WNBA

Wings Need to Trust Mabrey

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The Dallas Wings have an issue. Either their opponent blows them out, or Dallas will go beyond expectations. With Satou Sabally in and out of the lineup, the Wings move the ball a bit more and let other players fulfill needed roles. As a result, there’s more flexibility on the court, and there is a higher likelihood that players can satisfy others’ duties. But the Wings have a significant issue. It may be a Sabally problem, but it may be more critical: the coaching staff could have a Marina Mabrey problem.

Maybe it’s Mabrey

Although guard play doesn’t seem to dictate the WNBA (unless it’s Cynthia Cooper or Maya Moore), the rest of the guards’ successes stems from players who make life easier for teammates. In this case, it’s not so much about the name; it’s more about fit. Mabrey has the talent to be an impact player on a playoff team. Unfortunately, the Dallas coaching staff does not trust her enough to let her permanently start. In addition, management may not have the confidence in her to deliver day in and day out.

The concern may be her inability to abstain from foul trouble, or perhaps coaches don’t appreciate her playmaking. Despite this false worry, the Wings staff should give Mabrey the keys to be the lead guard. The way to get better is to be thrown to the wolves until one becomes a lion. Also, the lineup changes, thanks to injury and the Olympics, hurt Mabrey’s rhythm. Maybe the Wings have too many initiators with Arike Ogunbowale, Sabally, and Allisha Gray. For better or worse, Mabrey doesn’t seem to get the same green light as Ogunbowale does.

Role Reversal

The card to unlocking the offense’s door is to let Mabrey be the lead facilitator. Play small to open games with Ogunbowale, Mabrey, and Gray playing the 1 thru 3 positions. Those players complement each other, especially with Ogunbowale’s ability to get to the rim. Arike needs to be paired with a strong lead guard to dictate her place in the offense. She will make three straight great plays and then make three questionable ones. Mabrey’s pace and poise alleviate this concern.

Ogunbowale is smaller, so of course, she will be the “point guard” every game. That doesn’t mean that she has to try to set up her teammates. Arike is best when  attacking. With Mabrey and Gray waiting on the corner of the wing, she will have the necessary spacing to be more efficient and have an outlet when defenses collapse. Mabrey and Gray also share Ogunbowale’s attacking ability. They’re a three-headed monster that supervisors constantly sedate.

Dallas has the perfect recipe to upset playoff teams, but there must be a conversation with all the players. Someone has to step up and let hoopers firmly know what their roles are. This team still looks like a collection of talent with no game plan. They have two top picks that don’t contribute in Charli Collier and Awak Kuier. It’s not all on the players either. There are too many mouths to be fed without determining who gets the most significant responsibility and who’s secondary.

Hot Wings

As the season progressed, the players took turns having the hot hand. Mabrey was firey early, and Ogunbowale displayed consistency throughout the season. Sabally has had ups and downs, but one can tell she’s unique, and Gray has also been solid. Maybe the solution is for Dallas to move some of these players for role players. There’s too much potential in many of the individual talents on this roster to house them all.

The only person who could save them could be Becky Hammon. She would arrive from a great system in San Antonio that requires the players to set egos and accolades aside to develop a juggernaut. That’s something that could turn them into an instant powerhouse next year and going forward. Let’s hope coach Vickie Johnson has the grit to sell Dallas on playing roles perfectly instead of being great pieces that never reach their proper form. Turbulence devastated the air in Dallas, but the Wings can still take flight.

About Michael Tolliver

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