ruffin-PrattCandace Parker
Tierra Ruffin-PrattNneka OgwumikeMarie Gulich
Sydney WieseReshanda Gray 
Brittney Sykes  
Te'a Cooper  

ABSENTEES

POSSIBLE BENEFICIARIES

The Sparks lose two contributing members from the 2019 frontcourt with Chiney Ogwumike and Maria Vadeeva both taking the 2020 campaign off. Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike are already locked into big roles on the offensive end, but the two absentees leave Brittney Sykes and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt as possibly the big winners in terms of playing time. Ruffin-Pratt isn't a huge offensive threat, but Sykes has proven she can score and could benefit from a better core of players around her in Los Angeles. Kristine Anigwe, Marie Gulich and Reshanda Gray will fill out the remaining spots in the frontcourt and could be required to step in for minutes if the injury bug hits. Toliver's decision to sit out in 2020 also hurts the Spark's backcourt potential, though it clears a path for veteran Augustus to potentially reclaim a starting role. Augustus has missed a game or more in every season since 2011, so Williams, Ruffin-Pratt and Weiss should all prepare for some extra minutes.

Minnesota Lynx

Depth Chart

GuardForwardCenter
Shenise JohnsonNapheesa CollierSylvia Fowles
Lexie BrownDamiris DantasNapheesa Collier
Rachel BanhamKarima Christmas-KellyDamiris Dantas
Bridget CarletonMikiah Herbert Harrigan Kayla Alexander
Crystal DangerfieldShenise Johnson 
Odyssey SimsMegan Huff 

ABSENTEES

POSSIBLE BENEFICIARIES

The Lynx managed through the 2019 season without star Maya Moore and will now prepare for another without her. She's joined on the sidelines by a trio of players who have supplied double-digit minutes either last season or, in the case of Cecilia Zandalasini, the year before. Odyssey's Sims hasn't declared herself out for the season but will at least miss a chunk of it while working her way back from giving birth. Sims' absence should clear the path for Shenise Johnson to open the season in a starting role. Johnson has proven to be a valuable commodity when healthy, shooting over 33 percent from deep in all but two of her seven seasons, but staying healthy has been her biggest bugaboo. Johnson has played a combined 31 games over the past three seasons due to knee issues, so it remains to be seen if she can hold up for the 22-game schedule ahead. Christmas-Kelly is fairly versatile in her role, working in at both guard and forward, which should work in her favor with free minutes appearing in both spots. She also has injury concerns over the past two seasons but averaged north of 20 minutes per contest in the campaigns prior and should serve as a valuable bench piece for the Lynx. The youth in Minnesota could also get a chance to snag some minutes off the bench, with Mikiah Herbert Harrigan and Crystal Dangerfield having opportunities with some of the star power off the roster.

New York Liberty

Depth Chart

GuardForwardCenter
Sabrina IonescuKia NurseAmanda Zahui B
Layshia ClarendonKiah StokesKiah Stokes
Jocelyn WilloughbyMegan Walker 
Jazmine JonesJocelyn Willoughby 
Kia NurseKylee Shook 
 Leaonna Odom 
 Joyner Holmes 

ABSENTEES

POSSIBLE BENEFICIARIES

  • Youth

The Liberty has been hit among the hardest of teams in regards to players sitting out the 2020 season. Headlining the group of absentees is second-year guard Asia Durr, who finished out her injury-shortened rookie campaign averaging nearly 10 points per contest. Four of the other five absentees averaged double-digit minutes per game, while Han Xu checked in just under eight per game over her 18 appearances. That leaves plenty of minutes to be had, which isn't exactly a bad thing for a rebuilding Liberty squad. New York loaded up draft picks and many of them will comprise the 2020 roster for the team. While it may not be an immediate turnaround, the coaching staff should get a full look at the team's rookie class, which should benefit roster decisions when the 2021 campaign rolls around. Kia Nurse, Kia Stokes and Amanda Zahui B are the veterans leading the frontcourt group, while the backcourt doesn't really have much to turn to. Layshia Clarendon is the only multi-year player among the primary group, though she averaged fewer than 16 minutes per game with the Sun last season. Outside of Sabrina Ionescu, who should get a healthy workload all season, look for the rookies to share a good portion of minutes in what could serve as a 22-game evaluation period for the coaching staff.
 

