WNBA: Is a Las Vegas Aces’ three-peat inevitable?

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As the WNBA season begins, here’s how Swish Appeal’s staff evaluates the standing of all 12 teams. Just as was the case after free agency, the Las Vegas Aces are on top, appearing poised to once again defend their title and become the first WNBA team to three-peat since the Houston Comets accomplished a four-peat over the league’s first four seasons.

1. Las Vegas Aces

Las Vegas Aces training camp.
Photo by Ian Maule/NBAE via Getty Images

On the Aces’ prospect of making history by becoming only the second team to win back-to-back-to-back championships, Myke Horrell emphasizes:

Overall, this season will be fun and rewarding, but it will also come with extreme difficulty. The Aces can etch their name in history—and the objective of 11 other teams is to prevent that from happening. A’ja Wilson has a chance at MVP redemption…and the squad has a shot to capture the first three-peat in the WNBA since the turn of the century. If there’s a team that can do it, it’s this one.

2. New York Liberty

New York Liberty v Connecticut Sun

Betnijah Laney-Hamilton.
Photo by Erica Denhoff/NBAE via Getty Images

The Liberty remain the biggest challenger to the Aces, not only because of their talent, but, as Chelsea Leite writes, because of the team’s improved chemistry:

The benefit to this season is the chemistry that the team built last season. In 2023, there was a period of team building as the brand-new core found their footing. With an entire season of playing together behind them, this core team will be ready to head into the 2024 season and get going immediately.

3. Seattle Storm

Seattle Storm v Los Angeles Sparks

Skylar Diggins-Smith.
Photo by Sergei Belski/NBAE via Getty Images

The Storm lurk on the periphery of the WNBA’s superteam conversation after the offseason additions of Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith. Edwin Garcia highlights what the pair are expected to bring to the Pacific Northwest:

You have the 12-year vet Ogwumike coming off a MVP-caliber season, averaging 19.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game last year with the Los Angeles Sparks. She’s left her only WNBA home of LA for Seattle, looking to continue her legacy. Diggins-Smith had a tumultuous end in Phoenix, but her ability to perform at a high level should not be questioned. In 2022, she scored 19.7 points per game, along with 5.5 assists, and if she can replicate those numbers this season, it will be a lot of sleepless nights for opponents traveling to Seattle.

4. Connecticut Sun

2024 Connecticut Sun Media Day

DeWanna Bonner, Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones.
Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

Behind the trio of Alyssa Thomas, DeWanna Bonner and Brionna Jones and a commitment to defense, Noa Dalzell suggests the Sun again can establish themselves as contenders:

The advantage in keeping Connecticut’s veteran core together is that [head coach] White and her staff can build off of last year’s success, rather than start from scratch with a new group. Last year, the Sun had the second-best defense in the league with a 98.8 rating. That defensive success largely is what allowed them to be so effective during the regular season.

5. Minnesota Lynx

Chicago Sky v Minnesota Lynx

Courtney Williams and Napheesa Collier.
Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The biggest reason to believe in the Lynx’s upside? Napheesa Collier. On her excellence, Eric Nemchock writes:

2023 was a breakout season for Collier, who took the leap to become a full-fledged star in her first year as Minnesota’s unquestioned go-to player. Collier averaged a career-high 21.5 points per game (fourth in the WNBA) along with 8.5 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks per game, earning her third All-Star appearance and first All-WNBA First Team honor. Expect more of the same from Collier in 2024. She’s one a handful of WNBA players who produce at a star level on both ends of the court.

6. Dallas Wings

Indiana Fever v Dallas Wings

Arike Ogunbowale.
Photos by Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images

After finishing in the top four last season, will the Wings backslide in 2024? Edwin Garcia wonders if Dallas did enough to keep up with the league’s super teams:

Did Dallas overachieve last year? Maybe. Relying on a big leap from Sabally and having Ogunbowale carry such a heavy load isn’t a recipe for success. Maybe 2023 is the best that pairing can give you….maybe this team is stuck in the middle of the league: not good enough to contend and not bad enough to get a top draft pick.

