Bird, Stewart run it back in hopes of leading Storm to fifth title

Seattle spent the majority of the 2021-22 off season wondering if a pair of franchise cornerstones would return, and the answer was fortunately yes. The GOAT, Sue Bird announced her return in January and the Storm inked her to a one-year veteran minimum in February; while Breanna Stewart signed a one-year, $228,094 supermax contract.

While the return of those two members of the Storm’s core are important, the franchise also needed to improve it’s defense from a year ago and its bench rotation. They accomplished just that with a couple of key acquisitions.

These moves come a year after the Storm were bounced out of the playoffs by the Phoenix Mercury in the second round. It was a game that saw Seattle’s defensive unit collapse in the third quarter after it had shut out the Mercury in the pervious frame. Despite the fact that the Storm’s bench players had outscored Phoenix (12 to four) in the game, it was the fact that all five starters ended up with double digit points that decided that game.


The FNGs

Gabby Williams: Easily the biggest name Seattle brought in this off season. Williams was traded for Katie Lou Samuelson with the goal of improving the squads defense. While Samuelson is a dynamic offensive threat, she often struggled on the defensive end of the court and the move to replace her with the veteran from Chicago was a smart one by Seattle.

Williams sat out the 2021 season as the Sky had suspended her shortly before they trade for her to LA. The suspension was likely the result of the fact that the French national team wanted her in their rotation and Chicago needed to free up a roster spot.

In the chaos of the 2020 season, Williams pulled in 14.5% of her defensive rebound opportunities and generated steals on 2.6%. On the offensive end of the court her tendency to turn the ball over continued from 2019 and is something that Seattle needs to watch out for as it heads into the 2022 season.

Briann January: The veteran guard signed a one-year $140,000 contract with Seattle on February 2nd. Seattle is January’s fourth team after she spent the last two seasons with Connecticut. She brings a veteran presence to the wings and is known as a scorer.


At 32 years old its pretty clear she’s been brought in as bench depth to add some depth to an already potent offensive attack. Last season she had the second highest turnover rate in her career which was part of the reason she was used less as the season wore on. If she’s seeing a ton of usage this season, there is either an injury issue or the roster is being mismanaged.

Elissa Cunane: The 6′ 5″ rookie center is entering her first season in the WNBA draft after dominating the ACC with North Carolina State. In her final season with the Wolfpack, Cunane averaged 13.7 points per game and 7.6 rebounds. She was an effective shooter inside the paint which made her a threat whenever she pulled in a board or got a pass through the lane.

Evina Westbrook: Westbrook is guard that saw a good amount of minutes at UConn, but didn’t wrack that many points despite hitting 43.3% of shots from the field. What makes the rookie so valuable is her ability to distribute the ball. That being said, the Seattle Times feels like Westbrook is a long shot to make Seattle’s opening day roster.


2021 summary

The 2021 Seattle Storm posted an offensive rating of 103.6 and a defensive one of 98.4. It was an explosive offense that kept up one of the second highest pace in the WNBA. Seattle was also really good at holding onto the ball as the veteran squad only turned it over on 15.8% of possessions — second lowest — and that’s really impressive when you also consider how much ball movement is involved in the Storm’s offense.

It was, unfortunately, an injury to Stewart that hamstrung the Storm in the final week of the regular season and the playoffs. Without their star, the offense stuttered while the defense struggled with its rotations.

Key match-ups early on

Friday, May 6th vs. Minnesota Lynx

The 2022 season is also the Storm’s first home opener at Climate Pledge Arena. They’ll be facing a team that struggled on the offensive end of the court but was dominant on the defensive glass. It will be a good test for Seattle’s offense and a good way to break Williams into the rotation as well.

Wednesday, May 11th at Phoenix Mercury

This is the first time these two teams will see each other since the second round of the WNBA playoffs last year. It will be a good test to see where Seattle is at and how the club is coming together with its new additions early in the season. A win here is nothing but good vibes…a loss is no where near crippling, but the vibes are no where near as fun.


Wednesday, May 18th vs. Chicago Sky

The defending champs make their CPA debut which means that there should be a packed house on hand. This will be the Storm’s best test to date as the Sky are still loaded and are favored to make a serious run at repeating as the league’s champions.

Sunday, June 5th vs. Connecticut Sun

Connecticut enters this season with a talented roster and no championships to show for it. The Sun have a really good shot at making a run in the playoffs, but they need to get the seeding to make their lives a little easier. This game will help give us a clearer picture of the league’s playoff picture fairly early into the season.

Wednesday, June 29th vs. Las Vegas Aces

This is the second time the Aces and Storm will meet up this season, and the first in Seattle. Las Vegas is another one of those teams with a talented core group of players that has yet to win a title and this current roster is running out of time. At this point in the season, this type of game could define the race for the Commissioner’s Cup and playoff seeding.

The schedule


Season outlook

With Bird and Stewart both on one-year deals, this feels like it could be the last chance for this current core of players to capture its third WNBA championship and cement their legacy as the franchise’s first dynasty. The need for bench depth was clear once Stewart went down and the Storm added some nice pieces in the draft. I feel highly confident that this squad can earn a high seed in the playoffs and make a run at the Storm’s fifth title in franchise history.

I really, really like Cunane and feel like she has the potential to become a key cog for Seattle this season and in the future. There will be some hick-ups as she gets used to professional basketball but I fully expect the center to make an impact this season.

We didn’t even really talk about Jewell Lloyd, who Seattle signed to a contract extension, to keep her in the Emerald City through the 2023-24 season. If you have a healthy Stewart, Bird firing on all cylinders, Lloyd is plays at her normal level, and Williams does what she’s capable of…this is a very scary roster. And that’s before you even factor in the bench.

Prediction: 27 – 9, No. 2 seed. Beat the Sky in three games for the Storm’s fifth WNBA title

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