WNBL18: Perth Lynx preview
Last season, the Lynx were second in field-goal attempts and way out in front in terms of 3-pointers attempted. Speed demon Tessa Lavey and three-point shooter Carley Mijovic were key parts of the team’s pace and space identity, though they look to have remade the squad in a similar mould and will again be built for speed, looking for transition threes and turning defensive rebounds into a footrace to the hoop wherever possible.
On defence, they will again gamble for steals (where they ranked 1st in WNBL last year) and look for fast break points. Dowe is key to their half-court defence; she doesn’t need to score much, but the level of rim protection she can provide will be crucial and defending as well as Ruth Hamblin did in the second half of last season will go a long way to another finals run. Burton will probably be low usage on offence, but Perth is probably the ideal fit for her ability to run the floor.
New recruits Kayla Standish and Olivia Thompson give the team two different options in the frontcourt; Standish is more of an outside shooter, but both players are good finishers. Thompson is one of the quickest fours around and can crash the boards and run the floor. She should also have her best year yet. Standish, meanwhile, has been a solid contributor for Adelaide and Townsville and has an unusual statistic profile as an efficient scorer who doesn’t shoot that much. She put up 24 points in 31 minutes across two pre-season games.
Alice Kunek is an interesting piece; only a couple of seasons ago she was a top five scorer in the league. In a pre-season loss to Towsnville she took the most shots; it will be interesting to see how they divide up scoring attempts and whether teams try to double or trap Whitcomb and Williams and pick their poison with Kunek and Perth’s interior players.
The main challenge may be integrating two high-usage scorers in Whitcomb and Williams, though most coaches would rather have the problem of sharing the scoring load over wondering where their points are going to come from. Not all WNBA players succeed in the WNBL, but Williams looks like a major coup. With an easy shooting action and the ability to create separation a number of ways or get a shot off in limited space, she looms as a major weapon. Along with Whitcomb, she will probably need to play 35 minutes a game as the injury-enforced absence of Antonia Farnworth for most of the regular season eats into the team’s backcourt depth.
The headline, however, remains Whitcomb. If she can come close to recreating her form from last year, where she compiled one of the most remarkable offensive seasons in WNBL history, Perth should have enough scoring to consistently outgun opponents even if their defence is only middling. Throw in Williams, one of the best-credentialed WNBA players to join the league in recent years, and this team becomes positively scary.