After five months of rigorous training camps, the 2023 WNBA season began. With a new season comes a familiar question: Can the Las Vegas Aces remain champions, or will the newly-revitalized New York Liberty bring home their first title?
Since then, a lot has occurred. The Connecticut Sun delivered a record-breaking season, while the Washington Mystics battled injuries. The Aces began with an impressive 16-1 record and won a league-record 34 games, despite Candace Parker only playing 18 matches. The Dallas Wings gave Las Vegas their second loss, then became their toughest playoff opponent, but the Aces swept Dallas and returned to the finals for the third time in four years.
And now we’re finally here for the highly anticipated 2023 WNBA Finals, featuring the two powerhouse teams – the Las Vegas Aces and the New York Liberty – going head-to-head.
As we get ready for the match-up, here are six players, and game keys that we believe you should keep an eye on when the series takes place.
Breanna Stewart, New York Liberty:
- The arrival of Breanna Stewart to the New York Liberty transformed the team. Stewart, who was awarded the league MVP in her first season, was a dominant force on both ends of the court, averaging 23.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game and earning a spot on the WNBA All-Defensive first team. Now, Stewart will have the chance to capture her third WNBA Championship.
A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces:
- The 2020 and 2022 WNBA MVP, came agonizingly close to overcoming Stewart in the 2023 race. Despite leading the top-seeded Aces with career-highs of 22.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, Wilson had to settle for third place. The competition between Wilson and Stewart could prove to be an epic one.
Jonquel Jones, New York Liberty:
- The 2023 WNBA Finals will feature an incredible battle between the last three league MVPs. Jonquel Jones, the 2021 MVP, recently made the move to New York after spending her first six seasons with the Sun. Jones has already faced Wilson and the Aces in the Finals before, so this time she will be looking for some well-deserved revenge!
Chelsea Gray, Las Vegas Aces:
- With two championship rings, five All-Star selections, and a WNBA Finals MVP already to her name, Gray has only improved her game in 2023. She achieved career-high averages of 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds per game, further cementing her status as an All-Star and champion.
Sabrina Ionescu, New York Liberty:
- Sabrina demonstrated her lethal shooting prowess from beyond the arc this season, leading the league in 3-point makes with 128 and boasting a 44.8% success rate – only Jackie Young of the Aces (44.9%) and Tyasha Harris of the Sun (46.4%) had a superior performance in the regular season.
Kelsey Plum, Las Vegas Aces:
- Kelsey finished second on the team and eighth overall in the WNBA in scoring, averaging 18.7 points per game. With their formidable backcourt scoring and defense, Plum, Gray, and Young will pose a major challenge for the Liberty, with Wilson going head-to-head against Stewart and Jones.
Coaching adaptability and adjustments!
- Not only do the Liberty and Aces boast star power in the form of Wilson and Stewart, but they also have the distinction of being the two most adaptable rosters in the league. While most other WNBA teams can only rely on one style of play, New York and Las Vegas are equipped to come out victorious under a variety of circumstances. This proved especially true in the semi-finals when the Liberty’s defensive changes made the difference against the Connecticut Sun.
- The WNBA Playoffs have put immense pressure on the Aces’ Becky Hammon and the Liberty’s Sandy Brondello to make the necessary adjustments that will determine the outcome of this series. Both teams have relied heavily on their starters during the playoffs, so their ability to lean on their depth may be the deciding factor.
This is a classic battle of coaching wits, and the adjustments made could determine who stands triumphant beneath a shower of confetti at the conclusion of the series.
In a year where the WNBA’s popularity has skyrocketed, this is the dream Finals the league has been waiting for. It is sure to be an historic series, starting this Sunday, October 8.