Team-by-team look at the WNBA, which opens its 14th season Saturday: EASTERN CONFERENCE
2009: 18-16, tied for 2nd place; lost to Detroit 2-0 in conference semifinals.
COACH: Marynell Meadors, 3rd season with team, 60-78 overall.
KEY ADDITIONS: F Chanel Mokango (draft, No. 9, Mississippi State); F Brigitte Ardossi (draft, No. 21, Georgia Tech); G Brittainey Raven (draft, No. 33, Texas); G Kelly Miller (free agent, Minnesota).
KEY LOSSES: C Michelle Snow (trade, San Antonio).
STRENGTH: Offense. Atlanta reached the playoffs in its second season after a roster makeover followed its WNBA-record 30-loss inaugural campaign. The Dream had a 14-win improvement after finishing second in the league in scoring (84.2 ppg), field-goal shooting (44.9 percent) and steals (9.7). Chamique Holdsclaw, a six-time All-Star, came out of retirement and was second on the team in scoring (13.9 ppg) and averaged 4.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists. However, Meadors said Holdsclaw has asked for a trade and she would try to accommodate her. Sancho Lyttle had career bests of 13.0 ppg and 7.5 rpg, and Angel McCoughtry earned the Rookie of the Year after averaging 12.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.2 spg. Iziane Castro Marques (14.4 ppg) and center Erika DeSouza (11.8 ppg, 9.1 rpg) anchored a lineup that led the league in rebounding (37.0).
WEAKNESS: Perimeter shooting. The Dream were last in the WNBA in 3-pointers made (114) last season and second-to-last in percentage from beyond the arc (30.5). Kelly Miller, joining sister Coco on the team, is a career 38 percent shooter on 3s, but her production has slowed in recent years after averaging double digits in scoring in 2004-06. She averaged 4.4 points and 2.0 assists while shooting 36 percent from the field and 33 percent on 3s for Minnesota last season.
2009: 16-18, tied for 4th.
COACH: Steven Key, 3rd season, 28-40.
KEY ADDITIONS: F Shameka Christon (trade, New York); F Cathrine Kraayeveld (trade, New York); G Epiphanny Prince (draft, No. 4, Botas Spor); C Abi Olajuwon (draft, No. 28, Oklahoma).
KEY LOSSES: F Candice Dupree (trade, Phoenix); C Katie Mattera (free agent); G Kristi Toliver (trade, Los Angeles).
STRENGTH: Balance. The Sky are coming off their best season and narrowly missed earning their first playoff berth. Chicago, fourth in scoring at 79.2 ppg, finished in a three-way tie for fourth place and lost the tiebreaker to Washington. Third-year center Sylvia Fowles (10.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg in her career) is the franchise's key player, though she's missed 27 games in her first two seasons. Christon is coming off a career-best season with New York in which she averaged career-highs of 16.1 ppg and 4.9 rpg. In the backcourt, Jia Perkins' production dipped to 13.2 ppg and 3.4 rpg after a breakout season the year before. The Sky also got solid play from Dominique Canty (6.9 ppg, team-leading 3.2 apg). Prince, who once scored a record 113 points in a game as a senior in high school in New York, skipped her senior year at Rutgers to play professionally in Turkey.
WEAKNESS: Chemistry. Dupree was the franchise's first draft pick in 2006 and averaged 15.6 points and 7.3 rebounds in four years with the Sky. Her departure leaves Perkins as the only player left from the team's first season in 2006. Although the Sky appear to have a bright future, they could need time to integrate the newcomers.
2009: 16-18, tied for 4th place.
COACH: Mike Thibault, eighth season, 143-95.
KEY ADDITIONS: C Tina Charles (draft, No. 1, Connecticut); G Renee Montgomery (trade, Minnesota); G Kara Lawson (free agent, Sacramento); F DeMya Walker (dispersal draft, Sacramento); F Kelsey Griffin (trade, Minnesota; draft, No. 3, Nebraska); F Allison Hightower (draft, No. 15, LSU).
