The 25th season of the WNBA is almost upon us, and league teams are gearing up for what should be another exciting campaign. The W is coming off a busy offseason, which included some of the league’s biggest names in free agency, a draft with a surprising number of picks, and even talks about a possible expansion.
Before the seasonal Friday night tips, here’s what you need to know:
What’s new this season?
The league will look very different this summer on several fronts. For starters, each of its 12 teams will don new uniforms, and Nike will introduce three looks for each franchise. A new Wilson basketball will also be used in game action, marking the first time in league history that the ball will not be manufactured by Spalding.
The 2021 season will span 32 games, up from last year’s 22-game Wubble campaign, but down from the 36-game regular season he has traditionally used. According to a statement from the WNBA, the number of games was adapted due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the Olympic recess, which will run from July 15 to August 11. Fans can currently attend games in nine of the league’s 12 markets. But Commissioner Cathy Engelbert recently told reporters that the league is “hoping that as we go into Olympic recess and come out of that, maybe we can have more full stadiums.”
What were the biggest moves of the offseason?
The Sky caused the biggest buzz of the winter, hiring future Hall of Famer Candace Parker in free agency. Parker, 35, had spent his career with the Sparks but chose to join Chicago and return home. “Chicago is where my family raised me, where I first learned basketball, and where I first fell in love with this orange ball,” Parker said. who grew up in the vicinity of Naperville, Ill. “I am excited to continue the next chapter of my career where it all began.” As he did so, Sky plunged into the title conversation.
Among other notable moves, the Aces looked to improve their roster this winter by effectively trading point guard Kayla McBride for Chelsea Gray. By adding the three-time All-Star, Las Vegas is adding one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers to an already loaded roster.
The Liberty won the lottery drawing again, but instead of adding another young player, they opted to trade 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Natasha Howard as part of a series of highly successful deals with Storm and Wings, which ultimately resulted in let Dallas get the title. first two selections.
Who are the rookies to watch this summer?
In a league filled with packed front courts, Dallas hopes the duo it selected last April will become the foundation for a title contender. The Wings made league history this offseason, using the top two picks from this year’s draft. Former Texas center Charli Collier became number one after finishing a senior season in which she averaged 19 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. Next, Dallas selected the 19-year-old great Finn Awak Kuier, who, according to some talent screeners, might have the highest advantage of any player selected in the draft. Upon being selected in the top five, Kuier, who first dived at age 14, became the first international player to reach that height since 2011.
NCAA tournament star Aari McDonald went to the Dream with the third pick. McDonald captivated the hearts of the college basketball world with his scoring ability and competitive drive as he led Arizona to the national championship game. Now he’s looking to help an Atlanta team that has made just two playoff appearances since 2015, changed owners, recently fired its general manager and watched coach Nicki Collen go to Baylor.
Other rookies to watch include Fever point guard Kysre Gondrezick, who was a surprising pick at No. 4 but was an electric scorer in West Virginia. There’s also Sparks guard Arella Guirantes, if any second-round pick could be the best rookie in the league, then the 20-point-a-game college scorer could definitely do it, and Liberty wing Michaela Onyenwere, who was a Third All-America team last year at UCLA. Also, while technically no longer a rookie, New York will welcome star guard Sabrina Ionescu back to action after injuries interrupted her debut season after just three games.
Which players could make the leap in 2021?
Despite Dallas ‘investment of top draft picks in Collier and Kuier, last year’s No. 2 pick, Satou Sabally, remains a valuable part of the Wings’ future. Sabally is ready to see her numbers rise in her second WNBA season, a year after a season that featured some promising flashes. Sabally played his best basketball down the stretch. A 28-point, 11-rebound performance against the Aces was a particularly high point for Oregon’s product, as was a 25-point, seven-rebound game against the Storm in the regular season finale. Sabally’s natural talent is there and, after a solid season with Turkish club Fenerbahçe, he expects a similar outing in his second season with the Wings.
The Storm reworked part of their roster this offseason and will head into the 2021 campaign with their sights set on a jump from guard Jordin Canada and forward Katie Lou Samuelson. Canada, now in its fourth season, has averaged more than 24 minutes per game in each of its last two seasons, but the departure of guard Alysha Clark through free agency should lead Canada to take on an even bigger role. in Seattle. Samuelson will enter his third team in as many WNBA seasons this season. The Storm chose to trade the No. 1 pick to the Wings in exchange for the former UConn star. That’s a huge vote of confidence, but it bodes well for a player who averaged just 3.8 points and 1.7 rebounds per game during her first two seasons in the WNBA. Seattle surely wants Samuelson to succeed, and the 23-year-old wing is coming off a stellar international season with Euroleague runner-up Perfumerias Avenida, in which she averaged 15.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game and made it to the first team in the Euroleague.
In terms of other names to follow, don’t be surprised if Fever great Teaira McCowan, who was selected one pick ahead of Samuelson in the 2019 WNBA draft, improves her game this season as she tries to become one more force. consistent inside. . Sky guards Kahleah Copper, who saw their scoring production double last season, and Diamond DeShields should also see production increase when playing alongside Parker.
Who are the favorites of the title?
Even though they traded Howard to the Liberty and lost Alysha Clark in free agency, it’s hard to start a conversation about potential WNBA title favorites without mentioning reigning champion Storm. Breanna Stewart is one season further away from her Achilles tear, and will enter this year having won a WNBA title, WNBA Finals MVP, Euroleague title and EuroLeague Final Four MVP in recent years. 10 months. The Seattle backcourt of Sue Bird and rising star Jewell Loyd also remains one of the most dangerous in the league. Their roster may no longer be the most talented in the league, but the team’s star power remains undeniable.
The Aces should be ready for another deep playoff run. The addition of Gray should boost Las Vegas’ guard rotation, and the team will also benefit greatly from the return of three-time WNBA All-Star Liz Cambage and 2017 No. 1 pick Kelsey Plum. It’s fair to say that Las Vegas has the most talented roster in the league coming out of the preseason.
The Mystics will look to dominate the Eastern Conference with two-time league MVP Elena Delle Donne back in the mix, despite starting next season with a minute restriction. The Sky, Mercury and Lynx also have the talent to be among the best team in the league during the 2021 season. The duo of DeWanna Bonner and Jonquel Jones on the Sun’s front court could also make a potentially underrated Connecticut team dangerous. .
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.