New playoffs format
A television-driven change to the league’s scheduling and postseason format could dramatically affect how teams approach every game. The league has gone with a balanced schedule, meaning each team will play every other team three times, with one extra game vs. a division foe. And then the top eight teams, regardless of division, qualify for the playoffs. Here’s where it gets complicated. The top two teams get a bye into the league semifinals, and the next two teams get a bye into the second round. Both the first and second rounds are single-elimination. That means finishing first or second will be paramount to avoid a single-game elimination scenario. It also means that the Lynx and Phoenix Mercury — opponents in four of the past five Western Conference finals — could theoretically meet in the finals.
Last year, with stars Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor taking the WNBA season off, the Mercury still advanced to the conference finals, losing to the Lynx. This year they’re both back. The last time the Mercury had this lineup they went 29-5 and cruised to the league title.
The league will shut down for a month while Team USA — which includes four Lynx players — goes to Rio for the Olympics. How will some league favorites — particularly the Lynx and the Mercury — have their seasons affected by having their stars play in the games? Will it open the door to some of the league’s rising young teams? And, will Candace Parker being snubbed by USA Basketball give her the chip she needs to lead L.A. to the top?
Justice for Liberty?
Last year the New York Liberty had the league’s best record and reached the Eastern Conference finals. This year the Liberty is without injured guard Epiphanny Prince but has added Shavonte Zellous and Shoni Schimmel. Coach Bill Laimbeer has won two WNBA titles already.
Best Husky ever?
In a league filled with great former UConn players (Maya Moore and Taurasi, to name a couple), many are saying Breanna Stewart could be the best ever. Stewart went first overall to Seattle, which took Jewell Loyd with the first pick a year before. With back-to-back No. 1s and a veteran in Sue Bird — another former UConn star — watch out for the Storm.