KEY LOSSES: G Lindsay Whalen (trade, Minnesota); C Chante Black (trade, Tulsa); F Amber Holt (trade, Tulsa); F Tamika Whitmore (waived); G Erin Phillips (restricted free agent).
STRENGTH: Frontcourt. The Sun made the league's first big trade of the offseason, sending Whalen and the second pick in the draft to Minnesota for former UConn star Montgomery and the No. 1 pick -- which they used to select Charles. She will likely anchor the middle and allow Sandrine Gruda (13.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg) to move to power forward and Asjha Jones (16.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg) to small forward. Walker and rookies Griffin (20.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg as a senior) and Hightower (18.2 ppg) will provide depth. Gruda will miss the first few weeks while training with the French national team.
WEAKNESS: Experience. Connecticut added some veterans with former Monarchs stars Lawson and Walker. The Sun had five selections in last month's WNBA draft -- including the trade for Griffin and picking Kansas' Danielle McCray, who is injured and will not play this season. Although Montgomery and Charles played together at UConn, the Sun will be one of the youngest teams in the league and will likely need time to jell. Phillips has asked for a trade and will likely miss the season while training with the Australian national team for the upcoming world championships.
2009: 22-12, 1st place; beat Washington 2-0 in conference semifinals; beat Detroit 2-1 in conference finals; lost to Phoenix 3-2 in WNBA finals.
COACH: Lin Dunn, third season with team, 72-92 overall.
KEY ADDITIONS: G Jene Morris (draft, No. 11, San Diego State); F Joy Cheek (draft, No. 35, Duke).
KEY LOSSES: G Tamecka Dixon (retired).
STRENGTH: Experience. The Fever are coming off the best season in franchise history, setting the team mark for wins. After faltering down the stretch, Indiana reached the finals for the first time and led 2-1 before losing the last two games. All-Stars Katie Douglas (17.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.7 apg) and Tamika Catchings (15.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg, and 3.1 apg) are the keys to the offense. On the defensive side, the Fever set a WNBA record with 373 steals, led by Catchings' league-best 99. Tammy Sutton-Brown and Ebony Hoffman tied for second on the team in rebounding (5.9) and third in scoring (9.9). Rookie Briann January (6.9 ppg, 2.3 apg) was also solid backing up Tully Bevilaqua (6.1 ppg, 2.9 apg) at the point.
WEAKNESS: Chemistry. Although the Fever return with the mostly the same roster as last season, Catchings, Douglas, Hoffman and Sutton-Brown, missed all of training camp while playing in the finals of the Turkish League. They are expected to join the team for Saturday's season opener, but how quickly the stars get back into the system -- and their level of fatigue -- will dictate the Fever's success.
NEW YORK LIBERTY
2009: 13-21, 7th.
COACH: Anne Donovan, 2nd season with team, 138-128 overall.
KEY ADDITIONS: G Cappie Pondexter (trade, Phoenix); F Nicole Powell (dispersal draft, Sacramento); C Taj McWilliams-Franklin (free agent, Detroit); G Kalana Greene (draft, No. 13, Connecticut); G Nikki Blue (trade, Washington).
KEY LOSSES: F Shameka Christon (trade, Chicago); F Cathrine Kraayeveld (trade, Chicago); G Loree Moore (waived); F Ashley Battle (waived).
STRENGTH: Offense. After enduring the second-worst season in franchise history and missing the playoffs for the second time in four years, the Liberty underwent a roster overhaul. One of the lowest-scoring teams in the league in recent years, New York will play more uptempo and offensive-minded with Pondexter (19.1 ppg, 5.0 apg, 4.2 rpg in 2009) and Powell (16.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.3 apg) keying the offense. Leilani Mitchell and Greene will see significant time in the backcourt, along with Essence Carson, who can also play some small forward. The defense was also bolstered with McWilliams-Franklin, the final piece of the makeover, likely starting at center and Janel McCarville moving to power forward. Tiffany Jackson, Kia Vaughn and Erlana Larkins will be key reserves in the frontcourt.
