Basketball court: Saturday’s WNBA action resumes with A’ja Wilson and the Las Vegas Aces taking on the Indiana Fever.
Last season, A’ja Wilson came close to doing it all.
Wilson won the WNBA MVP award despite not having all-world centre Liz Cambage or outstanding point guard Kelsey Plum, and despite losing long-time All-Star Angel McCoughtry and Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby.
She then went on to perform even greater feats of bravery by leading a limping Las Vegas Aces to the Finals.
It was a little too much to win a title, especially with the way the Seattle Storm were playing in Florida during the 2020 season, but Wilson demonstrated that if her team’s health improved this year, she could go the additional mile.
You’d think something was wrong if someone told you Wilson’s scoring average this season was the second-lowest of her career, yet even as a rookie, she had MVP-worthy figures of 20 points and eight assists. She was back above 20 points last year.
In just her 4th #WNBA season @_ajawilson22 has tied Diana Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter as the fifth fastest player in @WNBA history to score 2,000 career points (104 games played). pic.twitter.com/J8Sogix8wK
— Las Vegas Aces (@LVAces) August 18, 2021
In 2019, she had a bad year because she was learning to play Cambage for the first time. The centre took up space in the low post, where Wilson prefers to operate and required productive touches and shoots.
Wilson’s scoring dropped to 16 points, but as the lone leader, she appeared to be a superior player. This is why the Aces were a topic of discussion heading into the season. It wasn’t that they lacked talent or that Wilson wasn’t capable; it was just a question of whether they could put the two together.
Better and bigger
When the Las Vegas Aces were fully healthy, size was not an issue. Liz Cambage, Dearica Hamby, Carolyn Swords, and JiSu Park provided them, five players, including A’ja Wilson, who stood 6ft 3in or taller and mostly played in the same section of the court in 2019.
Swords are no longer with the team, but head coach Bill Laimbeer clearly values size in the rest of the lineup. Jackie Young is developing into one of the league’s top large guards, using her 6’2″ frame to defend and finish with power, while the squad has signed Riquana Williams and Chelsea Gray, with the hope of Angel McCoughtry returning at some time. These tough, physical guards are exactly what Laimbeer is looking for in a ball-handling position. As a result, Kelsey Plum appears to have been demoted to the bench.
This multi-pronged strategy for eliminating competition is working. The Las Vegas Aces are in a tight competition for first place in the WNBA with the Connecticut Sun and the Seattle Storm.
You could believe that the first two rounds of the playoffs are easier because the better teams are usually pitted against a lower seed. The WNBA’s bye system, on the other hand, ensures that the top two teams move beyond the first two rounds of the playoffs, while the third and fourth seeds receive a single bye.
Positions 5-8 will compete in two rounds of single elimination.
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