Hiring Sue Bird was not enough for UMMC to get over the hump, so, obviously, UMMC went after the other core player of the 4 time champion Sparta&K squad – Diana Taurasi.
Can’t say that with this amount of talent the team was lacking more options on offense. On the other hand it’s not like having a top 5 player in the world has hurt anyone, either.
There’s been an argument made that Taurasi and Bird playing together have a special chemistry. Statistically the only noticeable differences when both of them play together in EuroLeague Women versus them playing without each other are a few – both of them shoot field goals with 2% higher accuracy and Sue Bird averages 1.4 more assists per game with Taurasi on her side. That’s about it.
What’s more curious is how Diana Taurasi will mesh with Candace Parker, which, I honestly think, could end up a more impactful duo than the one with Taurasi and Bird. Mainly due to Taurasi’s ball distributing abilities.
As it stands right now it appears that Parker will play the first half of the season in ELW, Bird will play the other half of the season.
To offset the loss of Parker inside for half a season and the departing Yelena Leuchanka the team signed Quanitra Hollingsworth and Ewelina Kobryn. In Hollingsworth UMMC acquired the only player in ELW to shoot over 60% from the field, while Kobryn is one of the top European centers and there’s not really that many options in that regard.
Maria Stepanova had an awful season in 2011/12, even before tearing her ACL she was converting field goals at a rate of 38% which by a 2.03m tall center is comparable to guard shooting in the 20% range. This season can’t be anything but an improvement for her.
Anna Petrakova and Olga Arteshina are excellent options at forward positions. Petrakova had an excellent season with Dynamo Kursk in EuroCup Women and she has emerged as one of the best if not the best Russian wing.
With Silvia Dominguez, Anete Jekabsone-Zogota and Deanna Nolan have bench players who would be starters with any other team in the league.
Having some of the best players in the world and a superior depth makes UMMC the top favorites, again, to win it all.