WEAKNESS: Chemistry. Pondexter didn't join the team until the final week of training camp and Powell missed all the but last couple of days while finishing up in the Turkish League. With those two expected to be the key cogs in the offense, New York will need time to involve everyone and get their new offensive game plan flowing.
2009: 16-18, tied for 4th; lost to Indiana 2-0 in conference semifinals.
COACH: Julie Plank, 2nd season, 16-18.
KEY ADDITIONS: F Katie Smith (free agent, Detroit); C Jacinta Monroe (draft, No. 6, Florida State); F Jennifer Lacy (free agent, Atlanta); F Shanavia Dowdell (draft, No. 18., Louisiana Tech), Carla Thomas (free agent).
KEY LOSSES: G Alana Beard (injury); G Nikki Blue (trade, New York).
STRENGTH: Frontcourt. After improving the backcourt last year with the additions of Lindsey Harding (12.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.5 apg) and Matee Ajavon (8.0 ppg), Washington targeted the frontcourt this season by signing Smith (13.7 ppg, 2.8 apg, 2.3 rpg), Jennifer Lacy and Carla Thomas, and drafting Monroe and Dowdell. The Mystics were fourth in the league in rebounding (35.0) with Crystal Langhorne (12.0 ppg, 7 .9 rpg) finishing third in the league behind Los Angeles' Candace Parker (9.0) and Atlanta's Erika Desouza (9.1). Smith shot 43.5 percent on 3-pointers for the Shock last season and should help a Mystics team that was 10th in the league at 32.6 percent
WEAKNESS: Consistency. Plank, the Mystics' 11th coach in 13 years, is just the third to start a second full season with the team. Beard, Washington's offensive leader since 2005, will miss the season after having surgery last month to repair an ankle tendon. Her absence will be a big blow for a team hoping to build on its improvement from last season. The Mystics will need Langhorne, Monique Currie and Marissa Coleman to step up on offense. Washington was ninth in field-goal shooting (42.3 percent), last in assists (13.3), turnovers (17.1) and free-throw shooting (70.1 percent).
LOS ANGELES SPARKS
2009: 18-16, 3rd; beat Seattle 2-1 in conference semifinals; lost to Phoenix 2-1 in conference finals.
COACH: Jennifer Gillom, 1st season with team, 14-20 overall.
KEY ADDITIONS: G Ticha Penicheiro (free agent, Sacramento); G Andrea Riley (draft, No. 8, Oklahoma State); G Bianca Thomas (draft, No. 12, Mississippi); G Kristi Toliver (trade, Chicago).
KEY LOSSES: C Lisa Leslie (retired); F Vanessa Hayden (waived); G Kristi Harrower (free agent).
STRENGTHS: Frontcourt. Despite losing Leslie -- the league's career leader in scoring (6,263) and rebounding (3,307) to retirement, the Sparks still have one of the best frontcourts in the league with three Olympians -- Candace Parker (13.1 ppg, 9.8 rpg), Tina Thompson (13.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and DeLisha Milton-Jones(10.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg). Parker missed the first nine games after giving birth to her daughter last year, but still led the league in rebounding and double-doubles (15). With Leslie gone, Parker will move to center this year and look to recapture her production (18.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg) from 2008 when she was the league's MVP and Rookie of the Year.
WEAKNESS: Backcourt. The frontcourt-heavy Sparks were also second in rebounding (36.7) and blocks (4.9), but last in 3-point shooting (29.7 percent) and steals (6.4). Struggles on the perimeter have been problematic the last two seasons amid the team's expectations of greatness. Penicheiro should provide a strong veteran presence at the point. The Sparks got Toliver from Chicago in a late trade on Thursday. Riley (26.6 ppg) was second in the nation in scoring as a senior and Thomas (20.9) was 10th.
2009: 14-20, 5th.
COACH: Cheryl Reeve, 1st season.
KEY ADDITIONS: G Lindsay Whalen (trade, Connecticut); G Monica Wright (draft, No. 2, Virginia); F Gabriella Marginean (draft, No. 26, Drexel); F Rebekkah Brunson (dispersal draft, Sacramento); F Hamchetou Maiga-Ba (free agent, Sacramento).
