Storm’s rebuilding nearly complete after 2 top draft picks
SEATTLE (AP) When the Seattle Storm last underwent an overhaul of this proportion, it paid off with a WNBA championship two years later.
They can only hope the results are similar this time.
Once a pillar of stability and success in the WNBA, the Storm are undergoing a complete remodel from the front office all the way to the end of the bench.
And that rebuilding will be based around the selection of guard Jewell Loyd and forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis with two of the top three picks in the WNBA draft on Thursday.
It was the first time Seattle held the No. 1 pick in the draft since 2002 when Sue Bird was selected, and that came a year after the Storm took Lauren Jackson with the top pick.
By 2004, with Jackson and Bird leading the way, Seattle was a champion.
”We took a critical look at where we were and understood there is this rich history and legacy of the Seattle Storm and championships here. But it was time and we knew it was time to kind of build,” Seattle team President Alisha Valavanis said. ”And to do that we set out a plan that we’ve stayed with through the offseason and now through the draft.”
After going 12-22 last season, Seattle did more than just tinker with its roster. Four of the top six scorers from the 2014 season are gone with only Bird and Crystal Langhorne returning for 2015. Seattle made a flurry of offseason moves, including the trade of post Camille Little and forward Shekinna Stricklen to Connecticut to land the No. 3 pick that turned into Mosqueda-Lewis.
All the moves were needed. Seattle had grown slow since winning the WNBA title in 2010. They were too small on the interior. Scoring became a struggle. Key injuries mounted and the young draft picks of recent seasons didn’t develop quickly.
”We had a lot of success so there was not much need to change. If it’s not broken why fix it,” new Seattle coach Jenny Boucek said. ”So we had not a whole lot to fix. We had tweaking going on most years and this year the franchise decided to change directions a little bit in hope of returning to championship contention as soon as possible.”
Seattle has also spent the past four seasons without Jackson full-time. Once the most dominant player in the league, Jackson has not played more than 13 games for Seattle since 2010 and didn’t suit up for the Storm in 2013 or `14, spending most of her time back in Australia dealing with injuries.
Valavanis said the team is in continued conversations with Jackson as she recovers at home.
”We want to in some capacity honor Lauren. Whether that’s on or off the court at some point that is something the Seattle Storm would like to do,” Valavanis said.
Included in Seattle’s overhaul were changes in the front office.
Brian Agler left Seattle after seven seasons as head coach and took over in Los Angeles. Boucek was promoted, getting a second chance at being a head coach in the WNBA after two-plus seasons as the head coach in Sacramento, where she went 40-41 in her time with the now-defunct franchise.
And Valavanis is now fully in control after being named as Karen Bryant’s successor in June 2014. After spending last season as an observer, Valavanis had an idea of the direction she wanted to take Seattle.
Valavanis wasn’t shy about making bold moves, whether it was trading top players or dealing with a coaching change, despite being in her first full year in charge of a franchise.
”I’m sensing a lot of unity and a lot of excitement about the future,” Valavanis said. ”Jewell Loyd, Mosqueda-Lewis, these are pieces that are critical moving forward and I think our fan base … I think they’re excited about that.”