Phoenix Mercury

Depth Chart

GuardForwardCenter
Diana TaurasiNia CoffeyBrittney Griner
Skylar Diggins-SmithBrianna TurnerKia Vaughn
Bria HartleyAlanna Smith 
Shatori Walker-KimbroughSophie Cunningham 
Yvonne Turner  
Sophie Cunningham  

ABSENTEES

POSSIBLE BENEFICIARIES

Phoenix heads into the season with a roster that is arguably on par, if not better than what they put out on the court last year. While the Mercury did lose All-Star DeWanna Bonner via a sign-and-trade deal with the Sun and Leilani Mitchell, the revamped backcourt includes star Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi. The frontcourt is where it gets kind of dicey for the club. Outside of perennial All-Star Brittney Griner, there's very little to be impressed about out of the Mercury's rotation of bigs. Jessica Breland, who was dealt to the team this offseason, decided to sit out the campaign. Her absence leaves Nia Coffey, Brianna Turner, Alanna Smith, Kia Vaughn and Sophie Cunningham to man the remaining frontcourt spots. None of that group has averaged more than 19 minutes per game last season, so that group should be in for a significant minutes boost as a whole. Turner may be in line for the biggest of boosts after posting some sizable efforts down the stretch last season, averaging north of 25 minutes per game following the All-Star break last year.

Seattle Storm

Depth Chart

GuardForwardCenter
Sue BirdBreanna StewartNatasha Howard
Jewell LoydAlysha ClarkMercedes Russell
Jordin CanadaMercedes RussellCrystal Langhorne
Sami WhitcombEziyoda Magbegor 
Epiphanny PrinceMorgan Tuck 
 Natasha Howard 
 Crystal Langhorne 

ABSENTEES

POSSIBLE BENEFICIARIES

  • None

The Seattle fanbase is probably one of the biggest winners heading into the 2020 campaign, as none of the pillars of a talented squad opted out of the campaign. On top of that, the group returns veteran Sue Bird to man the point, joining the talented duo of Jewell Loyd and Jordin Canada, and the frontcourt returns star Breanna Stewart to a group that held its own without her last year. Natasha Howard may not be relied upon for as much offense as she was a season ago with the pair back int he mix, but she should still find plenty of action on the boards and the defense of end of the floor. The depth of the group, assuming it stays healthy, should allow the veteran stars to get some added rest, which is a luxury many of the other squads can't afford in 2020.

Washington Mystics

Depth Chart

GuardForwardCenter
Leilani MitchellAerial PowersEmma Meesseman
Ariel AtkinsMyisha Hines-AllenTianna Hawkins
Essence CarsonTianna HawkinsMyisha Hines-Allen
Kiara LeslieKiara LeslieAlaina Coates
Shey Peddy  

ABSENTEES

POSSIBLE BENEFICIARIES

  • Everyone playing

Outside of Atkins, it will be a complete overhaul of the starting five for the Mystics this season. Most likely to fill the voids in that lineup are Leilani Mitchell, who was added from Phoenix and should assume starting point guard duties, Aerial Powers, Emma Meesseman and Tianna Hawkins. While much of the depth is gone from the team, the starting five should still hold its own against many of the teams in the league. From a fantasy perspective, the team's 10-woman roster should result in ballooned outputs across the board. Both Meeseman and Hawkins put up big numbers in extended runs last season, so that pair could be heavily featured in the offensive games (especially Meesseman) in 2020. Mitchell will aim to build off of a career-best four assists per contest last season, while all of the remaining bench players could be candidates to finish the year with double-digit minutes per game. The most promising of the group are likely Essence Carson and Kiara Leslie. Carson finished last year averaging 18.5 minutes per game for Phoenix, while Leslie, the Mystics' 2019 first-round pick, sat out all of what would have been her rookie season due to a knee injury.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Benzine
Chris has been a RW contributor since early 2014, focused on Breaking News, MLB Daily Lineups and occasional NFL Team Previews.
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