The Las Vegas Aces wrapped up an unforgettable WNBA season with ratings rising, triple-doubles coming from multiple players and a first-time champion being crowned.
Things will look much different in the WNBA with legends Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retiring. The hope is that Brittney Griner will be back in the U.S. and with the Phoenix Mercury if the U.S. government can work out a deal for her release from a Russian jail.
Now the focus will turn to the WNBA Draft and of course the free agency market.
The WNBA’s decision to move away from the single-elimination format in the early rounds in the postseason was certainly a move in the right direction.
In the end, the Aces and Connecticut Sun were among the top title contenders all season according to the WNBA betting lines and things went pretty much according to plan.
What’s Next for the Aces?
With the emergence of point guard Chelsea Gray joining the Aces’ Big Three of A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young, it seems inevitable that Las Vegas would be the last team standing and those who bet online likely saw the coronation coming for the Aces long before Sunday.
It seemed fitting that Gray led the Aces with 20 points in the clinching game on Sunday considering how she raised the level of her play in the postseason. She averaged 21.7 points during the playoffs and that was second only to Seattle’s Breanna Stewart’s 27 points per contest
— Las Vegas Aces (@LVAces) September 18, 2022
Gray and the other perimeter players thrived under first-year coach Becky Hammon, a former star guard in the league.
Las Vegas won while post player Dearica Hamby missed part of the postseason and was nowhere close to 100% when she did return.
There will come a day when Las Vegas will struggle to keep all of its stars under contract, but that is a conversation for another time.
What’s Next for the Sun?
One has to wonder what the season would have looked like with a healthy Jasmine Thomas.
Natisha Hiedeman did her best when thrust into the starting lineup after Thomas suffered a season-ending knee injury. She is very streaky offensively and is probably best suited to her previous role as a spark off the bench.
Speaking of the bench, Brionna Jones deserves to be a starter in this league. With DeWanna Bonner, Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas on the roster, that probably won’t happen in Connecticut again – barring injury.
Can Mercury Make Things Work?
The thought of Diana Taurasi, Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith being joined by Tina Charles seemed like the Phoenix Mercury would be a nightmare to deal with in the postseason. The only nightmares came on the part of Mercury.
Charles forced her way out of Phoenix, Griner never made it back from Russia and with so many strong personalities on the Mercury roster, it was a recipe for disaster.
With her former UConn teammate Bird heading off to retirement, how much longer is Taurasi going to be willing to lace up the sneakers? With the chemistry on the Phoenix team in need of some work, will that play a role in her decision-making process?
Rising Stars Ready to Make the Next Step
New York’s Sabrina Ionescu and Atlanta’s Rhyne Howard need more help to lead their team to the next level but were they ever fun to watch.
Ionescu rattled off triple-doubles and the WNBA must be thrilled to have a charismatic player like that in New York. New York will add Nyara Sabally, the No. 5 pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft who sat out the 2022 season.
There were some questions about the strength of this year’s rookie class but with No. 1 pick Howard leading the way and being joined by NaLyssa Smith and Shakira Austin, the future looks bright.
Will Boston Take the League by Storm?
Predicting the order in the WNBA Draft months before the entry deadline is a dangerous proposition, even more so due to the eligibility rules impacted by COVID-19.
However, South Carolina post-Aliyah Boston would seem to be the top available player in the 2023 WNBA Draft. She has the type of game that could speed up the rebuilding process for whoever selects her.
Keep an eye on a talented group of juniors who could enter the draft based on their birthday or if they graduate from college. Even without them, the 2023 draft is looking pretty good.