Its been a tough start to the season for a pair of veterans off the Atlanta Dream's bench. Both Swin Cash and Matee Ajavon have struggled out of the gate for Michael Cooper's club and have seen their minutes fluctuate as a result.
Cash came to an Atlanta via a trade late in training camp with the Chicago Sky in exchange for Courtney Clements. The hope was that she would bring championship experience to the roster as well as be a valuable piece off the bench. She seems to have meshed well with her teammates and is a quality leader but the on court contributions haven't materialized as of yet. Entering Saturday game against her former club, Cash is just 2-15 from the field on the season and is averaging just over nine minutes a game.
Over the last couple of weeks, she has gotten limited opportunities. She played a season high 18 minutes in the first meeting with Chicago when the Dream were without Angel McCoughtry. She then totaled just 14 minutes in the next three games combined. Cooper gave her another shot in Tuesday's win over Los Angeles but she went scoreless with a single rebound in 14 minutes.
Still Cash's leadership qualities make it worth keeping her around especially with the Dream's championship aspirations however, Cooper may be forced to look elsewhere if she can't turn things around on the court.
Celine Dumerc's arrival has created a bit of a logjam in the Atlanta backcourt that includes rookie Shoni Schimmel, Jasmine Thomas and Tiffany Hayes. The result could be more three-guard lineups with McCoughtry seeing minutes at the power forward slot when Sancho Lyttle or Erika de Souza is out of the game. That would help supplement the uptempo style of game that Cooper likes to play.
In many ways Ajavon is the same player she has been her entire career, she is just getting less opportunities this season. She is off to a 5-26 start from the field and is averaging nearly 1.5 turnovers in just over 11 minutes of playing time. She has never been what you would call an efficient player as her career 35 percent shooting mark suggests but with better options in Atlanta's backcourt its difficult to see where her minutes might come from.
Cooper talked about his bench early on and stressed its importance over the course of a season. "You have to utilize your bench, I feel that you have to have your bench ready and you can't save it until the end of the season and then throw people in the water. You have to exercise it and massage it."
He's stuck to that in each game as Cash and Ajavon have both appeared in all seven games. Its a long season and there is a chance that both could find a way to contribute before the season is over. Having veterans on the bench can be valuable especially in the case of Cash who has won multiple championships. However, there is no denying its been a tough start.