Make a trade here, sign a free agent there, come draft day find value further down the board. This is the annual conundrum of San Antonio’s Head Coach and General Manager Dan Hughes. Having made the playoffs every year since 2006, Hughes always finds ways to add value to the franchise without drafting in lottery position.
In 2011 Hughes, with his forward thinking GM skills, made moves that will have positive affects well into the future. Via the draft Hughes added Danielle Robinson (picked at #6) and Danielle Adams (picked #20). Robinson saw over 23 minutes per game at point and Adams turned out to have one of the best rookie campaigns of the 2011 class averaging 12.4 ppg and being selected as a WNBA All-Star. In a trade with Chicago, Jia Perkins, who averaged 12 ppg, was brought on board. Finally via free agency, veteran guard Tully Bevilaqua added leadership and some on-ball defense to the squad.
The question is, has Hughes negotiated enough talent to get the Silver Stars to the top of the Western Conference, past the talent loaded Minnesota Lynx and the revamped Los Angeles Sparks? Full Court had a chance to sit down with Dan Hughes as the season kicked off. In our conversation, we get his perspective on the 2012 draft, the strengths and weaknesses of the Silver Stars and just how Hughes hopes to move his team up in the standings.
FC: Coming into the season, what did you see as the areas that needed to be addressed the most?
DH: Length was important to us, length in the post obviously but also length in the perimeter where we had some ability from a match-up standpoint and from a size standpoint that might help our overall defense and our rebounding. We wanted to improve our three-point shooting. It is a big part of the way we play, being deeper and more versatile there.
FC: Where did you feel the team was the strongest?
DH: It’s strongest when you look at the starting point of Becky Hammon and Sophia Young. We feel like we have pretty good depth and substantial impact at the guard position. We wanted to solidify our small forward and post positions.
FC: Comment on the post situation.
DH: It’s a work in progress but it is also a position by committee. I think there’s growth there certainly from a rebounding standpoint.
FC: Tell us about the new additions.
DH: Shenise Johnson is a nice player. She has size at the guard position. She has a lot of the guard skills we really appreciate but she’s also 5-11/6-0, [has] versatility. We can play her at the 3 or play her at the guard position. She’s a combination of a skillful and instinctive player that’s also a pretty good athlete.
FC: Shameka Christon
DH: We’ve always liked her, just a world class shooter. She has such range and does it from a 6-2/6-3 vantage point. So we love that size and length and perimeter shooting. We knew there was going to be a transition period of her getting back on the floor [coming off micro fracture surgery]. I’d say she’s in the 70’s [referring to her coming back from the surgery]. She’s gotten better weekly but she’s only been playing five-on-five basketball for about a month.
FC: Tangela Smith
DH: We wanted somebody who can really stretch the floor and wanted a second player in our rotation along with Danielle Adams who could do that.
FC: Ziomara Morrison
DH: I was watching a tape of the team Lauren Jackson, Ann Wauters and Maya Moore all play on and saw Ziomara in the tape. I did a little research on her and didn’t know where her representation was and put the word out that I would like to talk to whoever represented her. We brought her into camp. She’s a young player but we are really excited about the potential that she has in the coming years. She’s a low post player but she has great skill and a pretty good athlete too. She can honestly shoot the three and she has good touch and hands around the basket. She’s just not used to playing against the level of physicality that our WNBA game brings. She’s still in that learning curve. She can grow a lot. She just turned 23.
FC: Please comment on the 2012 draft.
DH: A couple of things surprised me when you really look at it. It was a draft that was very unpredictable. Some drafts kind of go like you kind of know where the first five or six picks are going to go to a pretty good degree and I don’t think this one played out [like that] at all. Maybe number one and there was such a grouping of two through six or seven that there was a lot of unpredictability in it. I really can’t tell you I woke up on the day of the draft and thought Shenise Johnson would play for the Silver Stars. It kind of showed the equity beyond Nneka [Ogwumike] at the number one position. Teams drafted by need a lot. We were glad to have a chance to draft Shenise. (end of interview)
The 2012 roster with brief analysis:
Danielle Adams 6-1 F:
Adams was the big surprise of the 2011 rookie class; however she appears to have taken several steps backward in conditioning from last year. This Texas A&M product could become a victim of the sophomore jinx. Her ability to duplicate last season’s success would be important to her team having favorable results this season.
