We’re already a month and change into the WNBA season and you all know what that means: It’s time to start getting hyped for the All-Star Game. It’s not hard to be excited for a game taking place in a city that’s known for flashing lights and gambling—and insane temperatures, but let’s ignore that for now.
Vegas has proved to be an excellent home for the Aces, who should have at least two or three players in the game. And with All-Star voting ending Tuesday, it only seemed right that I wrote my way through the 10 spots—six frontcourt players, four backcourt ones—available. As SBNation's Matt Ellentuck pointed out, it was nearly impossible to narrow this down to 10 players and someone will inevitably point out that I missed somebody. But this is my column and my picks so please wait to read until the end before hitting my Twitter with your takes.
Look, there aren’t enough words in the English language for me to explain how good EDD is. You know you’re one of the best players in the league when, after the Mystics Thanos snapped the Sun out of existence in a 43-point (!!) win, your teammates start making goat noises while reporters are in the locker room.
Whether you think Delle Donne is the GOAT or not, you can’t deny that she’s absolutely decimating the league right now. Her team is on top of the standings, boasts the best offense in the WNBA by almost every measure and she’s playing like she wants that MVP award and some revenge after last year’s Finals. The only thing that can slow her down is the facial injury she picked up in the Mystics’ most recent game, a 17-point loss to the Sparks in which her presence was clearly missed. But hopefully the injury isn’t serious and she’s there to captain one of the All-Star squads—because she’s absolutely going to garner enough votes to be a captain. And speaking of captains …
There was so much hype surrounding the Aces and their acquisition of Liz Cambage that I think we may have slept on Wilson’s a bit. Well, no one’s sleeping anymore. Wilson is stepping into her expanded leadership role on this team and has consistently been the best player on this young Aces squad.
Take a look at all the major stats for a big and she’s top 10 or damn close in every category: fifth in points per game, sixth in blocks, 10th in field goal percentage, 11th in rebounds ... want me to go on? But more than anything, she’s just been a steadying force for Vegas. The Aces have one of the more mercurial backcourts in the league, with two young players still finding their way in Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young and a walking bucket in Kayla McBride who can be streaky but still deserves a starting spot in the All-Star Game as well (but more on that later). Wilson and Cambage have been two of the best bigs in the league this year, and while it kills me to leave Cambage off the starters list, A’ja has been just a little better this year—and she’s still only in her second year!
Remember when Jones was riding the bench last year and only getting around 20 minutes a game? Well, now she’s a legit MVP candidate who led Connecticut to the top of the standings before the team’s recent poor run of form. Jones is an immovable object who will bully nearly every big in the paint and will give it to you on both ends of the court. You don’t just wake up and become one of the most efficient scorers in the league while also leading the W in blocks.
Jones is a major reason that the Sun hasn’t taken a step back since the departure of Chiney Ogwumike and her versatile game—she’s just as capable of playing on the perimeter and shootings three as she is grinding down low—and brings out the best in Courtney Williams and Alyssa Thomas. She more than deserves a spot amongst the starters.
At this point, Charles is an institution at the All-Star Game and this year should be no different. She’s played in every ASG since she’s been in the league so it wouldn’t be a party in Vegas without Tina. And how has she achieved that? By being damn good for every year of her career.
Charles has been the rock for New York this season, with the Liberty already equaling their win total from all of last year in just the first month and change of this season. She’s second in the league in scoring and her ability to constantly deliver buckets, combined with the deadeye shooting of Kia Nurse, has made the Liberty an intriguing if not inconsistent threat this season. Expect to see the New York big in Vegas in late July.
I can feel people cracking their Twitter fingers and preparing to roast me picking Bonner over Brittney Griner, but hear me out. Griner has absolutely come on as of late and looks absolutely unstoppable in the post, but I’m a fan of a balanced roster, so having some versatility here matters.
Bonner started the season off being an absolute flamethrower and led the league in scoring until she was usurped by … Griner. But Bonner is a smart rebounder and capable of making the right pass, and I’d argue her gravity on the perimeter allows Griner to more effectively go to work in the paint than she’d be able to elsewhere. Plus a hypothetical team of super shooters that includes Bonner, Elena Delle Donne, Kayla McBride and literally anyone else is way too fun not to drool over.
Seattle just refuses to give in to the multiple injuries that keep threatening to sink its ship. Like how does a team lose Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart and deal with nagging injuries to its two current starting guards and still manage to be .500? Natasha Howard, that’s it. That’s the answer.
Howard has stepped up big time in the absence of some of the Storm’s more premier players and is making quite the case for herself to be included in the MVP conversation. Few players play as hard or aggressive as Howard and if you think it’s tough checking her, try dealing with her when she’s guarding you. She racks up steals and blocks like few other players in the W and absolutely deserves a spot among the starters in Vegas after the incredible season she’s having.
I’d put DeShields in the starting lineup on drip alone. Like, come ON. But she’s among the players from last year’s draft class who's truly putting her stamp on the league. She’s an elite slasher whose athleticism serves her well in a system with Courtney Vandersloot whipping passes around the court and Allie Quigley ready to spot up from just about anywhere.
She currently leads the Sky in scoring, is quick-witted with the ball in her hands and isn’t afraid to pull up in your grill and put two points on your headtop. Her explosive play and length will serve her well among the other starters.
If I was ever skilled enough to play professional basketball—and let me make it very clear that I’m absolutely nowhere close—I’d dream of having a game like Gray’s. Her flashy passing is my favorite Youtube rabbit hole to get sucked into.
Sorry, where was I? Right, every good team needs a distributor, and while I thought about picking Vandersloot here and Gray’s numbers don’t necessarily jump off the page, the Sparks guard has been balling lately. And if you thought I wasn’t going to pick a player who on Sunday became only the ninth player in WNBA history to record a triple double, you’re sorely mistaken.
— WNBA (@WNBA) July 7, 2019
Is McBride a bit streaky? Yes. But when she’s on, good lord, y’all might as well park yourself on the sideline and watch the show like the rest of us.
She’s third in the league in three-point field goal percentage at an unreal 47.1%. The players above her? Allie Quigley, who is just casually one of the best long-range shooters and the league and Nneka Ogwumike, who is 1.2 percentage points ahead of McBride on 22 less attempts. McBride showed just what she was capable of in the Aces’ demolition of the Liberty on Sunday, hitting five of her seven threes. So sit back, let McBride get hot and watch the fireworks begin in her home arena.
Loyd is injured at the moment thanks to a nagging ankle injury, but she should be back soon and is absolutely worthy of a place among the starters. Just like Natasha Howard, she’s been one of the steadying presences in Seattle and is one of the reasons the defending champions are still competitive.
This year sees many automatic backcourt choices like Maya Moore, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird and Seimone Augustus missing for a variety of reasons. So if Loyd is healhty, she deserves a starting spot in Vegas for the simple fact that she can fill up the box score real quick and is sure to provide some fun moments during the game.
I kept you all a little long today, so let’s make these quick.
First up, if you haven’t read this by Sue Bird yet, you need to right now.
And speaking of soccer, the USWNT did the damn thing and won the World Cup! So what do you do when your squad wins it all? Why you imitate their celebrations of course.
— Chicago Sky (@wnbachicagosky) July 8, 2019
Finally this is such a dope idea from the WNBA to show off players’ styles and you’d be hard-pressed to find a cooler first guest than Kalani Brown. Next up, Brittney Griner.