Editor's note: Before the 2007 season tips off Saturday, ESPN's Nancy Lieberman and ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel and Graham Hays each tackle one question facing all 13 WNBA teams. Here, the experts take a closer look at Detroit.
When they are "on," Deanna Nolan and Swin Cash make you wonder how anybody guards them, ever. Nolan's quickness to the rim is second to none, as is her ability to "create" an open look even when none appeared available a split-second before. Cash remains one of the league's premiere players with her natural athleticism and UConn-taught relentlessness inside. -- ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel
The Shock went 23-11 in the regular season, beating Connecticut in the East finals and then winning the final two games of their five-game series with Sacramento to win their second WNBA championship. Coach Bill Laimbeer enters his sixth season in Detroit.
Guard Deanna Nolan and forward Cheryl Ford led the Shock in scoring at 13.8 ppg. Nolan also topped the team in assists (3.6) and steals (1.4). Ford averaged a career-high 11.3 rpg. Ruth Riley had 1.4 blocks per game.
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Best of times: Detroit is a city known for music, and the Shock have the kind of talent on hand this year to be the ultimate super group. Ruth Riley, who never seemed to see eye to eye with coach Bill Laimbeer, is gone but the Shock didn't sacrifice any size in adding Katie Feenstra to an already intimidating frontcourt. With Feenstra on board, Laimbeer still has an alternative for the nights when Kara Braxton fails to play up to the potential that could make her one of the three or four best centers in the league. If Nolan prove that her shooting performance in the 2006 postseason wasn't a fluke and Katie Smith adjusts to fewer minutes at point following the addition of Shannon Johnson, the Shock could also have the East's deepest backcourt. And we haven't even gotten to Cash, another year removed from knee surgery, and Cheryl Ford, who could make a run at league MVP with more consistency on the offensive end.
Worst of times: Detroit is also a city known for cars, and all the flashy extras in the world won't help if the design of this year's team is fatally flawed. After winning the championship last season, the Shock made some bold moves instead of just a few minor tweaks. Smith adjusted well to playing point guard last season, but how will she deal with fewer minutes and fewer shots now that Johnson is around? And is Johnson, who has a penchant for pushing tempo at all costs, the right point guard to get the ball to such a bevy of talented low-post players? In a worst-case scenario, Nolan reverts back to the scatter-shot guard who has hit fewer than 40 percent of her shots in a six-year career, Smith and Cash stew in silence as their roles dwindle and Laimbeer once again hears the siren's song of the NBA and checks out during the summer hiring season. -- ESPN.com's Graham Hays
Better. The Shock were already very talented in all the right areas and got even better in the offseason. Though they traded away Riley, a two-time WNBA champion and the 2003 WNBA Finals MVP, the Shock got a very good, very skilled center in Katie Feenstra. Adding Johnson via free agency will be a great pickup, too. She will play well in the minutes asked of her. Rookie Ivory Latta of North Carolina, who fell to the 11th overall pick in April's draft, might not see a lot of minutes but must take advantage of every opportunity she gets in Detroit's loaded backcourt. -- ESPN's Nancy Lieberman
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