21-13, tied for first, conference semifinals
Coach: Mike Thibault
Top players: C Tina Charles (17.6), F Asjha Jones (13.3 ppg), G Kara Lawson (10.4).
The skinny: The third year of the Sun’s youth movement holds great anticipation for success. Charles is now among the top five post players in the world, but the team needs consistent outside scoring from everyone. Renee Montgomery is still a young point guard, Lawson a dependable veteran.
21-13, tied for first, conference finals
Coach: Lin Dunn
Top players: F Tamika Catchings (15.5 ppg), G Katie Douglas (13.9), C Jessica Davenport (10.7 ppg)
The skinny: With the loss of assistant Gary Kloppenburg to Tulsa, Dunn hired Mickie DeMoss, the longtime Tennessee assistant, to replace her. What the Fever never want to think of is replacing is the former Tennessee All-American, Catchings, one of the game’s all-time greats.
20-14, 3rd place, conference champion
Coach: Marynell Meadors
Top players: G Angel McCoughtry (21.6), G Linsday Harding (4.8 assists), F Sancho Lyttle (6.3 rpg).
The skinny: The two-time defending Eastern Conference champions want to take the next step this season. McCoughtry, one of the league’s great offensive talents, will again lead the way. But center Erika De Souza [Brazil] will not join the team until after the Olympic Games end.
New York Liberty
19-15, 4th place, conference semifinals
Coach: John Whisenant
Top players: G Cappie Pondexter (17.4 ppg), C Kia Vaughn (6.7 rpg), F Plenette Pierson (12.9 ppg)
The skinny: The Liberty will be led again by the Rutgers trio of Pondexter, Vaughn and Essence Carson. But Nicole Powell’s offensive ability and Pierson’s tenacity at forward are crucial, as is whatever help the post gets from DeMya Walker and 6-6 rookie Kelly Cain of Tennessee.
14-20, 5th place
Coach: Pokey Chatman
Top players: F Swin Cash, C Sylvia Fowles (20.0 ppg), G Epiphanny Prince (13.6 ppg)
Skinny: The addition of Cash, one of the league’s top stars, gives the Sky frontline a boost. Point guard Courtney Vandersloot’s progression will be aided by veteran Ticha Penichiero. Fowles will join Cash, the former UConn star, on the 2012 Olympic team.
6-28, 6th place
Coach: Trudi Lacey
Top players: F Crystal Langhorne (18.2 ppg), G Matee Ajavon (3.1 apg), C Michelle Snow (6.0 ppg, with Chicago)
The skinny: Despite the gifted Langhorne, the Mystics quit in the second-half of last season, losing 13 of 14 by an average of more than 14 points. So Lacy went to some extremes, re-working the roster and taking the team to a Navy seal boot camp in the effort instill some toughness.
27-7, 1st place, won championship
Coach: Cheryl Reeve
Top players: G Seimone Augustus (16.2 ppg), G Lindsay Whalen (5.9 apg), F Maya Moore (13.2 ppg)
The Skinny: After winning their first championship last season, the Lynx return practically intact, adding only veteran Erin Thorn and rookie Devereaux Peters. They are the only league team with three Olympians – Augustus, Whalen and Moore.
21-13. 2nd place, conference semifinals
Coach: Brian Agler
Top players: G Sue Bird (14.7 ppg), C Lauren Jackson (12.2 ppg), G Katie Smith (7.5 ppg)
The Skinny: Trading Cash to Chicago was a bold, but necessary move by the Storm as they move to the future. But Bird, the world’s best point guard, remains at the team core. And her help will be even more important since Jackson [Australia] will not report until after the Olympics.
19-15, 3rd place, conference finals
Coach: Corey Gaines
Top players: G Diana Taurasi (21.6), F Candace Dupree (8.2 rpg), C DeWanna Bonner
The skinny: There is no player in the WNBA, perhaps the world, like Taurasi and she will continue to lead the Mercury in all it does. But veteran Penny Taylor’s loss (knee) will hurt badly. Rookie point guard Samantha Prahalis, their first-round pick, is also as confident as they come.
San Antonio Silver Stars
18-16, 4th place, conference semifinals
Coach: Dan Hughes
Top players: G Becky Hammon (15.9), G Sophia Young (6.4 rpg), G Danielle Robinson
The Skinny: The Silver Stars were outrebounded by 5.7 rebounds in 2011, 2.5 rebounds greater than the next worst team. Young, 6-1, was their top rebounder. So they added 6-3 Tangela Smith, 6-4 rookie Ziomara Morrison and 6-1 Shameka Christon.
Los Angeles Sparks
15-19, 5th place
Coach: Carol Ross
Top players; C Candace Parker (18.5 ppg), F Nnemka Ogwumike (rookie), F Delisha Milton-Jones (11.7 ppg).
The skinny: Ross, a veteran college coach, takes over the Sparks. It’s also a very new roster, with Marisa Coleman and Alana Beard there now to bolster the backcourt. Parker, the Olympian, and Ogwumike, the No. 1 draft pick, form an athletic post tandem.
3-31, 6th place
Coach: Gary Kloppenburg
Top players: F Glory Johnson (rookie), G Ivory Latta (3.2 apg), C Liz Cambage (29 blocks)
The skinny: First-year coach Kloppenburg has hands full trying to rebuild a truly terrible team. Cambage, the 6-8 center from Australia, will not join the team until after the Olympics. And Tiffany Jones [formerly Jackson], top scorer and rebounder last season, will not play this year due to pregnancy.
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