June 4, 2022
Seattle Storm mailbag: Vibes, Ezi Magbegor, matchups, and more!
Here's the mail, it never fails/It makes me want to wag my tail/When it comes, I wanna wail, Mail!
Welcome to The Next’s inaugural Seattle Storm mailbag! A huge thank you to everyone who tweeted at us (or at me personally!) with questions — at first I was worried we wouldn’t get too many questions, and now we have too many for one article!
So if you didn’t get your question answered, stay tuned for an eventual part two.
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I think the Storm will be back near the top of the league once they’re out of health and safety protocols, to be honest. The team’s main problem has been an inability to create quality looks outside of Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd, and even Loyd has been struggling to convert. I always expected this team’s bench lineups to look rough offensively. But now they’ve been running bench lineups for 30-plus minutes every night.
The last time Seattle had a mostly healthy lineup, it spent 3.5 quarters embarrassing Chicago and overcame a shooting barrage from Los Angeles. Sue Bird and Ezi Magbegor open enough scoring opportunities that I wouldn’t be concerned unless Loyd’s two-point shooting stays poor.
Ezi Magbegor. And I don’t see how it could be anyone else.
Magbegor looking like a WNBA player at age 20 was extremely impressive and set high expectations. In year two last season, she was one of the better mobile big defenders in the league. And I always try to temper my hopes with prospects — ‘cause they’ll break your heart, man, they really will — so an underwhelming preseason led me to lower my sights on her a bit.
But I’m a fool. Magbegor has officially Made The Leap, and she would be on my Defensive Player of the Year ballot if the season ended today (and if I had a ballot). Oh, and she took Candace Parker to the rack a couple of times too!
Magbegor has earned more minutes than last year, that’s for sure. Now, where those minutes are going to come from… I don’t know. The front office and coaching staff alike both want her and Mercedes Russell to be able to play decent minutes together — head coach Noelle Quinn got a kick out of my introducing her to the term “twin towers lineup” last season — and Quinn said last September that she didn’t see Magbegor as a pure center long-term.
At this point, the debate about Magbegor’s ~true position~ is probably moot; but it does underscore that she or Russell needs to develop a good jumper for the pairing to really work.
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I think it’s pretty clear that the Aces are a poor matchup for the Storm. But Las Vegas is a poor matchup for everybody — it was on track for a 19-point comeback against Connecticut Thursday night until injury struck!
Among the middle class of contenders, Dallas has always stood out to me as a particularly tough matchup. Head coach Vickie Johnson‘s infatuation with horns sets is rightly lampooned, but by lifting bigs who can actually create offense, it pulls Russell or Magbegor and Stewart away from the rim, negating Seattle’s strength in rim protection. And who does Bird cover? No matter what, it’s someone several inches taller who will kill her in isolation and get the ball moving quickly once help arrives. And defensively, the Wings’ length, switchability, and help really hurts the Storm’s pick-n-pops and ability to get downhill.
Washington seems to be similar to Dallas in those regards, but with a tougher personnel matchup and a bit easier of a schematic one.
On the flip side, I’m pretty confident that Connecticut is a favorable matchup for Seattle. With how Gabby Williams and Stephanie Talbot play at the three, the Sun can’t overpower or out-size the Storm; and Connecticut can’t space the floor past Seattle’s defensive rotations, either, unless DeWanna Bonner continues to light it up from deep and doesn’t regress to her career average like last year. On the other end, I can’t see how the Sun stop Loyd, and Bird relocation threes should give them trouble too.
The benefit of having Talbot and Briann January is that Seattle doesn’t really have to be super concerned about Williams’ offense. I know media pals that are more bearish on players like Williams’ ability to play meaningful playoff minutes, but I think we’ve seen what a Bird-Loyd-Williams-Stewart-Magbegor lineup can do in spite of that. Surround her with enough scoring and shooting, and her acumen for cutting, connective passing, and improvised screening should make her a perfectly reasonable fifth option. (Unless she starts flubbing layups, but she’s always been a good finisher.)
I feel confident saying the Storm front office brought Williams to Seattle to be a 12-to-16-minutes-per-game playoff contributor. They might’ve hoped she could develop into more, but Talbot and January aren’t here to play 12 minutes off the bench each come September.
Always nice to see folks summoning the courage to submit their first question. Welcome, Howard!
I don’t see much reason to be concerned yet. If Bird comes out Sunday and goes 3-for-4 from two, her two-point field goal percentage goes up to 25.0%. That is still bad, of course, but it’d be a 16.7% improvement on her current mark, which is a big jump.
My point here being: Bird has only taken 12 twos this year. Meanwhile, she’s 12-for-34 from three — 35.3%. Her attempts from two over the past several years have almost exclusively been from outside 16 feet, so as long as she’s still hitting threes, I’m labeling her bad start from inside the arc as Small Sample Size.