The Las Vegas Aces want to take their talents to a different type of game –”Family Feud.”

On Sunday, Kiah Stokes posted on X (formerly Twitter) about the game show, asking if there was any way the two-time reigning WNBA champions could be featured as contestants. She even wanted to take the pitch directly to host Steve Harvey.

“Can we go on ‘Family Feud’??” she wrote, speaking about the Aces. “Who got Steve’s number?”

The Aces have had quite the championship tour, which already has included attending Usher’s residency in Las Vegas. And everyone – including the Aces’ social media admin – appeared to be on board with a potential “Family Feud” appearance.

“Let’s goooooo!! I’m down someone let Steve know!!” A’ja Wilson wrote.

“Count me in!!!!” Alysha Clark added.

“Oh yeah I guess I shoulda asked if y’all would be down,” Stokes responded.

Meanwhile, the Aces kept tweeting out Steve Harvey reactions with various captions, including calling out Sydney Colson – whose answers would undoubtedly warrant a classic Harvey reaction.

“We would be doin’ the most,” Colson wrote Monday.

The Las Vegas Aces had a lot to say during their 2023 WNBA championship parade, with much of it directed at the New York Liberty.

There was a lot of talking about going for a three-peat, with WNBA Finals MVP A’ja Wilson noting that the Aces are “going to do this s–t again.” The Aces were the first team in 21 years to win back-to-back titles, beating the Liberty in four games.

“We’re going to keep coming back, and everybody hates it,” Kelsey Plum told the crowd at Monday’s parade.

Yet the Aces’ Game 3 loss to the Liberty — their only loss throughout the 2023 playoffs — still sticks out as a source of frustration. In particular, Sabrina Ionescu’s “night night” celebration after hitting a key 3-pointer remains a point of contention. Sydney Colson mimicked the gesture after the Aces’ series-clinching win over the Liberty, and it came up again during the parade.

“They messed up when they went ‘night night,’” Chelsea Gray said. “And Sydney said I’m sitting on that Sabrina!”

Meanwhile, head coach Becky Hammon called out Liberty star Breanna Stewart’s Game 4 stat line, which included her going 3-for-17 from the field while being guarded by Alysha Clark.

“Alysha Clark was my rookie in San Antonio,” Hammon said, to which Clark replied: “Talk about it.”

“3-for-17 is you need to talk about it,” Hammon responded.

Wilson, meanwhile, was focused on her MVP snub, opting to wear a shirt that had the voting numbers on the back. She finished third for the regular-season award behind Stewart and Connecticut Sun star Alyssa Thomas. Wilson also called out the person that voted for her in fourth place, noting that she was going to use it as fuel for next season.

And at the end of the night, the Aces couldn’t resist getting in one more “night night.”

No bench? No problem, at least for the Las Vegas Aces.

In Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, the Las Vegas Aces took a 99-82 win against the New York Liberty. Of those 99 points, 91 came from four Aces starters.

Kelsey Plum (26), Jackie Young (26), Chelsea Gray (20) and A’ja Wilson (19) dominated for Las Vegas, which outscored New York by 20 points in the second half to take the 1-0 series lead. No four players have combined for more points in a WNBA Finals game, per ESPN’s Alexa Philippou.

The Aces’ other eight points came from Alysha Clark, the first player off the bench for the defending champions. Clark played 28 minutes; the rest of the Aces’ bench played just five minutes combined.

Kiah Stokes, the fifth starter for Las Vegas, is a defensive specialist, often trading places with Clark depending on possession. In Game 1, Stokes finished with zero points, but she had five rebounds and three assists.

Before Candace Parker’s injury, she held Stokes’ role as the second post player in the starting lineup alongside Wilson, averaging 9.0 points and 5.4 rebounds. Yet even with Parker on the sidelines, the Aces’ starting lineup is fearsome for opponents, as they proved again Sunday.

With the victory, Las Vegas has won its first six games of the 2023 postseason. The No. 1 seed Aces swept the No. 8 seed Chicago Sky and the No. 4 seed Dallas Wings to reach the championship series. Five other teams in WNBA history have won their first six postseason games, and all went on to win the title, per ESPN Stats & Info.

