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Posted: Tuesday May 13, 2008 9:58AM; Updated: Tuesday May 13, 2008 10:01AM
Andrew Lawrence Andrew Lawrence >
VIEWPOINT

How They'll Finish

The Shock will jolt the East; the Sparks will light up the West

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WEST
1. LOS ANGELES Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker have grabbed the headlines, but the trade for All-Star forward DeLisha Milton-Jones -- the defensive stopper on back-to-back Sparks title teams in 2001 and '02 -- could make all the difference.
2. SEATTLE Reigning league MVP Lauren Jackson set career highs in scoring (23.8 points per game) and rebounding (9.7) in her seventh season, and, along with All-Star guard Sue Bird, she'll get help from new additions Sheryl Swoopes, Swin Cash and Yolanda Griffith.
3. SAN ANTONIO After reaching the conference final in '07, guard Becky Hammon (last year's MVP runner-up after averaging 18.8 points and 5.0 assists) will benefit from the return of guard Erin Buescher (11.3 points and 6.1 rebounds) from a torn left ACL.
4. MINNESOTA Guard Lindsey Harding is out with a stress fracture in her left kneecap, but the Lynx should make the playoffs for the first time in four years as Seimone Augustus (22.6 ppg) gets a lift from the addition of rookie Candice Wiggins.
5. PHOENIX Even with the high-scoring backcourt of Diana Taurasi (19.2 ppg) and Cappie Pondexter (17.2), a second straight title may be out of reach for the Mercury after losing coach Paul Westhead (to the Sonics, as an assistant coach) and forward Penny Taylor (to the Australian national team until after the Olympics).
6. SACRAMENTO With Griffith gone to the Storm, fiery guard Kara Lawson will have to spark this team from the backcourt. Keep an eye on rookie Charel Allen, a 5' 11" gunner out of Notre Dame who has a silky-smooth stroke.
7. HOUSTON Impact rookies Matee Ajavon (from Rutgers) and Marcedes Walker (Pittsburgh) join the Comets' go-to veteran posts Michelle Snow and Tina Thompson, but it won't be enough in a tough conference.
EAST
1. DETROIT Cheryl Ford, the East's top center, who is at full strength after microfracture surgery on her left knee, and seventh-year guard Deanna Nolan (16.3 ppg) will lead the Shock to its third straight Finals.
2. CHICAGO The Sky is the limit after landing a game-changing rookie in LSU's 6' 6" Sylvia Fowles with the second pick. Rookie point guard Quianna Chaney (another Tiger) will also contribute.
3. INDIANA Seventh-year vet Tamika Catchings can do it all (she averaged 16.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 3.1 steals and 1.0 blocks last season), and Indianapolis native Katie Douglas (17.0 ppg), acquired in a February deal with Connecticut, will give her some needed help.
4. NEW YORK The Liberty return all five starters from the team that surged to a playoff berth, and it got even stronger by drafting Essence Carson (Rutgers) and Erlana Larkins (North Carolina).
5. WASHINGTON Former Duke teammates Alana Beard (18.8 ppg) and Monique Currie (10.5) will lead the Mystics, who added a pair of 6' 2" post players by acquiring nine-year vet Taj McWilliams-Franklin and drafting Crystal Langhorne from Maryland.
6. CONNECTICUT With Douglas gone to the Fever and fellow All-Star Nykesha Sales out for the season with multiple injuries, guard Lindsay Whalen will lead coach Mike Thibault's run-and-gun offense with a very young cast, but the Sun's forecast is gloomy.
7. ATLANTA With a roster full of rookies and castoff vets, this expansion team's Dream[SI Copydesk:SI Copydesk: cq cap] will have to be deferred for another year. Tamera Young, a 6' 2" rookie guard out of James Madison, could be a bright spot in a dreary season.

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