How Seattle Storm additions have made them a contender in West

Jun 10, 2024, 2:14 PM | Updated: 3:36 pm

Seattle Storm Nneka Ogwumike...

Nneka Ogwumike of the Seattle Storm reacts after defeating the Indiana Fever on May 22, 2024. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The last Seattle Storm season sticks out like a sore thumb when you compare it to the team’s history in the WNBA.

Seattle Storm sign WNBA blocks leader Ezi Magbegor to extension

In 2023, the Storm went 11-29 and missed the playoffs for the first time in eight years and just the third time since 2004. Though perennial All-Star Jewell Loyd remained in Seattle and even led the league in scoring in 2023, the team knew it had work to do in order to replace all-time legendary point guard Sue Bird, who retired after the 2022 campaign, and superstar forward Breanna Stewart, who left for the New York Liberty in free agency prior to last season.

Based on the Storm’s start to 2024, it appears they did a good job finding those answers.

Point guard Skylar Diggins-Smith and forward Nneka Ogwumike, the 2016 WNBA MVP, have arrived and helped the Storm recently reel off six straight wins. At 7-4 entering this week, Seattle is just a game back of the Minnesota Lynx (8-3) for first place in the Western Conference, and the Storm picked up an impressive win on Friday over the two-time defending champion Las Vegas Aces.

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Elise Woodward, a basketball analyst who calls Storm games during the season, joined Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy on Monday and broke down what stands out from the team’s turnaround this season. The first thing she mentioned was how Diggins-Smith and Ogwumike, who are both 33 years old, have given the Storm a boost despite age concerns.

“When they said we want to go get Nneka Ogwumike, who was a former MVP and champion in the WNBA, we want to go get Skylar Diggins-Smith – those two are individual defenders that are two of the top in their position in the world,” Woodward said. “You know, they’re in their 30s, and so it was like, ‘How much do they still have (in the tank)? And Skylar Diggins-Smith has had two babies, how does she come back?’ She is in phenomenal shape, Nneka still looks really good – she’s missed a few games with some minor tweaks. But when they’re on the court right now and healthy, they look fantastic.”

Seattle Storm can ‘shut down’ opponents

Combining the veteran Ogwumike and Diggins-Smith with Loyd and rising center Ezi Magbegor, who leads the league with three blocks a game, has added up to a tough defensive matchup for any opponent.

“With Jewell Loyd, who can defend, and with Ezi Magbegor, who is right now playing out of this world – she was an All-Star last year, she’s had multiple blocks like 10 or 11 games in a row, I’ve lost track – defensively this team can absolutely shut down other opponents,” Woodward said. “We talk about in the playoffs, that’s what wins, right? Defense and rebounding, and their rebounding has been better than expected and their defense has been top notch.”

Woodward now sees a Seattle Storm squad that has taken a noticeable step forward compared to a year ago.

“They’ve got multiple All-Stars, multiple Olympians that are on their roster, and so they can compete with New York, they can compete with Las Vegas – they just beat Vegas. So it’s fun. If you’re a Storm fan and you’re coming out to watch, they can beat anybody in the league. You couldn’t have said that last year, but with the additions of Nneka and Skylar, they’re a fun team and they can make a run this year, that’s for sure.”

The Storm are in action Tuesday at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle for a 7 p.m. game against the Los Angeles Sparks. Woodward will be on the call on FOX 13+ in the Puget Sound area.

Listen to the full Bump and Stacy conversation with Seattle Storm broadcaster Elise Woodward in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

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