Alysha Clark is the WNBA Sixth Player of the Year. 

The two-time WNBA champion joined Las Vegas in February as a free agent and beat out DiJonai Carrington and Dana Evans for this year’s award. Clark averaged 6.7 points and 3.4 rebounds in 22.5 minutes per game.

Clark played an integral role in the team’s offense and defense, all while coming off the bench and joining the defending champion Aces as an outsider. And if you ask Las Vegas head coach Becky Hammon, she fit right in. The 36-year-old wing’s abilities allowed for Las Vegas to play smaller lineups but defend at a high level.

According to PBP Stats, the Aces have a 98.7 defensive rating and allow opponents to shoot 44.6% from 2-point range when Clark is on the floor. Those numbers go down whenever she isn’t in the game.

“What’s allowed her to fit in so seamlessly is that she’s a hooper, she fits right in,” Hammon told The Athletic. “She’s a great person, great teammate. Her IQ is pretty off the charts and her professionalism and approach, so I’m not really surprised how well she’s fit in. But I’ve loved how she’s fit in with our group.”

She’s a 12-year WNBA veteran, but this is her first individual award. She was named to the WNBA’s All-Defensive First Team in 2020, her last year playing in the WNBA before 2023; she played in Europe in the interim.

While never the centerpiece of an offense, Clark has honed her skills playing on teams with Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird, having played eight years in Seattle. When she joined the Aces, players like Jackie Young and A’ja Wilson told The Athletic they’re glad they no longer have to guard her.

“She’s a defensive guru,” Clark’s former teammate and current Seattle Storm coach Noelle Quinn said. “You put her on the floor and she can defend anybody.”

“She’s a huge piece for us on the court, for sure, just the level of versatility that she gives us on both ends,” Aces assistant coach Tyler Marsh added. “She gives us an ability to play big or play small depending on how we want to go with the lineups. She’s able to stretch the floor, and she’s able to guard the other team’s best defender. And she can guard one through four; at times, she can guard the five. When you have players who are as versatile as Jackie and A’ja as well defensively, that makes a ton of difference.”

Clark joins a long line of Las Vegas Aces players to win the Sixth Player of the Year award. She becomes the fourth in the last five years, joining Dearica Hamby (2019 and 2020) and Kelsey Plum (2022).

The confetti had barely settled from the Las Vegas Aces’ 2022 WNBA championship. Yet Becky Hammon already was evaluating ways in which her team could improve.

Sure, the Aces had just hoisted the trophy. But a new season was brewing, bringing with it new challenges and, more importantly for the Las Vegas coach, new opportunities to get better.

When she thinks of that 2022 squad, one weakness stands out: defense.

“Being an average defensive team wasn’t good enough,” Hammon said. “So I’ve challenged them. These women are not average at anything they put their hands in. So why would we settle for anything less than great defense every night?”

This season is different. The Aces hold a 13-1 record heading into Thursday’s superteam clash with the New York Liberty. They started the year with a seven-game winning streak, which included close calls against the Dream (87-92), the Fever (84-80) and the Sun (90-84) – but in each instance, the Aces held off their opponents, and in every case, it was because of their defense.

“A goal of ours is to stay top three of the league defensively,” A’ja Wilson said. “That’s where we need to aim, and we’re trying our best to do that.”

The Aces finally dropped a game on June 8, a 94-77 loss to the Connecticut Sun. Of that game, Hammon said the Sun “kicked our ass,” on both ends of the floor. Las Vegas gave up its highest point total of the season, allowing the Sun to shoot 57.1% from 3-point range. A career-high 41 points from DeWanna Bonner didn’t help.

But after the dismal performance, the Aces bounced back with six consecutive wins, many of them fueled by – you guessed it – defense. The streak included a 96-63 win against the Seattle Storm and a 93-62 win against the Minnesota Lynx in back-to-back games, their lowest point totals allowed this season.

In 2022, the Aces gave up 84.1 points per game, which ranked ninth in the 12-team league. This season, that number is down to 77.4, good for second-best in the WNBA. It wasn’t a major offseason overhaul that led to the improvement but rather a combination of key signings and a change in mindset.

