By: Jeffrey Newholm
Nothing’s better in baseball than a pennant chase. But with the Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers so far ahead, baseball isn’t as exciting this season. Not to worry, as the top three WNBA teams are fighting for the top two seeds and the coveted double-bye. Between the Connecticut Sun, Washington Mystics, and Las Vegas Aces, the post-All Star game WNBA race more then fulfills hoop fans’ cravings in the NBA August doldrums. To better understand the race, it’s worth examining each team.
15-6, 1st place
Connecticut is an extremely streaky team. A seven-game winning streak, a five-game skid and now a five-game victory chain demonstrate this fact. Coach Curt Miller eschewed the common basketball maxim that successful teams need many megastars. It must be noted, however, that Bahamian gem Jonquel Jones has challenged that narrative with a breakout campaign. (Additionally, note the slick Sun passing).
Also, Shekinna Stricklen boosted the team’s profile with an impressive three-point contest victory on All-Star weekend.
Fortuitously, Connecticut has avoided injuries that bedevil others, with all five starters starting every game. Hot-and-cold shooting teams are a liability in single-elimination (the format of the first two rounds), so a top-two finish is an important goal.
14-6, .5 games back
Only the health of the fluid and agile Elena Delle Donne ensures Washington’s success. Delle Donne earned the 2015 MVP with Chicago and is a strong contender for this year’s. Her remarkable ability to seemingly float to the basket is unpeered.
Coach Mike Thibault holds the WNBA record for most wins but still hasn’t won a title. A balanced supporting cast around Delle Donne rewards Thibault’s patience, and 2018 produced a first-ever trip to the finals. With Washington’s star still at the height of her abilities, the avenue of opportunity has never been clearer. But the shorter the path to a title, the better. Top seeding would aid Delle Donne’s lingering aches.
Las Vegas Aces
14-7, 1 game back
After years of ignorant mismanagement in San Antonio, the 2018 arrival of the Aces proved to be a jackpot. Three straight #1 picks filled the roster with talent. The best of those three is second-year stud A’ja Wilson, who dazzles the league with nimble post-ups and pull-ups.
A trade for spectacular center Liz Cambage established Vegas’s status as a power-dealer. She holds the WNBA record with a 53 point game and overpowers hapless opponents. (When she’s not shooting over them).
The Aces prove to be a tremendous Vegas women’s hoops success, and expectations of a championship are suddenly widespread and plausible.
Epic Battle to WNBA Race Horn
Connecticut, Washington, and Las Vegas host the league’s biggest stars and swiftest successes. But only two will earn the double-byes in the WNBA race, with the third sentenced to an all-or-nothing contest. Furthermore, the top seed will have playoff home-court, so every game matters. While the NBA is completely dormant, the Sun, Mystics, and Aces are displaying athletic performances no hoops fan ought to miss.