Five games into the season, the Storm is third in the WNBA standings at 4-1 and riding a league-best three-game winning streak.
It’s an enviable position for Seattle — and a scary proposition for the rest of the league — to think the defending WNBA champions have been able to win in a variety of ways despite an ever-changing roster, a new supporting cast and the recent absence of coach Dan Hughes.
And yet despite a constant wave of disruptions, the Storm’s Big Three — Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird — is proving to be one of the most dynamic three-player collectives in WNBA history.
During the past five years, they’ve played 127 games together and posted a 79-48 record (.622), which includes a 12-4 mark in the postseason and WNBA titles in 2018 and 2020.
Stewart (24.0 points per game), Loyd (21.2) and Bird (11.8) comprise the highest scoring trio in the league while averaging 57 points.
They led the WNBA in scoring in 2016, ’17 and 18 and are on pace to compete with the league record of 57.9 points per game set in 2000 by Sheryl Swoopes, Cynthia Cooper and Tina Thompson who starred for the defunct Houston Comets.
Following Tuesday’s 90-87 overtime win over Connecticut, Bird bemoaned the Storm’s growing pains while referencing the team’s six newcomers.
“I’ve always said the team that brings their corps back year after year is always going to have a head start on the season,” Bird said. “Right now, that’s not the case for us and that’s OK. … We’re getting through it, but we’re making strides.
“We got a long way to go, but to win while going through that is a great thing. It feels good.”
After five games, here are five observations about the Storm.
1. It’s not all about Stewie
When Stewart struggles offensively as she did Tuesday night, she still finishes with 17 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, two steals and just one turnover in 40 minutes. That’s an amazing amount of production on what’s considered an off night by Stewart’s ridiculously absurd standard.
In her other subpar game — a 13-point outing — the Storm overcame a 19-point deficit and beat Minnesota 90-78.
It’s never too early to discuss the MVP race and Stewart is the favorite considering she’s second in the league in scoring, third in rebounds (10.8) and is tied for fourth in blocks (2.0). She also tallied 36 points last week at Dallas, which is a season high among WNBA players.
2. Loyd is on pace for a historic season
On almost any other team, Loyd would be the headliner, but she’s had to share and sometimes concede the spotlight to Stewart and Bird during her seven-year stint in Seattle.
And yet, there’s no denying Loyd, a two-time WNBA All-Star, appears poised to take another step into stardom if she continues her torrid pace.
Loyd is averaging 21.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.4 steals, which would be career highs. She would also become just the second player in WNBA history to average at least 20 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. Angel McCoughtry did it in 2013.
3. Bird is better than ever
Seriously, how is this possible? At 40, the WNBA’s oldest player is redefining what it means to grow old. Her scoreless outing in the second game of the season raised eyebrows because it was the first time she didn’t register a point in a regular-season game since 2014.
However, in the two of the next three games, Bird scored 21 points, which is the first time she’s tallied 20 or more in a season since 2016.
Bird’s 11.8 scoring average is her highest since 2016. She ranks third in the WNBA with 5.6 assists per game and if she maintains her 47.5% field-goal percentage, it would be the second highest in her 19-year career.
There was a thought that this might be Bird’s last season with the Storm considering the team’s impending salary cap challenges and her recent slate of injuries. She missed the 2019 season and 11 regular-season games last year.
But if Bird continues to roll back the clock, she could play another 2-3 years with the Storm — at least.
4. Where’s the defense?
The Storm’s league-leading 91.4 points per game offense is dazzling, but at some point Seattle has to play defense. So far, the Storm hasn’t displayed the ability to shut down an opponent for an extended period.
Perhaps the only time Seattle actually relied on its defense was during a 90-78 win over Minnesota while outscoring the Lynx 57-30 in the second half and holding them to just 15 points in the third and fourth quarters.
The Storm has allowed 88.2 points per game and 46.5% field-goal shooting, which rank next to last in the WNBA. Last year, Seattle was first in both categories at 76.0 and 40.1% respectively.
It’s not surprising the Storm has fallen so far on the defensive end after losing defensive stalwarts Natasha Howard and Alysha Clark in the offseason.
Still, Seattle has allowed at least 20 points to an opposing player in every game, including Jonquel Jones (28 points), Arike Ogunbowale (28), Marina Mabrey (26), A’ja Wilson (24), Jackie Young (21) and Sylvia Fowles (20).
5. Roles still undetermined among supporting cast
Either Stephanie Talbot or Katie Lou Samuelson will win the battle at small forward, which appears to be least of the Storm’s worries. Hughes still has not settled in on a starter in the low post. Newcomer Candice Dupree and Ezi Magbegor have made two starts, but Mercedes Russell was in the lineup Tuesday.
Bench production has been inconsistent, but backup point guard Jordin Canada has given Seattle a spark at times.
The roles among the supporting cast should further define themselves when Samuelson returns next week after participating with Team USA in a 3×3 Olympic tournament. Newcomer Mikiah Herbert Harrigan and rookie Kiana Williams have not played in the past three games.