Candace Parker was, of course, the Aces’ most high-profile signing during the offseason, and the 16-year veteran provided an instant defensive upgrade. At 6-4, she makes for a scary defensive combination with Wilson inside, but she also can match up with guards on the perimeter.

While the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year may be nearing the end of her career, she’s still a skilled defender, and her 1.5 steals per game so far this season is her highest mark since 2017.

Alysha Clark also joined Las Vegas in the offseason, and while not as high-profile as Parker, she also is another experienced player with a strong defensive skill set. A two-time All-WNBA Defensive team selection, Clark allows the Aces to play a smaller lineup, either to combat guard-heavy opponents or to bring pressure in the backcourt that speeds up the game.

Offseason addition Alysha Clark helps the Aces flex their defensive muscles. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

And 6-3 center Kiah Stokes is making an impact off the bench, playing more minutes – up from 15.3 to 18.5 – and averaging a career-high 1.5 blocks per game. Wilson, last season’s DPOY, points to Stokes as the player that holds the Aces’ defense together.

“Kiah’s the anchor to our defense,” Wilson told the Hartford Courant on June 7. “A lot of people say that it’s me, but I pass that to Kiah 100%. She is just always at the right place at the right time and I trust her, like guards trust us and then I trust Kiah when she’s behind me. So she literally holds it down.”

The offseason additions and Stokes’ increased role takes care of the X’s and O’s of the team’s defensive attack, but a large part of Las Vegas’ improvement comes from approach.

The 40-game WNBA schedule comes with quick turnarounds, and teams often play with just one day between games. The Aces take advantage of their limited practice, devoting even the smallest windows of time to defensive drills.

“Even though we don’t have a ton of time, we’ll just do a quick drill to make sure people are talking and active, and being as physical as we can be,” Sydney Colson said.

The team’s mindset has changed too, with defensive assignments becoming more of a priority. Everyone has turned up the intensity, and Hammon says that early in the season when Kelsey Plum wasn’t shooting well, it was the guard’s defense that kept her in games.

The team is bigger and stronger thanks to additions in the offseason, but if everyone isn’t contributing on defense, then there are breakdowns.

The goal for the Aces? Zero breakdowns.

“Sometimes things change game by game,” Colson said. “But it’s also the MO that we have. We want to be more physical, we want to compete on every possession.”

Editor’s note: This story was first published in the first week of the 2023 WNBA season. The Las Vegas Aces and the New York Liberty will face off for the first time this season at 10 p.m. ET Thursday.

The Superteam Era of the WNBA officially has begun.

Fans have gotten their first glimpses of the new-look New York Liberty and Las Vegas Aces squads. And while 10 other teams – like the Washington Mystics, who topped the Liberty 80-64 to open the season – have four months to make their cases, it’s easy to see why New York and Las Vegas are the favorites to battle it out for the WNBA title.

Here’s how they stack up.

Starting Five

Las Vegas Aces

Candace Parker, F, 6-4: The 37-year-old forward is looking to be the first WNBA player to win championships with three franchises after signing with the Aces as a free agent. She already has rings with the Sparks and the Sky in 2016 and 2021. Parker, who has been candid about being near the end of her professional career, is a two-time WNBA MVP and seven-time all-WNBA first team member. Over her 15-year career, Parker has maintained a reputation as a player who does everything. Last season she averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1 steal and 1 block.

A’ja Wilson, F, 6-4: Five seasons into her career and A’ja Wilson has already won two MVP awards. The South Carolina product has been dominant since her Rookie of the Year campaign in 2018, but the 2022 season was her best yet. Wilson led the Aces to their first WNBA title, averaging 19.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.4 steals per game.

Chelsea Gray, G, 5-11: After being snubbed for the All-Star game last year, Gray’s second half of the season became a revenge tour. Her play earned the point guard the Finals MVP trophy, as Gray averaged 21.7 points and 7.0 assists per game through the postseason while shooting 61.1% from the field and 54.4% from beyond the arc. Gray showed off her skills as a playmaker for others, and a shot-creator for herself, making over 60% of her contested looks.

