Seattle Storm 2022 Season Preview: Sue’s Last Dance

The big three are back in Seattle despite speculation of Sue Bird’s retirement and rumors of Stewart and Loyd talking to other teams in free agency. The core of the mighty Storm remains largely in-tact, and the four-time champions will look to hang a fifth banner in the brand new Climate Pledge Arena this season.

Last year was a tale of two halves for Seattle. In the beginning of the season we saw a juggernaut defending champion that tore through opponents. Sue Bird was scoring and playmaking as efficient as ever, Breanna Stewart terrified opposing defenses with her versatility, and Jewell Loyd continued to show off her dynamic shotmaking and an improved defensive skillset.

After the Olympic break – which featured the aforementioned big three all will gold for team USA – the Storm annihilated the Connecticut Sun in the first ever Commissioner’s cup title game.

Shortly thereafter, almost everything went downhill. Bird’s efficiency dropped. Stewart went down with an Achilles injury that she was never able to come back fully from. Loyd couldn’t close out games with her short-handed supporting cast. The Storm limped into the playoffs and were defeated in a single elimination game by Phoenix.

With a healthy and rested roster, there’s no doubt that this team can content for a title and send Sue Bird out on top. Let’s dive into their offseason and discuss some possible outcomes for Seattle in 2022.

Key Departures

  • Jordin Canada (G)
  • Katie Lou Samuelson (F)

Canada was a restricted free agent, and the Storm had originally extended the qualifying offer (QO) and had matching rights on any offer another team could make. After a stalemate between Jordin and the front office, the Storm rescinded that QO and Canada became unrestricted. Canada went on to sign a contract with Los Angeles, and the Storm will now need to replace her role of running the offense with the bench unit.

Katie Lou Samuelson joined Canada on the Sparks roster via a trade for Gabby Williams. Her time on the Storm was brief, and the franchise gave up first round picks in both the transaction to acquire her and to trade her away.

Overall, the club was successful in retaining their most important players. Their leftover depth should be enough to make up for the missed contributions of Canada and Samuelson.

Key Additions

  • Briann January (G)
  • Gabby Williams (G)
  • Jantel Lavender (F)

The pickup of WNBA veteran Briann January was perhaps the most important move of the offseason for Seattle. A notoriously staunch point of attack defender, January can come in and take the assignment of guarding the other team’s best perimeter scorer- a task that Jewell Loyd was faced with throughout most of 2021. Loyd isn’t incapable of being a plus defender, but it’s not ideal to have one of your main scorers bearing such a heavy weight defensively.

Gabby Williams will likely take on a lot of the responsibilities that Jordin Canada has held in recent seasons. If Williams can help generate points with some or all of the big three on the bench, coach Quinn will be happy. Williams is known for her athleticism and prowess handling the ball in transition, which is a tremendous fit for this Storm roster that loves to get up and down the court.

Lavender was brought in on a training camp contract and should have a place on the final roster of 12. Her role would likely be third-string center, but she can also play the four as needed.

Draft Picks

  • 17th: Elissa Cunane (C)
  • 21st: Evina Westbrook (G)
  • 33rd: Jade Melbourne (G)

General Manager Talisa Rhea seemed to be punting on the 2022 draft after trading their lone first round pick in the Gabby Williams deal.

Whether through shear luck or otherwise, sharpshooting 6’5” center Elissa Cunane from NC State fell all the way down to the Storm at pick 17. Cunane shot over 40% from three and over 80% from the free throw line. No other big on the Storm roster is a true floor spacer, so Cunane could definitely find herself in the rotation in her rookie season.

Westbrook will be fighting an uphill battle to establish herself on this roster given the guard and wing depth in Seattle. It’s unlikely that Evina will see regular minutes this season, but projects to be a solid defensive guard in this league in years to come.

Melbourne is not listed on the official training camp roster and will almost certainly be treated as a long-term project.

Projected Starting Lineup

  • G: Sue Bird
  • G: Jewell Loyd
  • G: Briann January
  • F: Breanna Stewart
  • C: Mercedes Russell

Coach Quinn has a few different options with the starting and, more importantly, closing lineups. Bird, Loyd, and Stewart are a given to start games and play major minutes.

January starting and closing games makes sense given the notion that she would be primarily guarding the other teams’ best scorers. If the Storm opt for more size and shooting, Stephanie Talbot could be slotted in at the wing instead.

Many Storm fans will lobby for Ezi Magbegor to start at the five, but the high-end contract Russell just received in free agency would indicate that she is the likely starter. Magbegor has shown flashes of being more mobile and versatile than Russell, and potentially opens a bit more space for Stewart to work off the dribble.

Season Outlook

With such an established, veteran core, both the floor and ceiling for this team are among the highest in the league.

You know what you’re getting (and not getting) from most of the players on this roster. Given the injuries that have plagued the Storm the past few seasons, health is quite possibly their biggest threat.

The depth of this roster is impressive, so even with injuries to major pieces, there is enough here to sneak into the playoffs as a low seed. If this team is fully available and peaking at the right time, the rest of the WNBA should be very afraid.

If everything clicks, Sue Bird has a chance to write her final chapter with an emphatic closing statement.

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