For the past four seasons, the Adelaide Lightning performed well with an array of stacked rosters but were unable to get over the hump of finals and Grand Final losses. They were stacked with talented players like Steph Talbot, Alanna Smith, and Kiana Williams but were unable to progress past the Semi Finals, losing to the eventual champion Melbourne Boomers in two games.
This offseason boasts a lot of changes including the head coach. Lucas' contract wasn't renewed by the team, instead taking the head coaching vacancy for the Boomers. Assistant coach Natalie Hurst was elevated to head coach and thus starts a new era of Lightning basketball.
Key players re-signed with the club, one is back from pregnancy, and the talent they brought in from the United States and from other teams in the WNBL fills in some much needed holes in the Lightning's rotation.
How they did last year
4th (10 wins, seven losses)
At the beginning of the season, it seemed as though Adelaide was bound for a great season. It was Chris Lucas' last season at the helm before his contract expired and they brought in some key players to compliment a scheme around post players.
Smith returned to Australia to play in the WNBL after spending an off-season in Korea, which was cut short due to injury and the COVID-19 pandemic. Kylee Shook was brought in for rebounding and scoring support. These players helped complement a rather tall squad with Talbot and Marena Whittle. They brought in Williams who is a decorated point guard from the 2020 NCAA champion Stanford Cardinal team to help with shooting and perimeter defence.
Adelaide cruised to a 5-1 start, dropping its first game to Townsville, before dropping two to Canberra and an upset from Bendigo. The Lightning got their mojo back by winning four in a row but ended the season with losses to eventual runners-up Perth, eventual Champions Melbourne, and Southside.
In the end, their roster full of height and versatility were unable to defeat the Boomers in the Semi-Finals which marked the end of their season.
Returning: Steph Talbot (Seattle Storm), Chelsea Brook, Sam Simons, Ella Batish, Marena Whittle, Brooke Basham, Isobel Borlase, Tayla Brazel, Jasmine Fejo
Ins: Lauren Mansfield (Sydney Flames), Abby Cubillo (Canberra Capitals), Kierstan Bell (Las Vegas Aces), Jacinta Monroe
Outs: Alanna Smith (Europe), Abby Wehrung (Bendigo Spirit), Kylee Shook, Kiana Williams, Taylor Ortlepp
Perhaps shockingly, what the Lightning's biggest strength might be this season, is their three point shooting. A taller roster last season meant the lack of three-point shooting success was prevalent.
Smith and Williams were two of the Lightning's four primary three-point shooters, averaging 40 per cent and 33 per cent respectively. Talbot and Wehrung were their other two primary three-point shooters averaging 36 per cent and 33 per cent, respectively.
So how did the Lightning, who lost 3/4 of their three-point shooters, get better at the three ball? The answer is simple. Free agent signings Lauren Mansfield and Kierstan Bell will do the trick.
Mansfield was one of the primary scorers for Sydney last season alongside Anneli Maley. She averaged 13 points per game and 35 per cent from beyond-the-arc despite only playing in seven games due to a season-ending injury midseason.
Bringing in WNBA champion Bell to the mix and Adelaide has filled the hole. Bell didn't play much during her rookie season with the stacked Las Vegas Aces squad so there's not much of a professional sample size to take from. A quick look at her college statistics at Florida Gulf Coast University will give you all you need to know.
Bell started her collegiate career at Ohio State and didn't play much. After she transferred to FGCU is when her talent that made her the number eight recruit in the class of 2019 was able to absolutely blossom.
She finished her collegiate career at FGCU averaging 23.6 points per game with a three point shooting clip of 32.3 per cent. Bell definitely has a lot to polish but her ability to launch from beyond and extend the floor will prove heavily beneficial for this Adelaide squad.
When you have a team with a lack of ball handlers, turnovers will turn into a problem. The Lightning were a legitimate Grand FInal contender team if you took out the messy aspect of turnovers. They averaged 16 turnovers per game last year which was the most in the WNBL. The next closest team were the Spirit with 15.6 per game.
The addition of Mansfield as the replacement ball handler for Williams is a huge step towards limiting turnovers. Talbot averaged the highest number of assists per game last season with 6.3 but also committed the most turnovers with 3.8.
Adelaide addressed so many holes that needed to be filled and improved on which they succeeded in. However, the glaring weakness that opposing defences will be salivating over is the amount of turnovers this team is bound to commit, barring some well improved offseason practice.
Prediction for 2022/23 WNBL season
On paper, this Lightning team looks like one of the ones to beat. They look more talented than the previous season's team and will probably put on better results. Unfortunately with the amount of talent the teams ahead of Adelaide brought in, it could also see the side sliding down the ladder and narrowly missing the finals at the same time.
The Adelaide Lightning begins their 2022/23 WNBL season against the Southside Flyers at State Basketball Centre on Saturday, November 5 from 7pm AEDT.
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