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The Seattle Storm built a superteam during the winter with a pair of marquee free agent signings in Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith. Or, at least, they did on paper. We've seen no such evidence on the court through the first week of the season, as the Storm dropped to 1-3 with a loss to the New York Liberty on Monday. 

Ogwumike has already been sidelined by an ankle injury -- though it doesn't appear to be a long-term issue -- and Diggins-Smith has recorded more field goals than turnovers in just one of four games. Following another poor performance against the Liberty in which Diggins-Smith committed four turnovers and scored eight points on a 3-of-13 shooting night, Storm head coach Noelle Quinn went to bat for her star. 

"There needs to be respect about the fact that she had two children and hasn't played in 20 months. She's not where she will be in Game 4 of the season," Quinn said. "She's not going to come overnight and be who she was 20 months ago and we have to respect that and honor that. I do. As a coach, as an organization we do. 

"So my grace as a coach is to know she's working her butt off every day. You guys don't see it. Every single day. Two children. Not one, two. Not many can do that. So the respect has to come and the work. The respect has to come. This is a decorated athlete who's done amazing things for this league, for women's basketball, for the world. Give her some grace."

Diggins-Smith gave birth to her second child early last year and ended up sitting out of the entire 2023 season for the Phoenix Mercury while on maternity leave. When she debuted for the Storm on opening night, it was her first real game action since Aug. 4, 2022. 

Given the circumstances, there was always an expectation that Diggins-Smith would need some time before she got back to her All-WNBA best. Everyone assumed she would still be a productive player along the way, however. 

Instead, she's averaging 14.5 points on 33.3% from the field, 5.8 assists and five turnovers per game. She has more shots than points and is 1 of 13 from 3-point land. Of the 15 players with at least a 25% usage rate, the only one who has been less efficient than Diggins-Smith (39.7% true shooting) is her backcourt mate, Jewell Loyd, who should not escape criticism herself. 

Perhaps the most concerning aspect so far is how difficult her looks have been. It would be one thing if she was just missing open shots, but a large percentage of her attempts have been tough, contested jumpers or runners. Just 22.7% of her field goals have come at the rim, down from 31.3% in 2022. On one possession against the Washington Mystics, she pulled up for a 3-pointer off a hand-off and missed it about a foot to the left. 

Diggins-Smith and the Storm are too talented to play like this all season long, but they'll need to turn it around sooner rather than later, or risk losing sight of the teams at the top of the standings.