Kelsey Plum, G, 5-8: Plum has gotten better every season since she was drafted No. 1 in 2017, and in 2022 she took a major step forward. The guard finished second in the WNBA in scoring with 20.2 points per game while also averaging a career-high 5.1 assists. After coming off the bench in 2021, coach Becky Hammon moved Plum back to a starting role and heavily relied on the guard throughout the season. She played 32.8 minutes per game, which ranked second in the league.

Jackie Young, G, 6-0: Young started the 2023 season on a high note, scoring 23 points in 26 minutes during the Ace’s first game of the season. Young is looking to build on a 2022 season that saw her named the league’s Most Improved Player. That’s largely because of the addition of a 3-point shot to her game. Young shot 25% in 2021 and 23.1% in 2020, but after dedicating herself to the craft, she shot 43.1% from long range in 2022. Young’s ability to shoot 3s adds another weapon to the Aces’ arsenal.

New York Liberty

Betnijah Laney, F, 6-0: Laney has been in the league since 2015 but had a breakout season in 2020 for Atlanta. She’s been a key piece for the Liberty since 2021, and while she missed most of last season with an injury, she’s back in top form and could end up being the unsung hero of this superteam. With big names around her, Laney likely won’t receive the same type of attention, but she will be impactful. The 29-year-old averaged 16.8 points, 5.2 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 2021. She also brings toughness, a scorer’s mentality and established chemistry with Ionescu.

Breanna Stewart, F, 6-4: The offseason’s most sought-after free agent landed with the Liberty after playing six seasons with the Storm. Stewart wasted no time establishing herself, setting a franchise record with 45 points in New York’s home opener. She already has won two WNBA titles and was named Finals MVP in both instances. When she signed with the Liberty, the UConn product instantly catapulted the team to the top of the WNBA.

Jonquel Jones, F, 6-6: When Jones was traded to the Liberty back in January, the move set off the superteam era. The opportunity to play with the 2021 MVP enticed Stewart and Vandersloot to sign with the Liberty, and it likely motivated Parker to sign with the Aces in order to give her a chance at a title as well. Jones is a versatile scoring threat who plays both inside and beyond the arc. In her last season in Connecticut, Jones led the Sun to the WNBA Finals and averaged 14.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals per game.

Courtney Vandersloot, G, 5-8: The one thing the Liberty needed after signing Jones and Stewart was an elite, pass-first point guard. They got that in Vandersloot, who is third on the WNBA’s all-time assists leaderboard and holds the record for most assists in a single game with 18. Vandersloot played all 12 of her WNBA seasons with the Sky and won a title with Chicago in 2021 before joining the Liberty.

Sabrina Ionescu, G, 5-11: The 2020 No. 1 pick transitioned seamlessly into the league, but last season was telling for the star guard. She plays best off the ball, which is why Vandersloot was such a key addition. Ionescu averaged 17.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game in 2022, while also posting her lowest turnover mark yet at 3 per contest. Known as the triple-double queen in college, she continues to do a little bit of everything in the WNBA.

Bench Players

Las Vegas Aces

Key players: Alysha Clark, Kiah Stokes, Riquna Williams

The one knock on the Aces last season was their lack of bench. It didn’t end up mattering, as the team secured a title, and Riquna Williams ended up playing big minutes in the Finals, but Becky Hammon & Co. still bolstered the bench unit in the offseason. They added an elite defender in 10-year WNBA veteran Alysha Clark. The Aces also retained Kiah Stokes, who brings rebounding and rim protection.

New York Liberty

Key Players: Marine Johannès, Kayla Thornton, Stephanie Dolson, Han Xu

Everyone off the bench for the Liberty brings something different to the court, which is what you want from secondary players. Johannès could easily be a starter for another team, and she’s an elite passer and crafty shot-creator. Thornton is an experienced vet who played six seasons mostly in a starting role for the Wings, and Dolson brings experience as well with nine WNBA seasons under her belt. Han Xu is a question mark for the Liberty, as she hasn’t seen much time in their first two games, but her size (6-10) and unique skill set (which includes 3-point shooting) make her a threat off the bench.

Head Coach

Las Vegas Aces

Becky Hammon set the bar high in her first season with the Aces, leading them to the franchise’s first WNBA title. She’s an experienced coach who spent years as an assistant for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs before taking the Aces job. Hammon also played 15 years in the WNBA and was a 6-time all star. The signing of Candace Parker put the Aces in position to compete for the title again, but it didn’t come without controversy. The Aces traded Dearica Hamby to the Sparks in order to make space for Parker, but a WNBA investigation found that Hamby was mistreated during the trade due to her pregnancy. Hammon denied the claims, but she was suspended for the first two games of the season.

New York Liberty

Sandy Brondello, like Hammon, has experience playing in the WNBA as well as coaching. She played professionally from 1992-2004, and she also represented the Australian National team, winning two silver medals in the Olympics. She got into coaching in 2005 as an assistant for the San Antonio Silver Stars, the franchise that became the Las Vegas Aces. Brondello made her name as a coach with the Mercury, coaching in Phoenix from 2014-2021 and winning a WNBA championship in 2014 before taking the Liberty job in 2022.

Team History

Las Vegas Aces

The Aces joined the WNBA in 1997 first as the Utah Starzz, then became the San Antonio Silver Stars (later just the Stars) before moving to Las Vegas in 2018. The franchise had one conference title in 2008, and then the Aces secured the first title last season.

New York Liberty

The Liberty joined the WNBA in 1997 as well but have stayed put in the New York City area (if not always in their current home borough of Brooklyn). The team has won three conference titles, in 1999, 2000 and 2002, but has yet to win a WNBA title.

The 2023 WNBA season is underway. And while the superteams are living up to their billing through the early going, anything is possible in the coming months.

Will A’ja Wilson repeat as WNBA MVP? Will the Las Vegas Aces repeat as champions? Or will we see new faces reach the top?

Just Women’s Sports’ WNBA experts Rachel Galligan, Lyndsey D’Arcangelo and Eden Laase came together to make their predictions for every major award.

Most Valuable Player

Galligan: Breanna Stewart, New York Liberty

One of the greatest players in the world is in a new city and has a new team name stretched across her jersey. I have a feeling Breanna Stewart has just begun to scratch the surface of her prime in New York. Stewart set the WNBA world on notice early this season with a franchise single-game record 45 points against the Indiana Fever two games into the season. Stewart looked energized and driven after narrowly missing out on the MVP award in 2022. Coming up just short of a big award tends to have an impact, and I fully expect Stewart to have a monstrous year on the court. There is no doubt that the Liberty have enough pieces and talent to be in contention all season long, although it may take a while for all of them to fully mesh.

D’Arcangelo: Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury

Stewart has come out of the gate on fire and currently holds the highest PER rating (38.5). She’s averaging 25.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game and shows no signs of slowing down. New team, new city, new season. And it’s all adding up to a motivated Stewie, which spells trouble for the rest of the league. That being said, my dark horse to win the MVP is Brittney Griner. She may not be back to form physically yet, but she’s already averaging 21.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game while shooting a league-leading 74.2% from the field. If she’s back in court shape by the middle of the season, that’s a checkmark in her favor.

Laase: A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces

If the undefeated Aces continue their dominance, A’ja Wilson could repeat as MVP. Despite playing fewer minutes this season thanks to the addition of Candace Parker and a bolstered bench unit, Wilson’s stats are identical to her line from last season. She’s averaging 19.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 1.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Breanna Stewart has better numbers right now, but if the Aces end the season as the WNBA’s top team and Wilson continues to lead them to victory, then she could once again claim the top individual honor. As it stands, I see the two battling it out for the award, just as they did last year.

Rookie of the Year

(Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Galligan: Aliyah Boston, Indiana Fever

I have been very impressed with Boston’s ability to seamlessly make the transition from college to the WNBA in such a short amount of time. The 6-5 rookie is second on the Fever in scoring with 15.8 points per game to go along with 6.0 rebounds, and she is shooting an efficient 66.7% from the floor. While those numbers look nearly identical to the type of numbers she put up at South Carolina, the only glaring area of concern has been her ability to adjust to fouls called — which is completely expected. Boston looks comfortable, confident and has the ability to throw her Fever team on her back down the stretch in games. Boston will get the minutes and experience necessary this season to showcase her impact in the WNBA, and I fully anticipate her to take home the Rookie of the Year award when it’s all said and done.

