As the Phoenix Mercury wrapped up their third WNBA title over the last seven years with a sweep over the Chicago Sky on Friday night, the Atlanta Dream are contemplating another season of “Unfinished Business.” Despite making it to the WNBA Finals three times since 2010, the Dream have come up empty-handed in winning their elusive first title.
This season was punctuated with a surprising first round loss to Chicago, but Dream general manager Angela Taylor and head coach Michael Cooper said they are both positive about the Dream’s title prospects next season.
Atlanta proved its mettle in the Eastern Conference with a 19-15 regular season record but lost to a relentless Sky team in three games in the first round. Cooper said he is working the team hard to achieve the ultimate goal of winning the franchise’s first WNBA title.
The Dream will be aided in this goal next season with the return of Angel McCoughtry, who led the team with 18.5 points per game. Five-time WNBA All-Defensive team member Sancho Lyttle also agreed to a multi-year deal in August.
“I think we have a great foundation,” Cooper said. “It was obviously for us as a team a disappointing season, but I think we got a great foundation. Overall, it was one of those types of seasons where we got there and, had it not been for my illness [tongue cancer], we were 15-5 at that time going pretty good, this probably would have been a different outcome.”
Dream players Angel McCoughtry (35) and Erika de Souza (14)
Dale Zanine/USA Today Sports
Atlanta will be intent on re-signing free-agent center Erika de Souza who is the top priority in the offseason. De Souza averaged a career-high 13.8 points and 8.7 rebounds during the regular season.
“Erika is the cornerstone of what we’ve done as an organization,” said Taylor. “Obviously she had a tremendous year. She was an All-Star, had a great start to the season and is widely recognized as one of the top players, not only in the Eastern Conference, but in the WNBA. So we realize in order for us to continue moving in the direction that we want to go that keeping our core together is essential and Erika is a large part of our core.”
Taylor said she has been pleased overall with the team roster but wants to add more shooters along with continuing to build on an inside presence for the squad for next season.
“We are extremely happy about our core,” Taylor said. “We realize there are a couple of pieces that we need to add to the roster. We need to add some shooters. We need a little more perimeter scoring, someone to offset what Angel was able to do, to compliment her on the perimeter.
“We also need more depth in the post. We need a low block presence so we are looking for somebody who can play the four or five and offer a little bit more on the low block. And we certainly would want players who could play both ends of the floor and allow us to play either a small lineup or a large lineup like we did toward the end of the season when we had Sancho Lyttle at the three.”
There is still more work to be done for the Dream to win their first WNBA title, but Taylor is confident with the direction that the team is headed in reaching that goal.
“We have high expectations. Again, this team has had tremendous success in the past—three of the last four years being in the Finals. But we didn’t want to just get to the Finals, we wanted to win a WNBA championship. So there was a lot of disappointment in the outcome of the season because we realize that we could have done better, done differently. But we also realize that with every disappointment, there is an opportunity. It’s just a matter of us coming together and being consistent.”
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