WNBA All-Star week is here.
As we gear up for the matchup between Team USA and Team WNBA in one of the most exciting All-Star Games in memory, we are eyeing a few storylines that could define the battle of the WNBA’s best. Tune in Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN to see who comes out on top in Las Vegas.
Which first-time All-Star will make a statement?
There are seven first-timers on Team WNBA: Kahleah Copper, Dearica Hamby, Brionna Jones, Betnijah Laney, Arike Ogunbowale, Satou Sabally and Courtney Williams. Team USA has one in Ariel Atkins.
Laney, in particular, has been on a tear this season with the Liberty. A season after being named the WNBA’s Most Improved, Laney is seventh in the league with 19 points per game.
Ogunbowale, the third-year Wings guard, is just behind Laney in scoring, averaging 18.9 points per game. She’s also scored in double figures in a league-leading and franchise-record 58 consecutive games entering the Olympic break. Ogunbowale should be extra motivated in Wednesday night’s matchup after missing out on a U.S. Olympic roster spot.
Who will win the star-studded frontcourt battle?
When it comes to post play, there’s no shortage of star power on either side. Team WNBA features Liz Cambage, Jonquel Jones and Candace Parker. Parker has been a major factor in the Chicago Sky’s turnaround, leading the team to a seven-game win streak after returning from injury. Jones has been on fire all season and still sits second in league scoring after returning from a history-making EuroBasket run for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Meanwhile, Cambage is one of the more efficient shooters in the group, with a 54.3 field goal percentage, and one of the best shot blockers in the league.
The only two players on the floor who block more shots per game than Cambage are Sylvia Fowles and Brittney Griner of Team USA. The national team also has Tina Charles, who leads the WNBA with 26.3 points per game — more than five points ahead of second-place Jonquel Jones.
Can the WNBA All-Stars actually beat Team USA?
For the first time in the WNBA’s 25-year history, Team USA will take on a group of WNBA All-Stars in a matchup officially recognized as an All-Star Game. As the U.S. national team prepares for the Olympics, where it will be playing for its seventh straight gold medal, there’s a legitimate question as to whether Team WNBA can beat the gold medal favorites.
As Jonquel Jones said in Sunday’s postgame presser, they certainly want to. And Team WNBA also has the talent to do so.
Each team has nine players in the top 25 in scoring, so the game will likely come down to the defensive battle. Team WNBA also boasts playmaker Courtney Vandersloot, who leads the league in assists, and Ogunbowale and Kahleah Copper, who have something to prove after competing in U.S. training camps but not making the final roster for the Olympics.