WNBA

The Storm Have Found Their Sue Bird Successor

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The Seattle Storm’s search for Sue Bird‘s successor is over. With the signing of Skylar Diggins-Smith to a two-year contract, the franchise has its new maestro.

Diggins-Smith’s resume is legit. A six-time All-Star, four-time first-team All-WNBA selection, and 2021 Olympian, she was at the top of her game before taking the 2023 season off for parental leave.

The 33-year-old was the top guard on the free-agent market and will make an immediate impact in the Emerald City.

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SECURED WITHOUT SACRIFICE

Diggins-Smith signed with the Storm as an unrestricted free agent, which saved Seattle from having to part with any assets in a sign-and-trade (and prevented the Phoenix Mercury, her former team, from profiting off her departure).

Last year, they had the league’s worst point-guard rotation, utilizing a combination of Ivana Dojkić (who left before the end of the season), Jade Melbourne and Yvonne Turner. Now, they boast the WNBA’s second-best true point guard, behind only Chelsea Gray.

LIFTING OTHERS, RISING TOGETHER

Last season, Jewell Loyd carried the burden of being Seattle’s primary scorer and playmaker. She broke the league’s single-season scoring record, but at the cost of her shooting efficiency; her two-point shooting percentage fell below 40%, and her three-point percentage was at its lowest since 2019 — the last season she played without Bird.

Now, with Diggins-Smith running the show, Loyd can return to her more natural off-ball role, which should help her regain her shooting form. Diggins-Smith improves the Storm’s offense in other significant ways. She drives to the basket more effectively than almost any other lead guard, with 31.3 percent of her shots coming at the rim in 2022, about five percent more than Seattle’s rate in 2023.

Over 40 percent of her assists lead to three-pointers, a critical aspect of the Storm’s offensive strategy — only the Liberty and the Aces attempted more 3s last season. Diggins-Smith’s drive-and-kick ability should elevate the shooting of Loyd, as well as that of Ezi Magbegor and Sami Whitcomb.

DAWN OF THE JOURNEY

The addition of Diggins-Smith was just step one of the Storm’s free-agency plans. Building on this momentum, they’ve now infused their frontcourt with star power by signing 2016 league MVP Nneka Ogwumike to a one-year deal.

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An outstanding leader with championship experience, she will play a role similar to the one Breanna Stewart played, while the development of Magbegor into an All-Star gives Seattle one of the league’s best frontcourts.

Following the superteam blueprint established by Las Vegas and New York, Seattle has assembled a powerhouse of their own. With a quartet of stars in place, the Storm are poised to join the league’s elite this season.

https://twitter.com/StormLeadSM/status/1754616035733537243

About Hamilton Neill

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