April 13, 2021
2021 WNBA Draft Preview: Seattle Storm
After an offseason of retooling, the Storm will continue to tweak the roster
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The 2021 WNBA offseason has been a whirlwind for the Seattle Storm. There were several significant decisions the defending champions made that could alter the trajectory of their franchise. It’s safe to say next season’s team will have a different look.
As I have written in this space before, the Storm were running two concurrent timelines. One being the more veteran nucleus with Sue Bird, Natasha Howard, and Alysha Clark. The second was Jewell Loyd, Breanna Stewart, and Jordin Canada. All this talent gave Seattle much-needed depth for their title run.
Seattle’s roster is more geared now for the future than last season despite re-signing Bird and adding Dupree. The Storm are shifting their focus beyond the 2021 season and into the primes of players like Stewart and Loyd.
Their next chance to build for the future comes in this spring’s draft. Seattle will have four picks in this year’s draft, including No. 11 overall. Looking at their roster, the Storm remains a talented team but the draft presents a good chance to add depth.
What are the Storm’s needs?
While the Storm lost two starters in Howard and Clark, they already added front runners to replace them.
Dupree figures to start next to Stewart with Ezi Magbegor and Mercedes Russell coming off the bench. How many minutes Dupree plays in her (age 37) season remains to be seen, but she seems the likely starter. For anyone in the frontcourt beyond these four, minutes could be scarce.
Herbert Harrigan has a good chance to claim old Clark’s starting job. A burgeoning combo forward, she has the potential to grow with the established young core. Seattle will also bring their 2020 first-round pick Kitija Laksa over to compete for minutes on the wing. Samuelson and camp invitee Stephanie Talbot will also vie for these precious perimeter minutes.
With so much competition for playing time up front and outside, the Storm could focus on their backcourt first. Canada will likely be re-signed but she’s in the last year of her deal and anything could happen. Bird will turn 41 this season and is only signed through 2021.
That leaves veteran Epiphanny Prince as the only point guard signed for 2022 and she’s more of a combo guard in this stage of her career. Adding a young point guard or ball handler should be a priority for the Storm.
Who could the Storm target?
At 11th overall, it’s hard to find top talent. But you can find a talent and the Storm already have stars. The ideal find here will be someone who can play a comparable role to Whitcomb and Prince last season. Not players who play similarly to them, but a player capable of playing emergency point guard or backing up Canada for a few games if Bird takes some time off.
Some experts think Australia’s Shyla Heal would make sense for these reasons. Heal has played professionally overseas since she was 14 years old and the Storm wouldn’t have to worry about rushing her to the W.
If the Storm don’t opt for a point guard or their choices are off the board, UCLA forward Michaela Onyenwere could be an option. Losing Clark and Howard is tough from a defensive standpoint, and many feel she has great potential on that end. Onyenwere could also be off the board by No. 11 but that could cause a ball handler to fall to them.
The Storm does have several young players slotted in at Onyenwere’s position, but it’s not as if any of Harrigan, Laksa, or Samuelson have locked up the starting job. Onyenwere would certainly add a nice wrinkle to that stable of prospects.
Answers are only a few days away
Regardless, April 15 should be an interesting night. The Storm have four picks and given their current makeup, feels unlikely they use them all. We could see them move one of their seconds for another asset, for example.
Rarely does a reigning champion have this much turnover but the Storm are not done retooling yet.
Other team-by-team WNBA Draft previews: