🏀 A WNBA season preview

May 11, 2023
With new-look teams, an expanded schedule, and a plethora of talent taking the court, here’s everything you need to know before the WNBA’s 27th season tips off on May 19th.
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🏀 A WNBA season preview
Source: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

⚙️ The set-up

The W’s (current) 12 teams are equally divided into two conferences — the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. Each squad will play 40 regular-season games (up from 36 last year), beginning tonight and running through September 10th.

  • Then on September 13th, the eight best regular-season teams (regardless of conference) will advance to the postseason. The first round will feature best-of-three series, while the second and third rounds will be best-of-five.
  • For the first time ever, players will fly charter for all playoff games, along with a small handful of back-to-back regular-season games. Ready for takeoff, baby.

Outside of the regularly scheduled programming, the in-season Commissioner’s Cup enters its third year with a $500K (!!!) cash prize on the line. As a refresher, the first home and road game each team plays against its conference opponents counts toward the Commissioner’s Cup standings.

  • The top squad in the East will take on the best in the West in the Commissioner's Cup Championship on August 15th. Must-see TV.

💪 The superteams

🃏 Las Vegas Aces: The reigning champs made two major offseason acquisitions, adding legendary two-time MVP Candace Parker and two-time title winner Alysha Clark to their already stacked squad of 2022 MVP A’ja Wilson, 2022 WNBA Finals MVP Chelsea Gray and All-Stars Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young. Now that's a royal flush.

🗽 NY Liberty: The Aces may be the favorites, but the Liberty arguably made the biggest offseason free agency moves in W history: 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart, 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones, and four-time All-Star Courtney Vandersloot are now rocking seafoam green, joining forces with 2020’s No. 1 overall draft pick Sabrina Ionescu. NY or nowhere.

👊 The contenders

🪄 Washington Mystics: Amid an offseason of shakeups, the ’Stics return four starters from last year’s playoff squad, most notably a healthy Elena Delle Donne. The 2019 MVP has struggled with injury over the last few years, but is now “by far the strongest [she’s] ever been.” Add Natasha Cloud to the mix, and the Mystics might just be a superteam spoiler.

☄️ Phoenix Mercury: Brittney Griner isn’t the only superstar returning for the Mercury — 40-year-old “fossil” Diana Taurasi is also back for her 19th WNBA campaign. That said, they’ll both have to step up until six-time All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith returns from maternity leave (timing TBD).

☀️ Connecticut Sun: Last year’s runners-up, the Sun lost two key pieces of their title-contending squad: the aforementioned Jonquel Jones to NY and longtime HC Curt Miller to the LA Sparks. That said, All-Star vets Alyssa Thomas, DeWanna Bonner, and 2022 Sixth Player of the Year Brionna Jones are ready to rise to the occasion.

🦄 Dallas Wings: Fresh off their first playoff win since moving to Dallas in 2016, the Wings made their own offseason splashes, trading for 2021 champ Diamond DeShields from the Chicago Sky and selecting sharpshooter Maddy Siegrist — the NCAA’s top scorer last season — in this year’s draft. Plus, two-time All-Star Arike Ogunbowale (pronounced ah-REE-kay oh-GOON-boh-WALL-ay) just keeps getting better.

😴 Atlanta Dream: After narrowly missing last year’s postseason, Atlanta boosted their backcourt with Olympic gold medalist Allisha Gray via trade and former Stanford standout Haley Jones through the draft. 2022 Rookie of the Year Rhyne Howard also returns, with no signs of a sophomore slump. Don’t sleep on ’em.

🐕 The underdogs

✨ LA Sparks: La La Land called and plenty came running, including WNBA champs Azurá Stevens and Dearica Hamby, and their new coach, the aforementioned Curt Miller. It’ll be an uphill climb, but Sparks might just have the tools — like standout 2023 draftees and Final Four stars Zia Cooke and Monica Czinano — to make it up the playoff mountain.

🐈‍⬛ Minnesota Lynx: Like many of their fellow underdog teams, the Lynx are in a rebuild, having waved goodbye to the irreplaceable Sylvia Fowles, who retired last summer. That said, keep eyes on 2023’s No. 2 draftee Diamond Miller and Napheesa Collier, who’s playing her first full season since returning from childbirth. No pressure, no diamonds.

🌪️ Seattle Storm: The winds of change are blowing in Seattle, with both Stewie and franchise icon Sue Bird departing. The Storm signed All-Star (and Canadian) Kia Nurse to provide crucial support for anchor Jewell Loyd, but as this new roster finds their groove, they’re in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

☁️ Chicago Sky: A moment of silence for the Great Chicago Exodus of 2023, when the Sky saw four of their five starters flee, including the aforementioned Parker and Vandersloot. Now, it’s up to 2021 Finals MVP Kahleah Copper to lead the 2021 champ franchise, including the newly-acquired Courtney Williams, back to the promised land.

🥵 Indiana Fever: Yes, they now have 2023 No. 1 draft pick Aliyah Boston, but the Fever finished dead last in both the 2021 and 2022 seasons. But hey, there’s nowhere to go but up, right? This team is young, hungry, and desperate to prove themselves — a dangerous and exciting combination.

📺 How to tune in

The fun begins with a four-game slate tonight, tipping off with the Sun vs. the Fever and the Liberty vs. the Mystics at 7 p.m. ET. But the matchup everyone will be staying up late to watch? Griner’s first game since 2021: The Mercury vs. the Sparks at 11 p.m. ET. Counting down the hours.