Chennedy Carter Will Jump-start Atlanta Dream
Chennedy Carter is the purest scorer in this year’s draft class. A three-time All-American and three-time First Team All-SEC, she ranked second all-time in A&M scoring, despite only being in the program for three years.
The fourth entry in our Prospect Spotlight series, the Texas A&M guard is part of a new-look Atlanta Dream squad that’s hitting the reset button in an interesting way.
Picked at 4, Carter is also the earliest to hear her name called in school history, eclipsing Kelsey Bone’s 5th overall selection. She was also the second junior off the board, going after Satou Sabally went to Dallas at 2.
WHAT CHENNEDY BRINGS TO THE TABLE
Carter’s new head coach, Nicki Collen, can’t wait to incorporate her into the game plan.
“We couldn’t be more excited to welcome Chennedy and her family to the ATL,” Collen said after the draft. “Chennedy is a gifted scorer, possessing great speed, skill and strength with the ball in her hands. While she split time at the guard positions in college, we believe Chennedy will thrive as an up-tempo point guard in the WNBA.”
Much like the Dallas Wings’ Arike Ogunbowale last season, Carter comes to the W ready to shoulder a large workload. Last season, only Xavier’s A’riana Gray and Maine’s Blanca Millan topped Carter’s 37.2 percent usage rate.
|Chennedy Carter Usage Rate (Courtesy of Her Hoop Stats)|
|Year||Usage Rate||NCAA Rank|
SCORING AT WILL
During the Aggies’ 22-8 campaign, Carter’s 21.3 points accounted for 30.6 percent of the team’s 69.7 points per night.
Even though Carter stands just 5’7″, she’s an efficient scorer, shooting north of 45 percent her junior season, as well as over 43 percent during her collegiate career. Her 3-point shooting was erratic in 2019-2020 (25.3 percent), but her college average of 34.6 percent—alongside her smooth high-arcing shot—indicates that she’ll be able to score from anywhere at the next level.
Carter’s ball-handling ability will make her such a tough cover. She’s Iverson-esque, keeping the ball on a string while navigating through defenses or creating space to generate a clean look. Carter gets to the rim at ease, and she’s got a toolbox of finishes—from floaters to body controlled angled layups.
Her handling also makes her a menace in the open court, even on odd-rush fast breaks. According to Her Hoop Stats, Carter’s 7.6 2-point makes per game ranked third in the nation. Last season, she made up for the poor long-range shooting by hitting 49.9 percent of her attempts within the arc.
Carter’s ability to create a shot helps both her and her teammates run pick-and-rolls effectively. She’s got no hesitation in her game, so if a defender goes under the screen, she’s hoisting from deep. If a defender is slow on a hedge, she’s got the ability to make the pass.
This season, Carter’s 27.1 percent assist rate ranked in the 95th percentile. That same number in the W would have slotted her in at 16th, just behind the Connecticut Sun’s Jasmine Thomas.
With the swagger she displays on the court, it would be a fair assumption to think that’s where her “Hollywood” Twitter display name comes from. In reality, it comes from her hunger to succeed.
“In high school, I was social, but when it was time to go out—to the football games on Friday nights or to parties—I was like ‘Nah,’” Carter said to Natalie Weiner, formerly of SBNation.
“I couldn’t. I always wanted to work out, because I wanted to be successful. I had to keep myself locked in. So because I was staying focused, my friends called me Hollywood and it kind of stuck with me.
Plus, I graduated and went to A&M, and left all my friends. Sort of doing big things. I just had a dream and a goal, and wanted to get to it.”
SHAKING OFF THE BAD DREAM
The Dream’s 2019 season was more of a nightmare. After finishing second in the standings with a 23-11 record during 2018, the team toppled to the basement, winning just eight of their 34 contests.
The steep decline dumped them into the lottery, though their previous year’s success limited their odds of landing a higher pick (the W uses a two-year aggregate system for draft lottery chances).
A big reason for the drop was Atlanta’s inability to play without star Angel McCoughtry, who missed all but a minute of last season. Though the five-time All-Star signed with the Las Vegas Aces this offseason, the Atlanta Dream did well to re-tool ahead of 2020.
Only four players from last year’s roster are returning: Monique Billings, Tiffany Hayes, Renee Montgomery and Elizabeth Williams. With the exception of Billings, who came off the bench for 25 of her 27 contests, the returning players were all full-time starters.
Hayes, Montgomery and Williams accounted for the three highest minute averages on the team.
Atlanta’s offense was a huge problem last season, which explains why the franchise jettisoned two-thirds of its roster. The Dream ranked dead last in points (71.2 PPG), field goal percentage (37.1 percent) and 3-point percentage (29.0 percent).
Their shooting from deep was especially egregious: Only Washington (25.4 3PA) took more 3-pointers than Atlanta (22.0 3PA).
One attempt to fix that shooting is the signing of former Connecticut Sun forward Shekinna Stricklen, 2019’s All-Star weekend 3-point champ. Last year, Stricklen hit a career-high 2.2 3-pointers on 38.2 percent shooting.
Thus, Chennedy Carter will always have a shooter on the court alongside her.
PLAYING BESIDE ANOTHER BUCKET
Atlanta’s future will be shaped with how Carter plays alongside the team’s other offseason free agency signing out of Connecticut, Courtney Williams.
Before free agency shuffled every roster, I wrote about how Williams’ energetic game propelled the Sun. She and Carter will spend lots of time sharing the floor, and opponents will need to account for both in half-court sets.
According to Synergy Sports, Williams was most effective as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, notching 0.796 points per possession, which ranked in the 74th percentile in the W. Giving both players offensive sets could optimally help to spell the other guard, but could conversely affect each player’s ability to stay in the zone.
Fortunately, Williams scored off an assist in just over half (51.9 percent) of her makes last season. If she and Carter can get out and run, expect that number to climb significantly this season.
“Courtney Williams is established at this point in what she’s capable of, she’s done it game in and game out at this level,” Coach Collen said to Howard Megdal.
“But I do think that Chennedy is more of a point guard and Courtney isn’t—not that I’d be afraid to put Courtney on the floor at some point in a pinch, but…you want to get the ball to Courtney on the move.”
How these two gel is something to pay close attention to in 2020, especially with the abbreviated lead-up that’s anticipated before the delayed season gets underway.
If Carter and Williams can figure out a way to feed off each other’s energy, Atlanta is suddenly dangerous again.
Myles Ehrlich is a TBW staff writer from Brooklyn, NY. He has been writing since childhood when it passed the time better than rolling scenery and folk CDs on family road trips. He legitimized his passion at New York University and The Writer’s Foundry MFA. His work has been published with Castings, MASH Stories, and flashfictionmagazine.com. When not writing, Myles is usually playing, watching or reading about sports. His east coast WNBA fandom resides with the New York Liberty; his west coast with the Las Vegas Aces.