The Seattle Storm finished the 2016 regular season winning seven of their last ten contests behind the three-headed monster of tenured point guard Sue Bird and back-to-back Rookie-of-the-Year winners Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart, only to fall to the Atlanta Dream in round one. Although a disappointing end to their season, the prospect of success in Seattle was great, especially at the hands of Stewart.
The 6’4″ forward established her position in the league immediately, averaging 18.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks as she finished fifth in MVP voting. Coming into her second year in the WNBA, there would seem to be no limits for Stewart. She has started the season off slowly after injuring her right knee while playing overseas. Meanwhile, while Bird has also made her way back to the floor, Loyd, the league’s leading scorer, has led the Storm to a 2-1 start.
Jewell has been nearly unstoppable through the first week of play, getting buckets and doing so efficiently. She started off 5-for-5 in the first quarter of last night’s win against the Mystics, leaving Washington’s defense frustrated and helpless. There were no answers to her outbursts, only counteractions and timeouts. She put the Storm ahead early, and after falling behind in the third and regaining the lead, extinguished any chance of a Mystics’ comeback in the final period.
Seattle desperately need a strong performance from Loyd, with Stewart struggling from the floor and getting into foul trouble. She’s relished on the stage thus far, scoring whenever she deems it necessary for a Storm win. To this point of the season, Jewell has stepped up admirably, filling the roles of her absent co-stars.
Not only has Loyd’s statistical start to the season been impressive, scoring 26 points per game while shooting 58.5 percent from the floor and 61.5 percent from deep. But to appreciate the full scope of her greatness begs the questions of “how” and “when”. She’s found multiple ways of attacking the defense. whether its drawing fouls or drilling 3s. Her knack for scoring in bursts, taking over games for stretches at a time is an art form. She’s shown urgency in the most precious moments of the game and seized them.
If sustained, Jewell’s progression means trouble for the rest of the league. Alongside Stewart, she’ll be one half the league’s most-frightening tandem for years to come. It takes more than one elite player to contend at the highest level in the WNBA, and it would seem the Storm have found a second.