KEY LOSSES: G Renee Montgomery (trade, Connecticut); G Kelly Miller (free agent, Atlanta); F-C LaToya Pringle (free agent, Los Angeles).
STRENGTH: Backcourt. The Lynx were involved in the first big trade of the offseason acquiring Whalen, the former University of Minnesota star, from the Sun. Whalen averaged 11.6 points, 4.9 assists and 4.2 rebounds in six seasons for Connecticut. She'll lead a strong backcourt that also includes 2008 Sixth Woman of the Year Candice Wiggins (13.1 ppg) and Seimone Augustus (21.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg). Augustus, who had a season-ending left knee injury after just six games last year, will miss the first several weeks while recovering from surgery to remove fibroids. Wiggins also will miss the first few weeks after knee surgery last month. Wright averaged 23.7 points as a senior and joined former WNBA star Dawn Staley as the only players in Virginia history to have career totals of 2,000 points, 700 rebounds, 350 steals and 300 assists.
WEAKNESSES: Defense. Although the Lynx were third in the league in scoring (80.3 ppg), they were 11th in rebounding, 12th in scoring defense (83.1) and last in opponents' field-goal shooting (46.1 percent) and 3-point shooting (38.2 percent). Reeve spent nine years as an assistant with the defensive-minded Shock, who won three titles between 2003-08, and is certain to focus on improving that aspect of the Lynx's game.
2009: 23-11, 1st; beat San Antonio 2-1 in conference semifinals; beat Los Angeles 2-1 in conference finals; beat Indiana 3-2 in WNBA finals.
COACH: Corey Gaines, 3rd season, 39-29.
KEY ADDITIONS: F Candice Dupree (trade, Chicago); G Tyra Grant (draft, No. 24, Penn State).
KEY LOSSES: G Cappie Pondexter (trade, New York); G Kelly Mazzante (trade, New York); F Le'coe Willingham (free agent, Seattle).
STRENGTH: Offense. Using former coach Paul Westhead's frenetic offense, the Mercury led the league in scoring (92.8) for the fourth straight season and won their second WNBA title in three years. Diana Taurasi (20.4 ppg) led the league in scoring and Dupree (15.7 ppg) was 12th while playing for the Sky. DeWanna Bonner (11.2 ppg) had a sensational rookie season and Penny Taylor (10.9 ppg) was solid after joining the team midseason. Although Pondexter (19.1 ppg) is gone, Gaines believes Dupree is primed for a breakout season in the Mercury's fast-paced system. Phoenix was also tops in field-goal shooting (46.0 percent) and assists (18.4), and second in 3-point shooting (38.7 percent),
WEAKNESSES: Defense. As expected, there are few shortcomings on a team that wins a championship, especially with Taylor back this season as compared to 2008 when she sat out and the Mercury missed the playoffs after winning the title the year before. Although Phoenix tied for fourth in rebounding (35.0), it was last in scoring defense (89.2 ppg) and 12th in steals (6.6).
SAN ANTONIO SILVER STARS
2009: 15-19, 4th; lost to Phoenix 2-1 in conference semifinals.
COACH: Sandy Brondello, 1st season.
KEY ADDITIONS: C Jayne Appel (draft, No. 5, Stanford); F Alysha Clark (draft, No. 17, Middle Tennessee State); C Michelle Snow (trade, Atlanta); F Tasha Humphrey (free agent, Minnesota); C Laura Harper (dispersal draft, Sacramento); Crystal Kelly (trade, Tulsa); F Roneeka Hodges (free agent, Minnesota).
KEY LOSSES: C Ann Wauters (sitting out); G Vickie Johnson (retirement); G Shanna Crossley (trade, Tulsa); F Erin Perperoglou (retirement).
