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WNBA All-Star: My wish list for the 2023 skills competitions

Kelsey Plum would be a prime candidate for the 3-Point Contest during All-Star weekend in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The WNBA All-Star teams are set, but the lineup for the Skills Challenge and 3-Point Contest are still up in the air.​​ Friday’s competition serves as a precursor to the main event on All-Star weekend, with six players participating in the 3-Point Contest and eight in the Skills Challenge (if the WNBA sticks with the same format as last year).

With the entire league to choose from, here is my wish list for the players I’d like to see compete this weekend in Las Vegas.

3-Point Contest

Kelsey Plum, G, Las Vegas Aces

After struggling in last year’s 3-point contest on All-Star weekend, Kelsey Plum deserves a shot at redemption. Despite being an excellent 3-point shooter who averages 43.2% for her career, she was last in the competition in 2022. Teammate A’ja Wilson even said Plum “stunk it up.” The Vegas guard followed that performance up by winning 2022 All-Star Game MVP, but a good showing in this year’s 3-point competition would further erase last year’s struggles. Plum said she’s “not a rack shooter and more of a game shooter,” but why not both?

Lexie Brown, G, Los Angeles Sparks

The Sparks guard was considered a snub in last year’s 3-point contest after shooting 39.8% on the season, thanks to a hot hand in the first half. This year, Brown is even better from beyond the arc, shooting 42% and making 2.3 attempts per contest. An illness has kept Brown off the court since June 14, but if she’s healthy, the guard is a no-brainer addition to this year’s competition.

Karlie Samuelson, G, Los Angeles Sparks

Why not have a little intra-team competition? Brown’s teammate, Karlie Samuelson, would be a perfect candidate. She’s spent the last few seasons fighting for a WNBA roster spot and has found a home this year with the Sparks, shooting an incredible 48.2% from beyond the arc. Samuelson is currently injured, but if healthy enough, she deserves this honor.

DeWanna Bonner, F/G, Connecticut Sun

At 35 years old, Bonner is having the best 3-point shooting season of her WNBA career, averaging 38.2% with 2.2 makes per game. Bonner spent her offseason practicing twice a day to rehab an injury and improve her long-range shooting. Bonner’s desire to find ways to get better after 14 years in the league makes her special, and bringing her into the 3-point contest would be a great way to celebrate the veteran’s season.

Sabrina Ionescu, G, New York Liberty

Another player who is having the best 3-point shooting performance of her career, Ionescu is making 43.9% of her attempts this season, marking a 10% improvement on her average last season. She’s making 3.1 3-pointers per contest, good for second in the WNBA. Ionescu is the reigning Skills Challenge champion, so why not give her a chance to win the shooting portion as well?

Jackie Young, G, Las Vegas Aces

Another intra-squad rivalry would be on display if Young competed alongside Plum, and with the competition being held in Vegas this year, two Aces players would make for an exciting atmosphere. Not to mention, Young has had one of the best career arcs when it comes to 3-point shooting, shooting 25% in 2021 and 43.1% in 2022. This year, she’s an absolute must-guard shooter from beyond the arc, making 48.1% of her attempts.

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If this is Candace Parker's last season, an appearance in the Skills Challenge would be fitting. (Scott Eklund/NBAE via Getty Images)

Skills Challenge

NaLyssa Smith, F, Indiana Fever

The Fever forward participated in last year’s Skills Challenge as a rookie and finished in second place. Smith is having a great second-year campaign in Indiana, leading the team in rebounds per game and ranking second in points per game. Could a skills competition redemption be in her future? It’s certainly a possibility.

Sabrina Ionescu, G, New York Liberty

Speaking of last year’s contest, Ionescu took home the top prize and deserves a chance to defend her title. Having the Liberty guard compete in all three of the weekend’s events is a lot, but she certainly has a case to make the trio of appearances.

Rhyne Howard, G, Atlanta Dream

When it comes to All-Star snubs, no one was more deserving than Howard, who participated in the game last season as a rookie. She’s averaging 18.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game, building on her Rookie of the Year season in 2022. Since we won’t get to see Howard in the All-Star Game, she should at least make an appearance in the Skills Challenge.

Candace Parker, F/C, Las Vegas Aces

This is perhaps the biggest reach on the wish list, but who better to participate in the Skills Challenge than a do-it-all player like Parker? She’s made it clear that she’s nearing the end of her career, so if 2023 is Parker’s last season, it would be a shame for her to go without seeing her compete in some capacity this weekend.

Marine Johannès, G, New York Liberty

Is it really a skills competition without the flashiest player in the WNBA? The French guard does a little bit of everything, and she does it all with style. Johannès is sure to get “oohs and “aahs” every time she steps on the court, making this event the perfect showcase for an exciting player like her.

Courtney Vandersloot, G, New York Liberty

If we are going to have two Liberty guards, why not make it three by adding in the WNBA assists leader? Vandersloot runs the Liberty offense with ease, dishing out 8.5 assists per game. The WNBA veteran certainly has the skills to win this competition, and maybe Allie Quigley would even make an appearance to cheer on her wife. It only seems fair after years of Vandersloot’s support for the queen of the 3-Point Contest.

Satou Sabally, F, Dallas Wings

Other than Smith and Parker, this list is guard-heavy. Enter Sabally, who is the perfect forward for the skills competition. She’s 6-4, but plays more like a guard who shines in the fastbreak and leads the Wings on the run. That makes her a competitive candidate for this event. Plus, Sabally is having the best season of her career, averaging 17.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.

Jewell Loyd, G, Seattle Storm

Things are much different for the 4-14 Storm this season, but Jewell Loyd’s talent remains the same. She could easily participate in the 3-Point Contest, averaging 38.8% from beyond the arc and leading the league in 3-pointers made with 3.4 per game. But I’d rather see Loyd show off her complete skill set, like she’s been doing for Seattle all season.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Crypto.com Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a Change.org petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

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