August 27, 2022 

What’s next for the Dallas Wings? Growth.

“We're building something special here"

Dallas took a step forward in 2022. Can they continue the momentum into 2023?

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This was an historic season for the Dallas Wings. Unfortunately, after getting their first playoff win since 2009 (as the Detroit Shock), Dallas was ousted by the Connecticut Sun in Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs. It was a good first step for the Wings and their second-year head coach Vickie Johnson; after the loss she let her team know that she was proud of them and to keep their heads up.

“We’re building something special here. That was one step, you know, by winning a game in the playoffs; and then the next year is another step, you know. But we’re still building a championship team and that’s what we’re looking forward to,” Johnson said.

Dallas Wings Head Coach Vickie Johnson during the WNBA playoff game between the Dallas Wings and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut on Aug. 21, 2022. Photo Credit: Chris Poss

The season came with its bumps and bruises. The Wings’ leading scorer Arike Ogunbowale missed six of the team’s last seven games of the regular season and first two games of the playoffs with an abdominal injury. All-star forward Satou Sabally missed the last 13 games of the regular season with an ankle injury. Sabally did not return until the playoffs. The team had to work and make adjustments to fill those holes throughout the season.

Guard Marina Mabrey emerged as the team’s leading scorer after Ogunbowale went down. She averaged 20.8 points per game in the last seven games of the regular season and 15.0 points per playoff game. Mabrey led the team with 20 points in Game 3. Rookie guard Veronica Burton was the only other player to score in double digits, with 10 points.

One of the biggest additions to the team, 6’7 center Teaira McCowan, was held to eight points, six of those points came from the free throw line. Connecticut out-rebounded Dallas especially on the offensive boards with seven boards to the Wings’ 17; Dallas had 24 points in the paint to the Sun’s 42. Things just fell apart for the Dallas in the second half.

It was a bad night for a good team at the worst possible time.

Dallas Wings guard Allisha Gray (15) reacts after a made 3-point shot during the WNBA playoff game between the Dallas Wings and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut on August 21, 2022. Photo Credit: Chris Poss

This season has been about growth and the team did grow while having to make major adjustments. Mabrey said she did a lot to develop this season.

“I’m in better shape. I became a more dynamic scorer, a more physical defender, a better teammate, a more willing passer. I play the one to two and the three. I’m happy with my progress,” she said.

Once Ogunbowale was out Burton was inserted into the starting lineup in six of the last seven games of the regular season. The first-round pick said she has learned a lot.

“I would just say it’s been a journey for sure. I’ve learned a lot throughout my time, and I think I’m just thankful for the teammates and my coaches that have just been very supportive through the ups and the downs and just the mistakes. I think ultimately, I’ve definitely just grown and I’m thankful for that and thankful for the opportunities that I was given. And at the end of the day, my mindset coming into this year was just be prepared and try and help the team in any way possible,” Burton said.

Dallas Wings guard Veronica Burton (12) during the WNBA playoff game between the Dallas Wings and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, Connecticut on August 21, 2022. Photo Credit: Chris Poss

The Dallas Wings had 10 different starting lineups this season.

The lineup that played together the most was:

  • G- Ogunbowale – led the way with her scoring (which was sorely missed in the playoffs)
  • G- Mabrey – commanded defense as she became a better scorer
  • F- Kayla Thornton – continued to be defensive stopper while helping more offensively
  • F- Allisha Gray – developed into more of a defensive force
  • C- Isabelle Harrison – helped some offensively, and provided a spark whenever she came off of the bench

That lineup went 9-4. There was back and forth between Harrison, McCowan and Thornton for a couple of games at the five position based on the matchup. With the fluctuations in the starting lineup and the inconsistent play from the bench, this team may not come back as presently constructed in 2023. The 2021 No. 1 draft pick Charli Collier was under-utilized. She played in only 17 games, averaging 4.6 minutes. The 2021 No. 2 draft pick Awak Kuier made some progress. She can spread the floor with her shooting, but still needs to build some strength to be effective down low and aid in rebounding.

McCowan made some strides and was able to get in her element. Johnson often referred to her as a walking double-double; she tallied 10 during the regular season. Coach of the Year Becky Hammon referred to McCowan as a beast in the middle after Dallas won in Vegas on Aug. 4 to keep their playoff hopes alive. McCowan had 21 points and 16 rebounds that night. Post-game she told the media that it was rocky at the beginning of the season when they did not know how to utilize her in the Wings’ rotation.

“It’s all coming together. I mean it is special to see, you know when I’m getting them involved, get my teammates involved, everyone is clicking,” McCowan said. “It’s going in the right direction for us, proud of my team.”

As the second youngest team in the league, growth will continue to be a theme for the 2023 season.

Written by Arie Graham

Arie Graham joined 'The Next' in May 2021 as the beat writer for the Dallas Wings.

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