The first six weeks of the 21st WNBA season have gone about according to plan, with the Minnesota Lynx establishing themselves as the class of the league, and the likes of Los Angeles and Washington follow closely behind.
And while Maya Moore and company’s dominance has been impressive as always, the most interesting story lines have been found in the middle of the league, where teams like the Seattle, Connecticut, and Atlanta have oscillated between dark horse contender and lottery bound.
The latest of these up and down squads to take the league by storm is the Dallas Wings, whose four-game winning streak has vaulted them to 8-8 on the season, which is good for sixth place in the standings. (It must be noted that two of these wins came against the 0-14 San Antonio Stars, however, the Stars are not quite as bad as that record would indicate, and the Wings did also pick up a victory over the Mystics during this streak.)
A now-healthy Skylar Diggins-Smith has returned to All-Star form, Glory Johnson is doing her usual work in the paint and on the boards, and Allisha Gray is the early-season Rookie of the Year. Yet the recent turnaround has been powered by one of the Wings’ — and the league’s — most underrated players: Theresa Plaisance.
The fourth-year forward from LSU moved into the starting lineup after the injury to Courtney Paris, and is in the midst of a career season, averaging 9.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, while shooting over 41 percent from downtown, which is good enough for 12th in the league.
During Dallas’ current four-game winning streak, however, Plaisance has been on a new level, putting together the best stretch of her young career, as she’s averaged 13.2 points, 7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks a night, while hitting just under 43 percent of her triples.
Plaisance’s ability to stretch the floor has been important all season long, as she’s one of the only legitimate threats from outside on this Wings team which is shooting just 31.4 percent on their 3-point attempts.
But her recent uptick in production, as she’s knocked down at least two 3s in every game during this win streak, has made an already strong Wings offense even more difficult to stop. Since Dallas began their four-game streak back on June 18, their offensive rating is 111.7, which is good enough for third in the league over that stretch.
She’s been deadly in the pick-and-pop, making teams pay time and again for deciding to send both defenders at Diggins-Smith to force the ball out of her hands.
And with Plaisance spacing the floor, it creates more room for Diggins-Smith and others to drive, and if the defense collapses, Plaisance is there to bury the open look.
Seriously, just look how much room there is in the middle of the floor because the Wings are able to go five-out with Plaisance on the floor. And with this much spacing, it’s impossible for the help defense to cut off the drive and get all the way back to contest the shot on the kickout.
We’ve never seen Plaisance do this over the course of a full season, so it’s fair to be a bit cautious with the expectations for her moving forward . However, if she’s able to keep this up the rest of the way, the Wings’ offense is going to continue to cause people a lot of problems.