D’Arcangelo: Aliyah Boston, Indiana Fever

It’s no secret that Boston was the most pro-ready player in the 2023 WNBA draft. And she’s backed up the hype so far this season, averaging 15.8 points and 6.0 rebounds through four games. Out of all of the rookies, Boston has had the most minutes and the biggest impact on her team. While her former South Carolina teammate Zia Cooke, No. 2 overall pick Diamond Miller and international product Sika Koné are worth keeping an eye on, I think Boston might run away with this one.

Laase: Aliyah Boston, Indiana Fever

The rookie race could change as the season progresses and players get settled into the league, but it’s hard to imagine anyone but Boston taking the award. She’s the frontrunner for all of the reasons mentioned above.

Coach of the Year

Galligan: Stephanie White, Connecticut Sun

We saw half the league face coaching changes this last offseason, and White didn’t have the easiest act to follow in the Curt Miller and Jonquel Jones era in Connecticut. The early showings of this Sun team seem promising, with a combination of the Sun toughness to which we’ve been accustomed but also a breath of fresh air and new faces. The Sun have experience, veterans who know what it takes to win and fresh faces eager to fit into White’s system. White has the experience to bring all of that together and compete at the highest levels this season, and because of that, I think she has a good shot at the Coach of the Year award.

D’Arcangelo: Curt Miller, Los Angeles Sparks

The Los Angeles Sparks were a shell of their former selves last season. Derek Fisher was relieved shortly after the season started, and Liz Cambage jumped ship later in the year. Enter Miller. Since taking the helm, he’s added key players around the core of Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, including Layshia Clarendon, Lexie Brown, Dearica Hamby and Karlie Samuelson. He also brought in Jasmine Thomas and Azurá Stevens, who are both recovering from injuries. Adding Zia Cooke via the draft looks like a smart move as well. And by all accounts, the player combination and rotation seems to be working. Miller has the coaching pedigree and savvy to turn things around in LA. By the end of the season, I think we see the Sparks make the biggest leap.

Laase: Christie Sides, Indiana Fever

I can see White or Miller taking home the award, but I’ll add in Indiana Fever coach Christie Sides as a dark horse candidate. After losing 20 consecutive games, the Fever snapped their losing streak against the Dream, and you can see the product coming together on the court. Winning one game certainly isn’t enough to earn Sides the COY award, but if they Fever continue to put things together and find themselves in the running for a playoff spot, then she could earn the accolade.

Defensive Player of the Year

(Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images)

Galligan: Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury

Griner was named Defensive Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons in 2014 and 2015 and is making a strong case for her third. Griner leads the WNBA in blocks at 3.7 per game early on this season, and the 6-9 center alters the entire dynamic of the game with her imposing presence in the paint. Griner has been dominant, swatting shots and forcing players to second guess their decision-making in the paint, and she single-handedly has the ability to shift game momentum. I’ve got my eye on Griner and the Mercury as they continue to work their way back into form.

D’Arcangelo: Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun

Thomas has flirted with Defensive Player of the Year honors for the past few seasons. She was the WNBA steals leader and part of the All-Defensive First Team in 2020, and she made the All-Defensive Second Team in 2017, 2019 and 2022. Last season was her most productive year on the defensive side of the ball. Her physical play, knack for rebounding and court awareness have set her apart defensively, especially in the paint. Maybe this will be the year she finally comes away with the award.

Laase: Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun

I’m with Lyndsey on this one. Thomas has been close to winning DPOY several times, and for good reason. Her defensive ability is well-known, but in many ways still underrated. Thomas has tremendous strength and instincts, and she can guard multiple positions on the court, making her a tremendous asset for the Sun. She also attacks the glass and manages to stay out of foul trouble. All of those qualities add up for an impressive DPOY resume.

Sixth Player of the Year

Galligan: Alysha Clark, Las Vegas Aces

This is a tough one for me early on this season, and with several names at the top of the list, ultimately I come back to Clark. She brings a well-rounded approach on both ends of the floor and has a versatility to her game that allows her to embrace whatever is asked of her. She made the decision to take her talents to the Aces fully understanding she’d likely need to embrace the sixth player role and contribute both offensively and defensively off the bench. Clark has been asked to accept many different roles during her WNBA career but arguably would be a starter for any other team. Early on, she’s been steady and consistent, averaging 8.5 points, shooting an efficient 48% from the field and collecting 1.8 rebounds per game.

