June 4, 2023 

Notebook: Where do Atlanta Dream stand through five games?

Stats and storylines after 2-3 start to the season

In the words of head coach Tanisha Wright, the Atlanta Dream can play with any team in the league.

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Through five outings, Atlanta (2-3) has lost each game by single digits, including an ultra-competitive, five-point loss against the defending champion Las Vegas Aces on Friday.

The Dream’s two wins came on the road against the Minnesota Lynx, a game in which Atlanta mounted the largest comeback in franchise history, and the Chicago Sky inside Gateway Center Arena.

Let’s dive into some noteworthy stats and storylines from the Dream’s first five games ahead of its tough four-game stretch against the Connecticut Sun and New York Liberty, beginning June 9.

Productivity from the big three

Atlanta’s big three of Rhyne Howard, Allisha Gray, and Cheyenne Parker have accounted for 61.2% of the team’s points through five games. The Dream is also one of two teams to have three players averaging 17 or more points alongside the Dallas Wings.

Starting with Howard, the 6’2 wing has been her typical self from beyond the arc, knocking down 45.8% of her catch-and-shoot jumpers, according to Synergy Sports.

Gray is the ultimate Swiss army knife, posting averages of 16.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 3.6 assists in 32 minutes per game. She has provided superb value with her transition play and dribble-handoff operation, coupled with a career-best 20.2% assist rate – the highest mark among Atlanta starters.

“She definitely elevates our offense, for sure,” Wright told the media following its 83-65 win over the Sky. “[Just] having someone else who can push the pace, bring the ball up, and be a good decision-maker with the ball in their hands really matters within our offense. We have to have playmakers on the floor at all times… and [Gray] definitely brings that aspect of the game for us.”

For Parker, the 30-year-old continues to elevate her game in year nine. The 6’4 center is one of the best low-post scorers in the WNBA, averaging a league-best 10 points per game at the rim. 

As seen in this possession, Parker loves to utilize her patented ball fake and up-and-under finish in the paint, leveraging her lower-body strength and picturesque footwork.

“[Parker] is an all-star caliber player in this league, I truly believe that,” Wright said. “I will continue to say that to encourage her to play that way because it really elevates this team.”

Dream waive Lorela Cubaj, opening up roster spot

On Saturday, the Atlanta Dream announced its decision to waive forward Lorela Cubaj.

The 6’4 post averaged 2.3 rebounds in three games with the Dream, including extended second-half minutes against the Aces.

Cubaj is on Italy’s EuroBasket roster, which tips off in less than two weeks.

That said, Atlanta will look to fill the available roster spot in free agency, so here are two potential pathways:

  1. Atlanta will be without veteran guard Danielle Robinson (left knee) until the All-Star break, so it’s possible the organization explores adding depth at the guard position.
  1. Atlanta lacks volume bench shooting outside of AD Durr, so it’s possible the organization explores adding depth at the wing position to give rookie guard Haley Jones more room to operate.

Nia Coffey #12 of the Atlanta Dream dribbles the ball during the game against the Las Vegas Aces on June 2, 2023, at Gateway Center Arena at College Park in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Adam Hagy, Getty Images)

Nia Coffey’s rim protection growth

Nia Coffey has been terrific on the defensive end, posting 11 blocks through five games, trailing only Brittney Griner and Natasha Howard.

Coffey’s defensive malleability allows her to provide secondary rim protection, roaming from the weak side; she can also defend at the level in ball screens and has a strong enough base to hold her own in 1-on-1 matchups.

It’s not likely for Coffey to maintain a 10% block rate through the remainder of the season, but it’s an encouraging development for a player who recorded two blocks in 16 games in 2022.

Written by Hunter Cruse

Hunter Cruse covers the Atlanta Dream and the WNBA Draft for The Next.

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