It’s NBA 2K Week here at Oregon Sports News. Throughout the week, OSN will simulate hoops scenarios we’ve dreamed up in the absence of IRL sports, plus spotlight previous simulations others have completed and preview the upcoming players-only tournament on ESPN.
Today, OSN’s Bryant Knox is wondering just how different the Seattle Storm’s season would have been with their 11-time All-Star and their 2018 Finals (and regular-season) MVP.
What the Seattle Storm were able to do during the 2019 season without Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart was downright impressive. After a postseason berth and a first-round victory, they ultimately fell in blowout fashion to the Los Angeles Sparks, but without their two best players, this group competed, played late into the year and most importantly proved they have a blindingly bright future.
But in times like these, when sports and society at large have seemingly come to a halt, the “what-ifs” are out in full force as we ponder past wins and losses while we await the return of basketball in all leagues.
(Photo Courtesy: NBA 2K)
Thanks to NBA 2K20’s integration of the WNBA, we wonder “what if” no longer. Through the magic of modern technology, we healed Bird and Stewart and ran back the 2019 season. And we won’t lie. It didn’t start out great.
With both of Seattle’s stars risen, the team opened the season against Britney Griner and the Phoenix Mercury. Despite a big-time showing from Stewart with 33 points—not to mention 13 rebounds—Griner’s 35 and 12 helped put away Seattle, 88-67.
That tipped off a slow start for the defending champs. Through eight games, the team was just 3-5, and Bird, in particular, was making an impact (11.3 APG) but also struggling to find consistency with her shot while stuck at just 8.9 points per game.
Then things started to turn around. Bird discovered her three-pointer without sacrificing a single assist, Natasha Howard began her official breakthrough and by the end of the 34-game campaign, the Storm had locked in the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and the league’s best record at 23-11.
Bird kept her assists over 11 per game while Stewart took home All-WNBA 1st-Team honors and Howard locked in a spot on the All- Defensive 1st Team.
(Photo Courtesy: @2KRatings)
After watching the first two single-elimination rounds from their couches via byes (their social distancing foresight to win so they could stay home was amazing), Seattle’s playoffs began the exact same way their regular season did—with a matchup against the Mercury.
This time, there was nothing Griner could do.
After a 20-point, 12-assist, six-steal (!!!) showing from Bird, the Storm walked away with one of their biggest wins of the entire year, 89-66. Phoenix would bounce back with a 10-point win of their own, but two Seattle victories and no Phoenix wins later, the team tucked away in the Pacific Northwest was on to defend their title against Janquel Jones and the Connecticut Sun.
Connecticut had just taken down Elena Delle Donne and the Washington Mystics in dramatic five-game fashion, so the competition felt stiff. But as much as we’d like to tease this out as a competitive Finals…Seattle came to destroy.
In three games, the Storm took three victories and never gave Connecticut a chance, winning each contest by an average margin of 13 points a night. Bird and Stewart won Seattle its back-to-back title after all, but something else happened in this series you may or may not have expected.
(Photo Courtesy: NBA 2K20)
Despite not reaching her real 2019 break-out averages of 18.1 points and 8.2 rebounds in our regular season, Howard let the league know she’s here and she’s not letting anyone’s return slow down her progress.
Howard showed up and showed out in the Finals, and most importantly, she showed that even amongst the stars—like she’ll be in 2020–she can still shine.
A title in 2019 would have been everything Storm fans thought they could’ve dreamed of. But if this experiment to change the past actually revealed something about the future, Seattle will have a perennial contender on its hands.