You wouldn’t have to reach far to explain such drop in performance – the team lost Alba Torrens, Silvia Dominguez and Sancho Lyttle during the summer prior to that season. To replace them there just were not any equivalent local players – those three are about as good as it gets in Spain.
Fast forward to 2012. Salamanca were not able to take advantage of the folding of Ros Casares to load up on some Spanish stars. Erika de Souza and DeWanna Bonner departed. They were replaced by inferior to those two Jessica Adair and Nicole Powell. Only bright spot for the team this summer was signing two quality European bigs – Egle Sulciute and Marija Rezan. Though we’ll see Rezan only by the time the season in full swing, probably after New Year’s.
Starting from outside, first up is point guard play. I might be in minority, but Marta Xargay has not excelled playing at point guard. She’s a combo guard at best and a shooting guard at worst. PG just doesn’t look natural to her as it does to Palau or Dominguez. What with having two 35+ year old backups, Xargay is still the best option on both ends of the floor at that position.
By the looks of it, the WNBA playoffs will run long, so Avenida will start with Roneeka Hodges playing the shooting guard, before center Jessica Adair frees up. Starting Hodges is actually a good thing for Avenida – she can knock down outside shots with some regularity. You can’t say that about the next player in the line at SG – Marta Fernandez. Fernandez is kind of like Ilona Korstin of Spain – can defend, attack in transition, but has no worth mentioning offense from outside. Once Hodges is gone, Nicole Powell will remain as the only real offensive threat from outside. Unlike in the WNBA where she is guarded by All-World players on daily basis, in Europe Powell has it easier to create her own offense, and credit to her she is using that to her advantage with better numbers across the board. In the inevitable comparison to DeWanna Bonner, Powell is a better distributor and shooter while Bonner is a better scorer as in she can win a game for you by herself if nothing else is working by just creating shots 1-on-1 in various ways.
Erika de Souza cannot be replaced just by Jessica Adair, who by the way has been basically been glued to the Minnesota Lynx bench ever since recovering from a knee injury. That’s why they signed Marija Rezan, but that didn’t work out well for the time being. Without Adair and Rezan, Avenida were forced to start Egle Sulciute at center in Spanish SuperCup. They will not be able to get away with that against the the enormous USK Praha squad so Lucia Pascua will likely slide at the center in the season’s opening game with Powell sliding back to SF and Sulciute to PF.
To succeed this team will have to look to win games with team play, instead of hoping their two stars will pull them through like they hoped in 2012. To make matters worse Avenida are in a very difficult group where it will be very hard for them to get out with a high enough seed to avoid the main favorites in the quarterfinals.