Breaking down the Seattle Storm

Will Shekinna Stricklen emerge as Seattle's go-to offensive force? AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

No Sue Bird. No Lauren Jackson. The Seattle Storm will move forward in the tough Western Conference, hoping to get enough from their remaining core of experienced players to make a run at a playoff spot in the West.

Jackson is resting after hamstring surgery over the winter. Bird recently had surgery to remove a cyst from her left knee. The slack to be picked up here is considerable.

Camille Little and Tanisha Wright, Seattle's two longest-tenured players, will assume the role as leaders and possibly go-to scoring options.

Coach Brian Agler brought in an experienced point guard in Temeka Johnson to run the team on the floor. The Storm will lean heavily on young talent such as second-year forward Shekinna Stricklen and Alysha Clark to keep the Storm competitive.

Tina Thompson, in her 17th WNBA season, might have enough left in the tank to contribute, as well.

The 2013 season will be an exercise in chemistry for Seattle. Build it well, and the Storm could be back in the playoffs for the 10th straight season. Fail, and Seattle could be looking at last place.

What's new?

Johnson is going to fill in for Bird at the point guard spot this season, pushing tempo and looking to get the ball to Seattle's scorers. It will take an adjustment period for Johnson to get to know her teammates and what Agler wants.

What's missing?

Bird and Jackson. Leadership and experience. Skill and championships. They will be missed. There's no way around it.

Biggest challenges

Finding a go-to offensive player. Is it going to be Little or second-year wing Stricklen, who could have a breakout season?

Playoff prospects

Seattle owns the league record for consecutive playoff appearances with nine. The streak could end this season.