Dream counting on new faces, improvement from current players

Dream guard Tiffany Hayes drives against Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne during a WNBA semifinal playoff game Sunday, August 26, 2018, in Atlanta.   Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Dream guard Tiffany Hayes drives against Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne during a WNBA semifinal playoff game Sunday, August 26, 2018, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Dream coach Nicki Collen on Friday said the team isn’t finished attempting to strengthen its roster in free-agency.

That, combined with expected improvement from several players, could put the the team back into the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.

“I feel good about how it started and in essence where we are at right now,” Collen said.

Collen said because succeeding in the WNBA is about spacing on offense and how it’s created, they wanted to sign versatile frontcourt players who could be good five feet in or behind the 3-point arc.

The most important acquisition so far concerns Cheyenne Parker, a 6-foot-4 forward who averaged 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game last season while at Chicago. She made 46.9 percent of her 3-pointers as part of 55.4 percent overall shooting.

“She gives you that bigger power forward where you can take advantage on the block, she can shift and play the 5 and be a stretch 5,” Collen said. “We really targeted her in the offseason.”

Another important piece is Tianna Hawkins, a 6-foot-3 forward who averaged 8.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game last season while at Washington. She made 29.8 percent of her 3-point shots as part of a career-low 40.8 percent shooting.

Collen said Hawkins is a player that she has wanted to acquire for several years because Collen felt that Hawkins could be more effective if she were given the opportunity to play more minutes. Hawkins averaged a career-high 19.4 minutes per game last season.

“That solidified us in terms of what we can do in our frontcourt,” Collen said, adding that the team now has options to go big or small in the frontcourt as well as adding toughness to practice sessions.

The third signing, guard Yvonne Turner, was added to provide offense off the bench. She averaged career highs in points (6.4) and minutes (20.5) last season at Phoenix.

Collen said the team hopes to acquire another shooter to strengthen the bench, either through free agency or the draft. The team will have the third pick in draft, which hasn’t yet been scheduled by the league.

Collen said the team is in position that it could add the best player available, which could provide a cornerstone talent for years to come, instead of selecting a player to fill a specific need.

In addition to the new players, Collen has hopes for improvement from those who have been on the team.

The most important is Tiffany Hayes, a 5-10 guard who averaged 14.7 points on 39.3-percent shooting last season.

Collen said she wants Hayes to become the team leader, a role she hasn’t always been comfortable with.

“I think Tiffany’s ready,” Collen said. “She and I talk regularly about her having more of a leadership role. She doesn’t mind the spotlight when she plays and doesn’t mind the ball in a late-game situation in her hands. But when it comes to kind of being the face of a franchise ... she’s been, “I’m just going to go out and play and compete and do my job and do it well.”

Collen said she also is counting on improvement from 6-7 center Kalani Brown, who struggled on defense last season.

“She is as good as she wants to be,” Collen said. “Great hands. Great feet. When I played her last year, we got destroyed in pick-and-rolls. I’d love to be able to add wrinkles to get Kalani the ball in the low block.”

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