In the words of head coach Tanisha Wright, the Atlanta Dream can play any team in the league.
Through five outings, Atlanta (2-3) has lost every game by single digits, including an ultra-competitive five-point loss against the defending champion Las Vegas Aces on Friday.
The Dream’s two wins came on the road against the Minnesota Lynx, a game in which Atlanta mounted the biggest comeback in franchise history, and the Chicago Sky inside Gateway Center Arena.
Let’s dive into some notable stats and stories from the Dream’s first five games ahead of their tough four-game stretch against the Connecticut Sun and New York Liberty, beginning June 9.
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Productivity of the big three
The Atlanta big three of Rhyne Howard, Allisha Gray and Cheyenne Parker have accounted for 61.2% of the team’s points in five games. The Dream is also one of only two teams to have three players averaging 17 or more points along with the Dallas Wings.
Starting with Howard, the 6-foot-2 forward has been his typical self from beyond the arc, knocking down 45.8% of his catch-and-shoot jumpers, according to Synergy Sports.
Gray is the ultimate Swiss Army knife, averaging 16.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 32 minutes per game. She has provided excellent value with her transition game and dribbling transfer operation, along with a career-best 20.2% assist rate for her, the highest mark among Atlanta starters.
“She definitely elevates our offense for sure,” Wright told the media after their 83-65 win over the Sky. “[Just] having someone else who can pick up the pace, get the ball up and be a good decision-maker with the ball in their hands really matters within our offense. We have to have playmakers on the pitch at all times… and [Gray] It definitely brings that aspect of the game to us.”
For Parker, the 30-year-old continues to raise her game in the ninth year. The 6-foot-4 center is one of the best low-post scorers in the WNBA, averaging a league-best 10 points per game at the rim.
As seen on this possession, Parker loves to use his patented fake ball and up-and-down finishing in the paint, taking advantage of his lower-body strength and picturesque footwork.
“[Parker] He’s a stellar-caliber player in this league, I really believe that,” Wright said. “I’ll keep saying that to encourage her to play that way because she really lifts this team up.”
Dream dispenses with Lorela Cubaj and opens a place on the roster
On Saturday, the Atlanta Dream announced its decision give up forward Lorela Cubaj.
The 6’4 post averaged 2.3 rebounds in three games with the Dream, including extended second-half minutes against the Aces.
Cubaj is on the list for the EuroBasket in Italy, which starts in less than two weeks.
That being said, Atlanta will be looking to fill the available roster spot in free agency, so here are two possible paths:
- Atlanta will be without veteran guard Danielle Robinson (left knee) until the All-Star break, so the organization may explore adding depth at shooting guard.
- Atlanta lacks bench shooting volume outside of AD Durr, so it’s possible the organization will explore adding depth at forward to give rookie guard Haley Jones more room to operate.
The growth of Nia Coffey’s underwire protection
Nia Coffey has been terrific on the defensive end, posting 11 blocks in five games, trailing only Brittney Griner and Natasha Howard.
Absolutely Here For Nia Coffey’s Comeback Season pic.twitter.com/AGw6SjR0Bh
— Em🌹🏳️🌈 (@em_adler) May 28, 2023
Coffey’s defensive malleability allows him to provide secondary protection at the rim, moving in from the weak side; he can also defend level on ball blocks and has a strong enough base to hold his own in 1v1 matchups.
Coffey isn’t likely to maintain a 10% block rate for the remainder of the season, but it’s an encouraging development for a player who recorded two blocks in 16 games in 2022.