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WNBA Playoff Primer: Seattle Storm edition

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The WNBA playoffs have arrived and the Storm are the favorites to win it all!

WNBA.com

The WNBA Playoffs are finally here after what has been arguably the greatest WNBA season of all time. The 12 teams jockeyed for position game by game throughout the season. Occasionally, just one single loss would drop a team from 3rd place in the standings all the way down to 7th. It has been a fascinating season to watch and those that did were rewarded with some of the best basketball the W has ever put on display.

The Seattle Storm have had one of their most successful seasons in franchise history, finishing atop the WNBA standings with a final regular season record of 26-8. This was the franchise’s second best record in their 19-year history. The Storm also set an all-time franchise record with 13 road victories (going 13-4 on the season); tying several other teams for the best road record in WNBA history. The Storm also set a new WNBA record with 307 three-point baskets made, following the recent transition in the NBA by teams like the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets; including a new WNBA record 17 three-point field goals made in a 101-74 victory over the Las Vegas Aces back on May 31st.

Beyond team success, several individual players have had incredible personal success this season; none more than Breanna Stewart. Stewart is the front-runner to win the league’s MVP award. “Stewie” was second in the league in scoring at 21.8 PPG, third in the WNBA in rebounding at 8.4 RPG, and in the Top 10 in steals and blocks per game as well. She’s Top 10 in FG and 3-point FG % as well. Maybe the most important, she leads the league in advanced statistic WAR (Wins Against Replacement) where she is good for an additional 9.8 wins per season, per Kevin Pelton. The fact that Stewart has been the best player on by far the best team this season is a huge feather in her cap towards the Most Valuable Player award. She capped off the regular season by setting a new Storm franchise record for most points scored in a single season with 742, surpassing Lauren Jackson who previously owned the record at 739.

Sue Bird also set multiple records this season. She now owns the record for most games played in a WNBA career with over 500. She has earned the most All-Star nominations in league history, being selected to her 11th All-Star game this season. She set a new career high averaging over 7.1 Assists per game. She is already the WNBA’s All-Time Assists Leader. Bird also became the Storm’s all-time points scorer, finally surpassing Lauren Jackson six years later, as she joked.

Jewell Loyd became an All-Star for the first time in her career. Loyd also set new career high averages in assists and rebounds this season. Natasha Howard should win the Most Improved Player of the Year award and should be named to the WNBA All-Defensive Team as she was second in the league in blocks per game.

The Storm own the top seed in the WNBA, which is pivotal for their championship aspirations because of the way the WNBA playoff format has changed since 2016. Nowadays, the top two teams clinch double-byes past the first and second round of the playoffs, completely avoiding the dreaded single-elimination games altogether. The Storm will await the lowest remaining seed after Tuesday and Thursday’s single-elimination playoff games. The WNBA semi-finals start Sunday, August 26th in Seattle.

Let’s take a look at the seven other playoff teams:

With the new playoff format, the first round begins (and ends) today, August 21st, and will feature the fifth seed Phoenix Mercury hosting the eighth seed Dallas Wings. An interesting match-up between the Mercury’s Big 3 of Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, and DeWanna Bonner versus the WNBA’s leading scorer Liz Cambage and Skylar Diggins-Smith.

The nightcap features another rematch between the sixth seed Los Angeles Sparks and the seventh seed Minnesota Lynx. These two teams have been going back and forth the past two seasons waging epic wars against each other resulting in the Los Angeles Sparks winning the Championship in a winner take all Game 5 elimination game in 2016 and Minnesota doing the exact same thing one year later in 2017. This year there will be no Finals rematch between these two squads, but it’s only fitting that one of them will send the other home packing. Can Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, Chelsea Gray, and the rest of the Sparks put down Maya Moore, Sylvia Fowles, Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen, and the Minnesota Lynx for good? I’m eager to find out!

The winners of Tuesday’s games will move on to face the third seed Washington Mystics and fourth seed Connecticut Sun in the 2nd round of the playoffs on Thursday. Washington will host the lowest remaining seed. The winners of Thursday’s games will move onto the semi-finals and face off against #1 seed Seattle and the #2 seed Atlanta Dream starting on Sunday.

We won’t know whom the Storm will play in the semi-finals of the WNBA Playoffs this Sunday until Thursday, but we do know whom they won’t play. Seattle won’t be facing the Atlanta Dream or the Washington Mystics. Seattle can only face one of those teams in the WNBA Finals if the Storm make it to the final round, a luxury for owning the league’s best record this season. Seattle avoids the other top two teams most likely to win the WNBA Championship this season (at least in the third round).

Let’s take a look at the other five teams the Storm may face in the semi-finals and how the season series stacked up.

4th seed Connecticut Sun:
Head to head: Seattle won series 3-0.
Game Scores: Storm 103- Sun 92, Storm 84 - Sun 70, and Storm 78 - Sun 65.
Average margin of victory: 13 points

5th seed Phoenix Mercury:
Head to head: Seattle won series 2-1
Game Scores: Mercury 87 - Storm 82, Storm 87 - Mercury 71, Storm 102 - Mercury 91.
Average margin of victory: 13.5 points

6th seed Los Angeles Sparks:
Head to head: Seattle won series 2-1
Game Scores: Storm 88 - Sparks 63, Storm 81 - Sparks 72, Sparks 77 - Storm 75 OT.
Average margin of victory: 17 points

7th seed Minnesota Lynx:
Head to head: Seattle won series 2-1
Game Scores: Lynx 91 - Storm 79, Storm 85 - Lynx 75, Storm 81 - Lynx 72.
Average margin of victory: 9.5 points

8th seed Dallas Wings:
Head to head: Seattle won series 3-1
Game Scores: Wings 94 - Storm 90, Storm 97 - Wings 76, Storm 91 - Wings 84, Storm 84 - Wings 68.
Average margin of victory: 15 points


The Storm should have a clear advantage over whichever team they face in the semi-finals, at least on paper. The Storm won every single regular season series against every playoff team except the Atlanta Dream (which they can only face in the Finals); with an average margin of victory over all five playoff teams at 13.5 points per game.

After being eliminated in single-elimination playoff games the past two seasons they will automatically bypass these rounds this year. Seattle will hold home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. The Seattle Storm are now six wins away from their third WNBA Championship in franchise history.