June 10, 2020
2020 Season Simulation: Atlanta Dream at the almost-halfway point
The Dream rank ninth in the WNBA at 7-10 at the end of June
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The Atlanta Dream are treading water. (Chris Poss photo)
The last time we checked in on the Atlanta Dream in our 2020 WNBA season simulation, they were just starting to gain some momentum and had gone from 0-4 to start the season to winning four of their last eight games.
Now, looking at games simulated through the end of June by Pivot Analysis, the Dream are eighth in the WNBA at 7-10 and have stumbled a little in recent weeks with just two wins in their last six outings.
Here are some of our biggest takeaways from roughly the first half of the season.
Tiffany Hayes continues to ball out
The veteran guard is the Dream’s longest-tenured player — she’s played all nine seasons in Atlanta since getting drafted in the second round in 2012 — and she’s been dominant so far this season. Atlanta has struggled offensively and currently ranks ninth in the league in offense, but Hayes hasn’t let that get to her. She’s scored double digits in every single game, despite being relatively inefficient compared to the volume of shots she’s getting.
Hayes is averaging 15.47 points per game while only shooting 36.68 percent from the field — more than five percentage points down from her career average of 42.3 percent. She leads the Dream in points per game, field goals attempted and made per game, and free throws made and attempted per game, though her shooting percentage is second-to-last with only rookie Chennedy Carter shooting a lower percentage.
But despite her struggles with efficiency, Hayes has clearly stepped up as a go-to scorer for the Dream, which Atlanta needs as the fifth-least experienced team in the WNBA.
Chennedy Carter settling in
Dream coach Nicki Collen picked Carter at No. 4 overall in part for her offensive track record. But in the beginning of her WNBA career, Carter struggled. To her credit, she’s playing a high volume of minutes — third-most on the team — and playing a larger role than most rookies do. Collen has often said she thinks point guard is the most challenging position for a rookie to play in the WNBA, and that’s proving to be true for Carter.
But in the Dream’s slate of games in June, Carter has looked — at least from a statistical standpoint — more like the player Collen thought she was getting. She’s scoring more, her shooting percentage is up and she’s distributing the ball on a more consistent basis — all hallmarks of a player finding her footing.
Carter is now averaging just over three assists per game, and given that Atlanta is only shooting around 42 percent as a team, it stands to reason that assists are lower than they might otherwise be for the team as a whole.
Offseason additions making an impact
After an 8-26 2019 campaign, Collen and general manager Chris Sienko essentially completely remade the Dream in the offseason. Brittney Sykes, Jessica Breland and Marie Gülich all got traded, Angel McCoughtry signed with Las Vegas as a free agent and Alex Bentley’s contract expired without a new offer.
Atlanta returned just four players from 2019 to 2020 and added quite a few new pieces to reshape the roster. Kalani Brown came in from Los Angeles, Shekinna Stricklen signed with the Dream as a free agent from Connecticut and Courtney Williams soon followed her teammate from the Sun after being traded to Atlanta.
It takes time for what is for all intents and purposes an entirely new roster to come together, but so far, it looks like Brown, Stricklen and Williams are making the impact they were expected to.
Brown has been a valuable piece in the post and adds quite a bit of size to the roster at 6-foot-7. Through 17 games, she’s averaging just over eight points per game and shooting nearly 50 percent from the field. Her 7.18 rebounds per game leads the team and is ninth in the WNBA.
Collen and Sienko identified Stricklen as a player who could help the Dream’s three-point shooting woes from a year ago. Though her shooting percentage is lower than Collen would like to see at 34.62 percent, she’s shooting by far the most threes of anyone on the roster and filling her role of keeping the opposing defense honest.
Williams is another player the Dream brought in in the hopes of bolstering the offense, and she’s done just that. She’s averaging just over 10 points per game, is a low-volume but high-percentage three-point shooter and is averaging 4.88 assists and 6.59 rebounds per game. In short, she’s been a well-rounded addition to the Dream’s offense, which was in desperate need of rehabilitation.
In real life, the WNBA season would’ve taken a month off for the Olympics between July 10 and August 16. That means our simulated season is almost halfway over, and the Dream are hanging around the lower middle of the league. With games coming up against No. 5 Minnesota, No. 3 Washington and No. 2 Connecticut before the mid-season break, the Dream are facing a challenging stretch that will give them an opportunity to show off their improvements — if they can get some momentum back.