The 2016 WNBA regular season has come to a close with the playoffs beginning Thursday and four of Australia’s six representatives will feature in the post-season.
NEW YORK LIBERTY: 21-13, 3rd
The WNBA has changed its playoff structure for 2016 with conference positioning no longer ensuring a finals spot, rather the teams with the best eight records advance. This was little concern for the Liberty who raced through the regular season with 21 wins to finish in the third seed, automatically moving them into the second round.
Rebecca Allen- Providing a solid option off the bench for much of the year, Allen is averaging 5.7 points and 1.7 rebounds per game. She proved she can handle herself in a bigger role in the final game of the regular season, recording 13 points, eight boards, two assists, two blocks and a steal in 35 minutes. That ability to influence all areas of the floor will be integral in their finals campaign and while she has a small sample size, Allen is also hitting 57% from three-point range on 17-30 shooting.
SEATTLE STORM: 16-18, 7th
From 9-15, Seattle finished the season off strongly to win seven of their last ten games and move ahead of Phoenix on the overall standings. As one of the in-form teams in the league, the Storm will take confidence into their series against Atlanta as they aim to win their first post-season series since 2010 when they were the WNBA Champions.
Jenna O’Hea- With her minutes diminishing since the Olympic break, O’Hea has played a total of just 24 minutes in her past eight games. She is still averaging 3.2 points and an assist per game and was effective in Seattle’s last meeting with Atlanta, recording six points, four rebounds, an assist and a block. An experienced finals player in the WNBA thanks to her time with the Sparks, O’Hea will be a valuable member of the Storm heading into the post-season and will hopefully be able to guide the team on the court.
Abby Bishop- In an interrupted season, Bishop has played just 12 games for the season, scoring in four of them. Hitting the court for just three minutes per contest in her past five outings, it is unlikely we will see much of Bishop in the finals as she aims for a second title with the Storm after helping them to the 2010 Championship.
PHOENIX MERCURY: 16-18, 8th
The Mercury were in danger of giving superstar Penny Taylor a premature farewell leading up to the end of the regular season but they earned the final playoff spot with two straight victories. It is their fourth consecutive post-season appearance, their best streak in club history and they will be desperate to win a fourth Championship in Taylor’s last season.
Penny Taylor- Starting every game for the season, Taylor is averaging 12.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists. While she has stated she feels it is the right time for retirement, the guard will certainly go out near the top of her game with all her numbers this season hovering around or bettering her career averages. Taylor is shooting 49% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc while leading the team with 1.5 steals per game and will be one of the Mercury’s most reliable players heading into the finals.
WASHINGTON MYSTICS: 13-21, 10th
The Mystics missed a playoff spot by three games although the new finals format was almost extremely beneficial to them as they finished last in the East Conference. A 5-12 home record hurt them but they did record two victories for the year against title favourites, Minnesota.
Leilani Mitchell- Arriving to the team in late August after representing Australia at the Olympics, Mitchell added a solid boost to the Mystics back court with 5.9 points and 1.9 assists in 16 minutes per game. She reached double-figures in scoring twice, exploding for 20 points on 5-7 three-point shooting against Chicago on September 7 and certainly showed enough for Washington to have a real look at her services again next season.
DALLAS WINGS: 11-23, 11th
Never really in the hunt for the playoffs, Dallas have not qualified for the post-season for the sixth time in the past seven seasons.. They won just six games at home for the year and will have been disappointed to finish off the regular season with two wins from their final ten matches.
Erin Phillips- Phillips capped off a consistent but frustrating season with the Wings by scoring in her last four games, increasing her averages to 4.6 points and 1.2 assists for the year. She had three games through May and June in which she scored in double-figures but her minutes dropped mid-season before playing 20+ minutes of court time for her last two matches. Hitting 38% from downtown and 91% from the free-throw line, Phillips was one of Dallas’ most efficient offensive players and she will now try her hand at AFL, joining the Adelaide Crows for the debut AFL women’s league season.