After a disappointing end to the 2020 WNBL season, the Adelaide Lightning will be looking to bounce back and have a much more successful campaign.
With COVID-19 interrupting the season – reducing the regular season to just 13 games before finals – there was little room for failure and unfortunately for the Lightning it was not meant to be.
However, with the 2021/22 WNBL season returning to normalcy with the traditional 16 rounds and 21 regular season games, this should provide some more continuity for the Lightning.
With notable off-season additions and an already strong roster with many top-level players and exciting young talent, Lightning fans should be excited for what this season could hold.
Position: Sixth (Fives wins, eight losses)
The Adelaide Lightning had a fantastic start to the 2020 WNBL season, winning their first two games against the Canberra Capitals and Perth Lynx. Captain and eventual WNBL Most Valuable Player Stephanie Talbot earnt the Player of the Round for getting the Lightning off to this hot start.
After the first five games of the season the Lightning looked in a commanding position, standing at four wins and one loss, however their season imploded from then on. The Lightning dropped their next five games, being blown out by double digits in most.
They were able to get back to winning ways with a 10-point victory over the Bendigo Spirit, but unfortunately could not maintain this losing their final two games of the season.
The season overall was a disappointing result considering the start the team had to open the season.
A member of the Opals 2020 Tokyo Olympics team, Alanna Smith is a massive addition to the Adelaide Lightning for the 2021-22 WNBL Season.
Smith makes her way back to Australia in her first stint in the league after playing four seasons of college basketball at Stanford University. She played for the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA after being selected by them with pick eight in the 2019 WNBA Draft.
The 25-year-old should add much needed height and length to the Lightning, standing at 6’3″ and with a strong ability to grab rebounds. During her senior year of college, Smith averaged 19.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocks on 51.5 per cent shooting and 39.7 per cent from behind the arc.
While her minutes have been limited with the Mercury, Smith has had the opportunity to learn from the likes of seven-time WNBA All-star Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi, a five-time Olympic Gold medallist with Team USA and three-time WNBA Champion.
Her experience playing on the biggest stages and against the best in the world, added with her versatility and ability to stretch the floor will make her a welcome addition to the Lightning and she should make an instant impact.
With Alex Wilson not re-signing in free agency, the Lightning lose arguably their best playmaker and one of their better defenders at guard. Wilson led the Lightning last season in assists with 4.3 a game, meaning someone or a group of players are going to need to take more of a playmaking role to cover the loss.
Wilson was an integral part to many of the Lightning’s wins last season, showing an ability to score, play make for others and collect steals in many of the team’s wins. Her on ball defence is another area which will affect the Lightning, with Wilson collecting 1.3 steals a game.
Perhaps one of the biggest losses with Wilson’s departure is the loss of her leadership, having played in the league for almost a decade and having won two WNBL Championships.
It does however offer the opportunity for another player to step into the starting line-up and get a bigger role on the team.
Player to watch
A must-watch player for not just the Adelaide Lightning but for all WNBL fans is reigning WNBL MVP Stephanie Talbot.
Talbot had a stellar 2020 campaign, stuffing the stat sheet averaging 18.2 points, nine rebounds, three assists and 1.9 blocks a game, shooting a team best 47.9 per cent.
At just 27 years of age, Talbot is in her prime and looks in no way of slowing down. Talbot will return to the Lightning having just come off a strong campaign with the Seattle Storm, going 21-11 and making it to the second round of the WNBA Playoffs.
During her time in Seattle, Talbot was one of the best three-point shooters on the team, shooting at 41.5 per cent from behind the arc. She was able to impact on the game in multiple ways whether that be through scoring, defending or playmaking.
Expect Talbot to again be a scoring machine in the WNBL this season after leading the Lightning in scoring in seven of the 13 games last season.
PG: Marena Whittle
SG: Abigail Wehrung
SF: Stephanie Talbot
PF: Alanna Smith
C: Chelsea Brook
More WNBL Season Previews
Abbey Wehrung, Alanna Smith, Brooke Basham, Chelsea Brook, Ella Batish, Jasmine Fejo, Kiana Williams, Kylee Shook, Marena Whittle, Sam Simmons, Stephanie Talbot, Tayla Brazel, Taylor Ortlepp
The Adelaide Lightning will kick off the 2021-22 WNBL season against the Perth Lynx in Perth, in what will be an important game to start the season. Last season the Lightning and Lynx split the season series one a piece, with both games being close battles.
The Lightning won the first match up by five points and lost the second time around by just two points. They will see the Lynx three times in just nine days, matching up against them in three of their first four games of the season.
It will be imperative for the Lightning to get off to a strong start to the season and winning the three game season series against the Lynx, a team which finished one win less than them last season, will be an important first step.
The Lightning’s Round 12 and 13 match up against the Sydney Uni Flames will also be an important two games, with both teams finishing with the same records and missing out on playoff contention in 2020.
They split the season series one-one and both teams seasons followed a similar pattern, but the opposite way around with the Flames having a slow start to the season and then a strong finish.
Getting wins in both these games will be a good barometer for the Lightning to see where they are at leading into the final few rounds before finals.
What to expect
The Lightning should be a more competitive team this season compared to last, especially considering the collection of talent they have.
One big issue last season was when they lost, they would lose big, usually by double digits. This will need to be a part of their game they must tidy up if they hope to be more competitive and push for a playoff spot.
All indications are that last season’s MVP Stephanie Talbot will be the primary scorer and first option on the team. With the talent which Talbot has and ability to impact the game on multiple levels, expect the Lightning to play through her.
The signing of American import Kiana Williams this season is another important addition, as Williams should help with the teams three-point shooting. During her time at Stanford, Williams shot 37 per cent from behind the arc and should aid with spacing the floor.
One area where the Lightning need to improve is adding more size, as many of their players are guards or forwards.
With the loss of Louella Tomlinson, the Lightning are thin in their big stocks which could cause some issues if the likes of Alanna Smith or Chelsea Brook get injured or miss games.
The last word
The Adelaide Lightning will be a dangerous match-up this season, with the ability to surprise many of the top teams in the league.
After an interrupted 2020 season resulting in inconsistent results, now with the fixture returning to normal the Lightning should perform better.
With the existing and new additions to the squad, they have the talent to be competing for a playoff spot and with most of their team still quite young and showing lots of potential, expect them to improve this season.
Finishing position: Fourth
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