Fast Break: Lobo on WNBA

Reporter Heather Cox interviews 2010 WNBA Finals MVP Lauren Jackson of the Seattle Storm.

The WNBA’s 15th season tips off Saturday when the defending champion Seattle Storm plays host to the Phoenix Mercury (3 p.m. ET, ABC).

Analyst Rebecca Lobo (pictured right) played in the WNBA’s inaugural 1997 season and game.

She provides Front Row with analysis of her players, teams and themes to watch this summer.

Five Rookies to Watch

Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx
The UConn star and first overall pick was better than everyone during her entire college career. It will be fun to see how much success she has in her rookie season in Minnesota. Everyone will be watching to see if Moore can lead the Lynx to their first playoff berth since 2004.

Liz Cambage, Tulsa Shock
Few Americans have seen Cambage, a 6-foot, 8-inch Australian and the No. 2 overall pick, play. She is a very strong and talented post player. Can make an immediate impact on the league’s worst team?

Courtney Vandersloot, Chicago Sky
She was fun to watch at Gonzaga and will be a great and exciting pro. The point guard should help elevate Sylvia Fowles, Epiphanny Prince and the rest of the Sky.

Amber Harris, Minnesota Lynx
The former Xavier star is a versatile and talented 6’5″ post player whose work ethic was questioned in college. The Lynx trio of Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus will have to get Harris to play to her potential.

Jantel Lavender, Los Angeles Sparks
A 6-4 center from Ohio State, No. 5 overall pick Lavender is expected to allow a healthy Candace Parker to roam and use her entire skill set.

Five MVP Candidates

Lauren Jackson, Seattle Storm
Last season’s MVP is healthy and on the best team with Seattle. If Sue Bird stays healthy and continues to get Jackson the ball, she is the MVP favorite.

Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury
Taurasi is rested for the first time in years and probably has a chip on her shoulder after being falsely accused of using drugs while playing in Turkey. Phoenix will be good, which always helps in MVP voting.

Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks
She is healthy, young and ridiculously talented.

Tina Charles, Connecticut Sun
Charles had an outstanding rookie season and should only be better after a successful stint in Russia during the WNBA offseason. She will average a double-double again.

Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx
If Moore (pictured right) stays healthy, her team will be in the hunt for the playoffs. Moore will be in the hunt for a Rookie of the Year and MVP.

Five Teams to Watch

Seattle Storm
The defending champion Storm had the best record in the league last season (by far) and have dynamic stars in Jackson, Bird and Swin Cash, plus the addition of Katie Smith. I think Bird is one of the most exciting point guards to watch in the women’s game.

Phoenix Mercury
Both Taurasi and Penny Taylor rested after leaving their Turkish teams early. The team plays a run-and-gun, high-scoring brand of ball that’s very entertaining. The Mercury will average close to 100 points per game again.

Connecticut Sun
Head coach Mike Thibault also likes his teams to push tempo and they have the pieces to run and win a lot of games along the way. Renee Montgomery should be poised for a breakout season and Charles will get MVP consideration.

Minnesota Lynx
Moore is reason enough to watch but it will be fun to see if Minnesota can stay healthy. The Lynx are very talented and have a great coach in Cheryl Reeve.

Atlanta Dream
Atlanta made it to the 2010 WNBA Finals. All of the Dream’s important pieces return, plus they’ve added Lindsay Harding. The team pushes the ball up the floor and they have one of the most talented young players in Angel McCoughtry.

Biggest Turnarounds from 2010

Minnesota Lynx

Candice Wiggins and Seimone Augustus are healthy and added the talent of Maya Moore and Amber Harris. Minnesota should definitely contend in the West.

Connecticut Sun
The Sun returns the youngest team in the league from a season ago and added the talented Danielle McCray. I’ll be very surprised if the Sun are not fighting for the East title at the end of the regular season.

Most Improved Players

Kara Braxton (Phoenix)
Braxton will have more playing opportunity with Phoenix since Tangela Smith moved to Indy. She spent the offseason playing overseas and getting in shape, and has great size (6’6″). Braxton should have a breakout season.

Sylvia Fowles (Chicago)
Any post player would get better by having Courtney Vandersloot as her point guard and Big Syl will benefit with easy transition baskets and layups in the half court.

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