STRENGTH: Frontcourt. After finishing last in the league in rebounding (30.9) last year, the Silver Stars should be much improved with the additions of Snow (6.5 rpg in her career), Harper, Humphrey, Appel and Clark. Snow (9.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg) saw her production dip as a reserve for the Dream after starting for the defunct Houston Comets the previous six years. Fifth-year star Sophia Young (18.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg) is coming off a career-best season. However, Wauters, who averaged 12.9 ppg and 5.6 rpg after joining the team midseason, is taking the entire season off this year.
WEAKNESS: Backcourt. Becky Hammon (19.5 ppg, 5.0 apg) is back to lead an offense that was third in the league in assists (17.6). However, with Johnson and Crossley gone, backup Edwidge Lawson-Wade will likely move into the starting lineup. The Silver Stars will need Hodges, Lawson-Wade, Belinda Snell and second-year forward Megan Frazee to help Hammon on the perimeter. San Antonio is also dealing with a coaching change as GM Dan Hughes left the bench. Brondello, a longtime assistant, is expected to give birth later this month and will miss some time on the bench with husband and associate head coach Olaf Lange filling in.
2009: 20-14, 2nd; lost 2-1 to Los Angeles in conference semifinals.
COACH: Brian Agler, 3rd season with team, 90-93 overall.
KEY ADDITIONS: F Le'coe Willingham (free agent, Phoenix); G Loree Moore (free agent, New York); F Svetlana Abrosimova (free agent); G Allison Lacey (draft, No. 10, Iowa State); F Abby Bishop (free agent); F Aja Parham (free agent).
KEY LOSSES: C Janell Burse (released); G Shannon Johnson (retired); C Suzy Batkovic-Brown (sitting out); G Chelsea Newton (retired); G-F Katie Gearlds (knee injury).
STRENGTH: Leadership. Two-time MVP Lauren Jackson (19.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and Sue Bird (12.8 ppg, 5.8 apg) are back to lead the Storm for a ninth straight year. Swin Cash (12.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4.8 apg), in her third season in Seattle, is a strong third option. The Storm have also had consistency in their coaching with Agler, in his third season, just the third coach in team history. Abrosimova, who played with Bird and Cash at UConn, has averaged 9.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in her eight-year career.
WEAKNESS: Depth. The team's health late in the season has been a problem the last few years. The Storm were rolling along last season with the All-Star trio Jackson, Bird and Cash until all three missed time down the stretch. Jackson (back injury) missed the postseason for the second straight year, and Seattle again failed to get out of the first round since winning the championship in 2004. Seattle appears to have more depth in the backcourt with the rookie Lacey and the veteran Moore. Abrosimova, Willingham and Ashley Walker will need to provide valuable minutes up front.
2009: 18-16, tied for 2nd in East; beat Atlanta 2-0 in conference semifinals; lost to Indiana 2-1 in conference finals.
COACH: Nolan Richardson, first season.
KEY ADDITIONS: C Chante Black (trade, Connecticut); F Amber Holt (trade, Connecticut); F Amanda Thompson (draft, No. 19, Oklahoma); F Marion Jones (free agent); F-G Natasha Lacy (free agent); F-C Iciss Tillis (free agent); G Shanna Crossley (trade, San Antonio); G Scholanda Robinson (dispersal draft, Sacramento).
KEY LOSSES: F Katie Smith (free agent, Washington); G Deanna Nolan (free agent); F Cheryl Ford (released); C Taj McWilliams-Franklin (free agent, New York).
STRENGTH: Youth. Other than Plenette Pierson and Kara Braxton, only Robinson has more than three years of experience in the league -- though Jones hasn't played basketball since graduating from North Carolina in 1997 and Tillis has seen action in only three seasons since coming out of Duke in 2004. The team's young legs will come in handy in Richardson's '40 minutes of hell' style he used to win a men's NCAA championship with Arkansas in 1994.
WEAKNESS: Chemistry. The departure of the veteran core has left this team looking more like an expansion team than the perennial Eastern Conference force in Detroit when the Shock won three championships in a six-year stretch. Pierson, Braxton, Olayinka Sanni, Shavonte Zellous and Alexis Hornbuckle are the only players remaining with the team. With the entire roster having to learn Richardson's system, the team is expected to endure some rough stretches.