The Ball Briefing: What Katie Lou Samuelson and Jrue Holiday Have In Common
WNBA-NBA comparisons are usually defective, but there's at least one that is worth talking about.
The Ball Briefing is our quick recap of what has been captivating us in the sports world. Every week, you’ll get a blog post, some quick-hitters and links to our favorite articles about men’s basketball, women’s basketball, historical subjects and/or whatever has captured our attention. Subscribe to get the Ball Briefing every week and everything else we do using the button below! Also follow us on Twitter: @ballandorder!
An Actually Useful WNBA-NBA Comparison
“It’s going to be like Kobe and Shaq,” said Natasha Howard in her introductory press conference with the New York Liberty while discussing the potential of her and Sabrina Ionescu in the pick-and-roll. The two stars hope to recreate the success that the Lakers had without the mess that they left behind.
While you have to appreciate the confidence, many including myself cringed a bit at the comparison. For starters, Sabrina and Howard play vastly different games than Kobe and Shaq. Sabrina fits into a more pass-first scoring guard archetype, and Natasha Howard is a slender big that does great in space unlike the Big Diesel. Some folks also just dislike any WNBA-NBA comparisons. The WNBA has its own list of legends to compare its current stars. Plus, those comparisons shows that the WNBA isn’t quite as prevalent in the minds of players or fans as it should be.1
However, I think making contemporary comparisons across leagues is a little different at the organizational level. After all, the NBA and the WNBA are the two best basketball leagues in the world so trends that pop up in both should get your attention. Instead of showing the preeminence of the NBA over the WNBA, organizational comparisons show how similar these leagues are and where this sport is going.
And I think we have a pretty solid comparison to make between the leagues right now: By trading the #1 overall pick for Katie Lou Samuelson, the Seattle Storm are making the same bet that the Milwaukee Bucks made this fall with the Jrue Holiday trade.
The Bucks traded three first-round picks, two pick swaps, Eric Bledsoe and George Hill for Holiday, a 2-time All-Defensive team selection and former All-Star. Seattle forked over the #1 in this year’s WNBA draft for Samuelson, a third-year player now on her third team. While both franchises likely believe that the players will help them win championships, the impetus for these trades has much more to do with the team’s superstars: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Breanna Stewart.
The Bucks brought in Holiday2 to induce Antetokounmpo into signing his supermax extension. After flaming out in two consecutive playoffs as the league’s best regular season team with the MVP, Milwaukee needed to show that they were willing to pull out all of the stops to win a title. Holiday is an excellent player who can help most teams, but his trade value was greatly enhanced by Giannis’s contract situation especially with Holiday’s own contract expiring after this season.3 And it worked! Giannis signed the supermax and a star finally stays in a small market or whatever.
The Storm are in a different situation with the same goal. They won championships in Stewart’s last two healthy seasons. However, with Stewie entering the last year of her contract, two players in that starting five are gone (Natasha Howard and Alysha Clark), one is 40 years old (Sue Bird) and the other is a pending unrestricted free agent (Jewell Loyd). Seattle needed to make moves to keep Stewart happy and get her to sign an extension.4
Enter Katie Lou Samuelson. She has yet to deliver on her potential as a great shooter at UConn.5 While Samuelson has a lot of promise, she is not a player who would fetch the No. 1 pick in the draft, no matter how weak the draft is considered. But, she’s one of Stewie’s good friends from college. Samuelson’s trade value was greatly enhanced by this relationship. Despite being a bad valuation of assets, Seattle’s trade for Samuleson will look great if Stewart signs an extension.
These trades show us a few things about professional basketball. First, we’re so deep into the era of player empowerment that superstars are now affecting the trade value of ancillary players. Second, front offices always have a reasoning behind making a move even if it seems stupid at the time. Third, winning from a franchise perspective is vastly different from winning at a team perspective. Samuelson and Holiday may not actually improve their new teams’ odds of winning a championship now, but they could improve those odds if those franchises can keep their superstars.
If you listen to our podcast (specifically our most recent episode on the 1977 NBA Finals), you know that we love the ABA. The league played a beautiful, free style of basketball and created much of the game we see today. Without the ABA, the NBA would not be the league we love so much now and may not have survived. And that should make the struggles of former ABA players detailed in this article intolerable to any NBA fans. Please read the article and understand that these athletes are asking the NBA for a pension worth $1.8 million per year that they should have already received. That amount is less than Anderson Varejao, who last played in the NBA during the 2016-17, will make this season. Obviously, there’s not much we can do outside of bringing attention to the issue and hoping that the NBA or the Players Association does the right thing. What you can do is support the Dropping Dimes Foundation that supports these players by donating here: https://droppingdimes.org/. They sell the famous red, white and blue ball and some dope trading cards if you want something out of your donation.
This woman running in various types of heels through snow, gravel, dirt is a better athlete than Tom Brady. Hell, she may be a better athlete than Lebron. This is toughness personified.
Please enjoy these two clips of Liz Cambage, world renowned DJ and lingerie model. Oh and one of the best basketball players in the world.
Jenny Boucek's pregnancy represents a first for the NBA by Zach Lowe (from July 2018)
A good examination of how the former WNBA Head Coach earned her position as a NBA assistant coach and got pregnant at the same time. Sue Bird and Becky Hammon make an appearance. Boueck talks about the pressure of trying to get pregnant, coaching as a woman in the NBA and how she got through it all.
The Deshaun Watson trade that absolutely needs to happen by Tyler Dunne
Dunne is my favorite NFL writer right now and he’s working on Substack! He explains why Deshaun Watson to the Dolphins makes too much not to happen. My brand new Tua Tagovailoa Dolphins jersey is trembling in its drawer.
Jimmy Butler Told You So by Zito Madu (from January 2021)
Just a great story about Jimmy Butler, who is one of the most genuine NBA players we have. Zito is a great writer so I’ve been re-reading this for inspiration ever since it came out.
As someone guilty of making those comparisons, I empathize with the viewpoint and work hard to learn more about the league’s history to avoid them.
And attempted to bring in Bogdan Bodgdanović, but failed spectacularly. The Bogdan fiasco was incredible and cost the Bucks a potentially important 2022 draft pick, but is not the subject of this story.
One would expect Jrue’s contract value to be similarly inflated if this season goes well.
The extension is even more crucial for Stewart than Antetokounmpo because it would open up the core designation for Jewell Loyd and keep both players from hitting the open market.
Samuelson has shot 30.3% from three (27/89) in her first two years in the WNBA and has failed to get significant minutes on two different teams.