D’Arcangelo: Sug Sutton, Phoenix Mercury

Sutton was selected 36th overall in the 2020 WNBA draft by the Washington Mystics. She played in 12 games, averaging 9 minutes and 2.8 points. This season, Sutton signed a training camp contract with the Phoenix Mercury. She not only made the roster, she’s been an integral part of the team. Coming off the bench, Sutton is averaging 30.0 minutes and 12.3 points per game. As the third-leading scorer on the Mercury, she has been a reliable and steady presence in the absence of Shey Peddy and Skylar Diggins-Smith.

Laase: Marine Johannès, New York Liberty

She hasn’t played a game yet because of overseas obligations, but now that Johannès is back on American soil, I expect her to make a major impact for the Liberty. The guard could easily be a starter on another team, but due to the stacked nature of the Liberty, she will be coming off the bench. Her ability to create, for herself and for others, makes Johannès an asset off the bench. It means the Liberty can sub out Courtney Vandersloot or Sabrina Ionescu without offensive drop-off, which is a major luxury. Johannès averaged 10.0 points and 3.4 assists last season, while dazzling with her passing ability.

Most Improved Player

(Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

Galligan: Lexie Brown, Los Angeles Sparks

While there is a strong case to be made for a lot of second-year players – including NaLyssa Smith, Shakira Austin and even Naz Hillmon – I have been so impressed with the way Brown has started this season. While it has taken Brown a few years to find her full comfort as she has faced a lot of change, she looks as confident and comfortable than I have seen her in her six WNBA seasons. Brown is getting a chance to play consistent minutes, averaging 10.7 points and is shooting 43% from the 3-point line, making her one of the top perimeter threats in the league early on. Curt Miller knows how to coach a backcourt, and he’s going to put his players in the right situations to have success. For that season, Brown is one of my early favorites for Most Improved.

D’Arcangelo: Lexie Brown, Los Angeles Sparks

This award is going to be tough to decide. There’s a handful of players who have put in the work in the offseason and it’s translating to the court. As Rachel mentions, Smith and Austin look like anything but second-year players. Satou Sabally is fully healthy and having a great start to the season for Dallas. But I really like what I’ve seen in Brown, who is now in her sixth season in the W. Brown has come alive in her second year with the Sparks, averaging career-bests in minutes, points, field goal percentage, assists, rebounds and 3-point field goal percentage. There’s no denying she’s improved across the board.

Laase: Shakira Austin, Washington Mystics

Shakira Austin is well on her way to becoming a WNBA star, and she’s already a major piece on a Mystics squad that can contend for a title. Austin’s minutes have increased from 21.6 to 27.0 per game, and her stats have followed suit. The center is averaging 14.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.3 steals per game, improving upon last season’s stat line of 8.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 0.8 steals. What’s more, Austin is becoming a player the Mystics can play through. When they get her the ball, good things happen, whether it’s Austin attacking her defender and finishing, or finding a teammate for an open shot.

Most Surprising Team So Far

Galligan: Washington Mystics

The Mystics came out of the gate hot from the jump, dominating the Liberty on opening day, but then they dropped their next two to the Sun. Elena Delle Donne looks fantastic and healthy and Shakira Austin has really taken a huge step from her rookie season, playing more and more like a seasoned veteran every single night. The Mystics’ backcourt has struggled to connect and score at the rate I would have expected, but I’m not concerned. It’s early, and I fully expect their veteran guards to start to connect more offensively in the coming weeks. Look for this team to be among the top four at the end of the season.

D’Arcangelo: Chicago Sky

The Sky was literally falling in Chicago, as the team’s core group of players left for other teams during free agency. But coach and general manager James Wade has seemingly pulled a little magic out of his hat, assembling a viable roster that’s deeper than people think. Kahleah Copper leads the team with 14.6 points per game and is relishing the go-to player role. And although it cost Chicago a pretty penny, Marina Mabrey has been worth every cent so far with 14.3 points per game. Grabbing Sika Koné off waivers after the rookie forward was let go from the Liberty also looks like a win for the Sky. Despite having a completely different player rotation, Chicago has manage to make it all work. And it’s been fun to watch.