7. Atlanta Dream

Washington Mystics v Atlanta Dream

Jordin Canada, Rhyne Howard and Allisha Gray.
Photo by Dale Zanine/NBAE via Getty Images

On the surface, a seventh-place finish would be disappointing for the Dream after earning the No. 5 seed last season. However, as Cat Ariail writes, the process, as much as the results, matter for Atlanta’s outlook:

In 2024, consistency should be the primary priority for the Dream, establishing a foundation of game-to-game good basketball that, in future seasons, blossoms into great basketball. Because, despite the offseason additions of Jordin Canada, Tina Charles and Aerial Powers, it’s unrealistic to believe that the Dream can contend with the league’s super teams. However, it should be expected that the Dream take a demonstrable step toward becoming a team that, sooner than later, confidently can challenge the W’s best.

8. Phoenix Mercury

Los Angeles Sparks v Phoenix Mercury

Diana Taurasi.
Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

The Mercury made big moves over the offseason, but could they back fire? Edwin Garcia sees a possible, steep downside for Phoenix:

What if Taurasi takes an even bigger dip in production and becomes unplayable? What if Griner’s herculean efforts go in vain, and Phoenix is losing by 15-plus points regardless of her play? What if Copper stagnates with the Mercury and can’t take the next step in her career or help Phoenix win games? Do those late-round draft picks even make the roster? Do they develop? Are they even good?

9. Indiana Fever

Indiana Fever v Dallas Wings

Aliyah Boston, Caitlin Clark and NaLyssa Smith.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Excitement about what the Fever could become currently outpaces what they are. And, as Łukasz Muniowski posits, it’s worth wondering how the team will manage the intense attention:

The Indiana Fever are entering uncharted territory, as this sort of media frenzy is usually reserved for big market teams. Now everything they do—or rather fail to do—will be scrutinized by the media. So while the attention might be exciting and serve as a morale booster when properly utilized by Coach Sides, playing 36 regular season games on national television comes with a lot of pressure.

10. Chicago Sky

WNBA: MAY 07 New York Liberty at Chicago Sky

Angel Reese and Teresa Weatherspoon.
Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It might be a challenging season for the Sky, but, with new head coach Teresa Weatherspoon at the helm, there is reason to believe in Chicago’s ability to persevere—and maybe overachieve. Zachary Draves notes:

Since their improbable run to the WNBA title in 2021, the Chicago Sky have been a staple in the league. They have been a consistent presence in the postseason since 2019 and have proven themselves to be a team that has found a way to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, from changes to the coaching staff to roster changes to injuries and more. As they begin the 2024 season, the Sky are about to embark on what undoubtedly will be a season of excitement and anticipation. But also expect a fair amount of adversity.

11. Los Angeles Sparks

Seattle Storm v Los Angeles Sparks

Cameron Brink.
Photo by Jordan Jones/NBAE via Getty Images

The Sparks are beginning a re-something. To make sure it is successful, Edwin Garcia argues for the importance of lottery picks Cameron Brink and Rickea Jackson developing into stars:

It’s a new era of Sparks basketball, with the team drafting Cameron Brink as the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft and Rickea Jackson at the No. 4 selection. It’s unclear how good they’ll be, but it is clear they’ll have every opportunity to showcase their talent here in Southern California.

Whether you call this a rebuild, a retool or refresh, it’s a re-something. The Sparks are far from the top of the league; to usher in a new era, the organization has to get the most out of this pair of young players.

12. Washington Mystics

2024 Washington Mystics Media Day

Brittney Sykes.
Photo by Kenny Giarla/NBAE via Getty Images

It will be a season of change for the Mystics, with the team looking to establish a new core due to Elena Delle Donne’s decision to sit out the 2024 season. However, as Josh Felton writes, expect Brittney Sykes to be a constant in DC:

Most advanced metrics label Sykes as a top-20 player, which seems pretty accurate based on the state of the league; however, I think that she can make another leap this year into the top-15. She has that type of two-way impact that very few guards have and it’ll be interesting to see if she can replicate last year’s performance.

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