When looking at what the Seattle Storm have done this off-season - from adding Katie Smith via trade to signing Belinda Snell as a free agent to drafting Ify Ibekwe in the second round - it's quite clear that they're entering the season with a lot less reason to question their bench than there might have been last season.
With that, it should come as no surprise that media and WNBA GMs consider them the favorite to win the 2011 WNBA title.
Women's Hoops Blog | WNBA General Managers polled...Storm and Sue Bird tops | Seattle Times Newspaper
It's preview week and so far only Slam Magazine doesn't have the Storm as favorites to repeat...58 percent of the GMs believe the Storm is "most likely to win" the WNBA Finals. New York Liberty second with 17 percent of the votes.
Of course, as Kevin Pelton of StormBasketball.com points out, a GM selection doesn't really guarantee success.
WNBA GMs Pick Storm « StormTracker - The Official Blog of the Seattle Storm
Seven out of 12 GMs picked the Storm, with the New York Liberty (two) the only other team to receive multiple votes. Of course, that’s no guarantee: Last year, the Storm did not receive a single vote from GMs. Besides the championship prediction, the Storm was honored in multiple other categories. Home Court Advantage was recognized by 11 of the 12 GMs, who said that KeyArena is the toughest place to play.
But the bottom line is that they were so dominant last season means that they would have needed personnel considerable losses to be anything less than the favorite. So with the team returning so much talent from last year and really only enhancing their bench, it would be a stretch to consider someone else a preseason favorite, as ESPN's Mechelle Voepel suggests.
Seattle Storm still favorites as WNBA's 15th season nears - ESPN
The Storm were 28-6 in the regular season last year, then swept their playoff series against Los Angeles, Phoenix and Atlanta. All three WNBA finals games with the Dream were decided by three points or less, but still … a sweep is a sweep.
So with the likes of Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Tanisha Wright, Camille Little and Le'coe Willingham ready to take the floor again, if I asked the Magic 8 Ball, "Is Seattle the top pick to win the WNBA title in 2011?" the answer would be, "It is decidedly so." (After I flipped it over enough times to get the response I wanted, that is.)
With the prospect of the Storm bringing Seattle back-to-back championships, this year - perhaps even moreso than last - is probably the year to at least give the team a chance if you haven't before.
Don't Drop the Ball: Make This the Year You Actually Support the Seattle Storm - Seattlest
But the fact is, the Sonics are gone. And the Storm is still here. And it's OK to be grieving--it's natural--but, if you're truly a basketball fan, if you truly love the sound of squeaking rubber and the smell of indoor bleachers and the game itself, make this be the year when you get behind one of the City's most excellent teams.
They're even a reason to take the Monorail. Maybe.
For plenty more links about the Storm's season - which begins Saturday at KeyArena - visit their official blog run by Kevin Pelton.
For more on the WNBA, visit SB Nation's women's basketball site Swish Appeal.