Laase: Connecticut Sun

With a new coach and the absence of Jonquel Jones, I expected some drop-off from last season’s runner up. But the Sun look just as good – dare I say, better at times – than they did last season. No one player has stepped in to fill Jones’ shoes, but together, everyone is taking on bigger roles to fill the scoring and defensive gap she left behind. Connecticut has incredible chemistry, and every player understands what Stephanie White needs from them. With two early wins over the Mystics, the Sun have my attention.

WNBA Champions

(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Galligan: Las Vegas Aces

It’s hard to look at the Las Vegas Aces and argue against them as the heavy favorite to win a title again in 2023. The Aces reloaded in the offseason and found ways to address their lack of depth with the addition of WNBA champions Candace Parker and Alysha Clark to go along with their All-Star core from last year. This team has what it takes to repeat, they are a matchup nightmare, and someone different can go off any given night.

D’Arcangelo: Las Vegas Aces

After winning its first title in franchise history last season, Las Vegas somehow leveled up by signing Candace Parker and Alysha Clark in free agency. With a complete roster featuring some of the best players in the league, it’s difficult to find a weakness. Jackie Young won the Most Improved Player award last season and looks even better as an early MVP candidate, while Chelsea Gray, A’ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum are continuing to do their thing. Adding Parker into the mix along with a defensive X-factor like Clark only makes the Aces that much more dominant. A repeat looks inevitable — unless the Liberty have something to say about it.

Laase: Las Vegas Aces

The defending champs are once again the favorite to win the WNBA title. There are teams that could challenge them, including the Mystics, Sun and Liberty, but overall, no one compares. A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young, Chelsea Gray and Candace Parker are all incredible talents, but they also play well together as a team. Parker transitioned into the lineup seamlessly, and with the addition of Alysha Clark to bolster the bench unit, the Aces are even better than last season.

When the Las Vegas Aces added Candace Parker and Alysha Clark during the offseason, the 2022 WNBA champions were quickly dubbed a “superteam.”

But that’s not how star player A’ja Wilson views the Aces’ lineup.

“I don’t believe in superteams,” the two-time WNBA MVP said on a recent episode of “Podcast P with Paul George.”

“I just feel like we’re all coming together with an equal goal and we’re just trying to reach that goal. That doesn’t make us a superteam because we got a couple of accolades. …It’s like, I don’t believe in ring chasing.”

George, who plays for the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, wasn’t so quick to buy Wilson’s argument,

“If you look to your left and see Kelsey Plum, you look to your right and see Candace Parker –” he started.

“That’s not a superteam!” Wilson interjected. “We’re talented, we’re skilled? Yes. But when it comes to a superteam? Nah.”

Wilson went on to note that the “superteam” label adds pressure she and her teammates didn’t ask for.

“(If) we lose a game, they’re like, ‘Oh, this superteam sucks,'” she said. “Well, no one told y’all to label us the superteam.”

Of course, the Aces haven’t yet lost a game yet. Las Vegas is off to a perfect 4-0 start, winning two of those games while head coach Becky Hammon was serving a suspension.

Wilson credited Hammon, who is in her second year as Aces head coach, with helping Las Vegas become a superteam — if that’s what people insist on calling them.

“Becky just makes us look like a superteam,” Wilson said. “Her mind is incredible, the way she views the game and picks it apart.”

The Las Vegas Aces unveiled the team’s new training center and headquarters on Friday. The 2022 WNBA champions boast the first facility built solely for a WNBA team in league history.

“I can’t wait to see this in person,” tweeted two-time WNBA champion Alysha Clark, who signed with the Aces in February.

The new facility in Henderson, Nevada, features two basketball courts, a weight room, film room, nutrition bar, plush locker suites, and athletic training amenities including a cryo chamber and infrared sauna — all decorated with black-and-white Aces’ branding.

The Seattle Storm are next in line to open their dedicated training center and headquarters. The Storm broke ground on their facility last month.