Las Vegas Has a Roster Ready to Establish a Dynasty
From the Houston Comets, Detroit Shock, Phoenix Mercury, Seattle Storm and Minnesota Lynx, the WNBA is quite familiar with dynasties. In each era of the league, there has been one team that stands above all others as the best.
Heading into 2023, there is a possibility of a new dynasty on the horizon: the Las Vegas Aces.
Las Vegas is familiar with big moments. In 2020, the team made it to the WNBA Finals, only to lose to the Seattle Storm. In 2021, the Aces made it to the semi-finals, only to lose to the Phoenix Mercury in the final seconds.
However, in 2022, the Aces had a breakthrough. Led by new coach, and subsequent Coach of the Year, Becky Hammon, the Aces charged their way to a league-best 26-10 record. The team lead the league in points per game (90.4), and did so in a hyper-efficient 109.6 points per 100 possessions. The Aces also boasted the sixth-best defense in the league.
All these accomplishments were carried out by the talented roster the Aces boast. The team was led by MVP and DPOY A’ja Wilson, scoring experts in Kelsey Plum and Most Improved Player Jackie Young and the point God herself, Chelsea Gray. Off the bench came floor spacing big Kiah Stokes and sharpshooter Riquna Williams. All were key players that made large contributions in what ultimately led to Las Vegas bringing home its first WNBA championship over the Connecticut Sun.
Stacking the Deck
Fresh off winning a championship, Las Vegas found a way to improve what was already an elite team this past offseason.
Las Vegas kept its core in Wilson, Plum, Gray and Young, as well as the team’s key role players in Stokes and Williams, and hope to see Kierstan Bell take on a bigger role. But, in free agency, the Aces stacked the deck. Future Hall of Famer Candace Parker left the Chicago Sky to join the party in Las Vegas. The Aces also added another elite sharpshooter in Alysha Clark to fortify the bench, and to round out the additions, the Aces signed forward Cayla George, who returns to the WNBA after a stint in Australia.
Aces on Overdrive
With the team keeping things largely the same while adding more elite talent, the Aces have the possibility to become an overdrive version of what their championship run consisted of. We already know the abilities of Wilson, Plum, Young, and Gray. It is the key additions to the rotation that will make the team a juggernaut.
The league—and the entire basketball community—knows how great of a player Parker is. She is one of the best frontcourt players of all time, with elite three-level scoring and elite defense. Adding Parker to pair with A’ja Wilson is almost unfair. Offensively, both are capable of scoring in a multitude of ways while having the vision to make the correct read for their teammates to score. Having teammates in Plum, Gray, and Young to also help carry the offensive responsibilities is a perfect privilege. Defensively, Parker and Wilson have the length to guard the rim with ease along with any opposing player on the court.
Under Hammon, Las Vegas has been running more modern floor spacing and a fast-paced offense, similar to what is seen in the NBA. Alysha Clark will benefit and amplify the output of this offense. Clark is the ideal floor spacer out on the wings, as she shoots at an elite level. As a career 38.4% three-point shooter, Clark has the potential to have a career shooting year in the Vegas system. With much attention placed around the superstars, there will be enough space for Clark to get open looks from deep and run the score up for Vegas.
The Aces are a team primed to defend its title. Some may say that it can be a little too early to discuss a dynasty, but with the core of Vegas under contract long-term, it is hard not to start discussing it. Las Vegas is a basketball city, and it especially loves winners. The Aces are stacked with talent that all complement each other, and whatever flaws that existed in this team have seemingly been solved. With the talent on this roster, Vegas has the potential be on top for years to come.
In comparing talent across the league, it seems only the New York Liberty can go toe-to-toe against the Aces. There are four regular-season matchups between the two teams, and they promise to be pure cinema. The Aces and Liberty have the potential to be the WNBA’s version of the Warriors–Cavaliers duels in the 2010s.
Even then, basketball fans across the world should appreciate and not take for granted what the Aces were able to do in 2022, what they can do in 2023 and what they can do in the years following. Las Vegas might be the WNBA’s next dynasty—and time will tell if one is truly in the making.