Jayne Appel 6-4 C:
The Stanford product is turning into a functional reserve on the pro level. Her range and ability to create her own shot continues to be limited; however, she passes well and has improved her rebounding since the start of her pro career.
Tully Bevilaqua 5-7 G:
In what is probably the last WNBA campaign for the gritty Aussie, she is still capable of five or ten minutes per game of energetic defense and has always been a fan favorite.
Shameka Christon 6-2 F (free agent signing):
In spite of coming off injury being hurt more than not the past two seasons, the former Razorback appears to be shooting the ball well. Her size gives the Stars options they have not had in recent years. “I’m really happy for her", said Hughes after her 16 point performance to open the season. "The girl has fought through the injuries to get back on the court and I’m not sure we would win that game [one] without her presence.”
Becky Hammon 5-6 G:
The South Dakota native with a Russian passport is deservedly a WNBA cult figure having gone from undrafted to superstar. Now thirty-five, how much longer can she log over 30 minutes per game and play at all-star level? At 5-5, her ability to read passing angles and make off-balanced floaters is something to behold.
Shenise Johnson 5-11 G/F (drafted at #5 this year):
If San Antonio is to continue to be a playoff team in the years ahead without visiting the lottery, Johnson’s development could be a key component. “We really like her", said Hughes after their season opening win over Tulsa. "Today, you can see her just working through that first game. She’s just going to get better and better. I think she is going to become even more versatile the way we can use her as time goes on.”
Ziomara Morrison 6-4 C (free agent signing):
From Chile, this young play will attempt to learn the WNBA game this season.
Jia Perkins 5-8 G:
She gives the Stars another play maker on the wing, she is more off guard than combo guard (like Hammon).
Danielle Robinson 5-9 PG:
If speed alone could get the job done, this Sooner would be a certain all-star. Unfortunately, the jury is still out on her feel for the game. But in fairness, this is only her second year in the league. As for three’s she is 0/1 in her pro career.
Tangela Smith 6-3 C/F (obtained from Indiana in exchange for Roneeka Hodges)
Smith will give San Antonio additional size and another three-point threat. The Stars hope new surroundings will help her improve from a down 2011.
Sophia Young 6-1 F:
Young will try to bounce back from a slightly down 2011 where her scoring average dropped about 2 ppg while her shooting percentage from the field fell about 7% last year. Still in her prime at 28, the increase in perimeter shooters on the roster should allow her greater freedom to operate inside the arc.
Full Court’s Expectations: The Silver Stars have clearly added punch and length on the perimeter as planned. Questions persist surrounding scoring from the center position, and rebounding where San Antonio had by far the worst differential in the league last season. If Danielle Adams can improve her physical conditioning and Becky Hammon can squeeze out yet another season performing at an all-star level, the Silver Stars should, barring injuries, be better than last year. Look for San Antonio to once again make the playoffs (probably finishing third or fourth). The big names coming into the lottery portion of next year’s draft would thus be taken before San Antonio picks. Assuming so, Hughes will again have to find value further down the draft board just as he has in the past.
|23||Danielle Adams||F-C||6-1||239||02/19/1989||Texas A&M||1|
|25||Becky Hammon||G||5-6||136||03/11/1977||Colorado State||13|
|42||Shenise Johnson||G||5-11||12/08/1990||Miami (Fla.)||R|
|7||Jia Perkins||G||5-8||155||02/23/1982||Texas Tech||8|
Dan Hughes (College - Muskingum)
Vickie Johnson (College - Louisiana Tech)
Steve Shuman (College - Cal State - Sacramento)