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 the San Antonio Silver Stars.
The Silver Stars went 13-21 in the regular season. Coach Dan Hughes enters his third season in San Antonio.
Then-rookie Sophia Young was tops in points (12.0 ppg) and rebounds (7.6 rpg). Shannon Johnson led the team in assists (3.7) and steals (1.9) per game.
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• WNBA.com's Silver Stars preview
Best of times: The Silver Stars keep building on the youth movement that brought them to the brink of the playoffs last season. Sophia Young keeps up her challenge to Minnesota's Seimone Augustus and Phoenix's Cappie Pondexter for the title of best player in her loaded draft class, matching last season's defensive and rebounding prowess with a consistent 17-18 points a night on the offensive end. Happy to have a championship ring and be out of what appeared to be a bad personal situation in Detroit, Ruth Riley brings experience to the frontcourt and provides an offensive counter to keep defenses from targeting Young with too much pressure. Blessed with the kind of options she didn't have in recent years with the Liberty, Becky Hammon settles into the first year of her 30s by setting a career high in assists and unleashing her outside range and off-the-dribble scoring when needed. Marie Ferdinand-Harris, unencumbered by a need to carry the scoring load, is able to work her way back into the flow after missing last season to have a baby. And with all those parts clicking, Erin Buescher, Helen Darling, Sandora Irvin and even a hopefully healthy Kendra Wecker settle in as effective role players on a deep team.
Worst of times: Riley proves that it wasn't just frustration with her role or with Bill Laimbeer's personality that handcuffed her production in Detroit, leaving the Silver Stars without a proven answer in the middle. Young remains a budding star but doesn't come around quite as much on the offensive end, forcing Hammon to start firing up shots at the same rate she had to in the Big Apple and putting pressure on Ferdinand-Harris to regain her form in a hurry. The defensive intensity doesn't pick up as a result of Buescher's arrival or Ferdinand-Harris' return, and none of the young players, including Irvin, Wecker, Shanna Crossley (née Zolman) and rookie Camille Little, emerges as a reliable reserve, leaving the rotation decidedly thin. All of which results in stagnation and frustration for a team fully poised to take the next step. -- ESPN.com's Graham Hays
Better. Incredibly better, in fact. The Silver Stars might be the most improved team in the league after several huge offseason moves, highlighted by the draft-day trade for superstar Becky Hammon from the Liberty. San Antonio also added Ruth Riley, a three-time champ (if you include her NCAA title at Notre Dame) and former WNBA Finals MVP, and Erin Buescher, last season's most improved player and one of the league's top reserves in 2006. In addition to Hammon, San Antonio bolstered its backcourt by drafting Helen Darling in the dispersal draft. -- ESPN's Nancy Lieberman
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