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The Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty Are Early Contenders for the WNBA Title

Photo courtesy of @breannastewart via Twitter.

The WNBA world was shaken up after the acquisitions made by the New York Liberty and reigning champion Las Vegas Aces. With these trades and free-agent signings, the Liberty and Aces are now the early favorites to win their respective conferences next season and face each other in the 2023 WNBA Finals.

LAS VEGAS ACES

The Aces won their first championship in franchise history against the Connecticut Sun in a 3-1 victory. Forward A’ja Wilson won her second Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in 2022 and was named Defensive Player of the Year. Wilson averaged 19.5 points, 9.4 rebounds and a league-leading 1.9 blocks. Guards Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young earned their first All-Star selections, with Plum taking home the All-Star Game MVP award. Plum, Young, and Finals MVP Chelsea Gray formed a backcourt that contributed to Las Vegas’ league-leading scoring unit.

Now, Las Vegas will add a superstar in Candace Parker, who has accumulated seven All-Star selections, two MVPs, and two championships. Parker made the announcement via social media on Jan. 28.

The deal was made official on Feb. 1 after Aces general manager Natalie Williams made the announcement at a press conference. Wilson expressed her elation with Parker’s signing.

Parker will be a strong addition to an already-loaded roster. She will reunite with Gray, her former Sparks teammate when they won the 2016 WNBA championship. Parker and Wilson will be dangerous in the frontcourt with their abilities to score and defend.

Some may compare Parker’s singing to Kevin Durant joining the Golden State Warriors in 2016. Durant was a superstar at the time and signed with the Warriors after they went to the 2016 NBA Finals. Kaiya Creek, a junior forward on the Howard women’s basketball team, disagrees with this comparison.

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“I feel like this is a whole different situation with Candace Parker,” Creek said. “Candace is already coming to the Aces with a ring.”

NEW YORK LIBERTY

The Liberty made an all-in push after a rollercoaster 16-20 season.

Point guard Courtney Vandersloot signed with New York after 12 seasons in Chicago, where she earned four All-Star selections and a championship in 2021. Vandersloot’s ability to facilitate the floor is evidenced by her six-time league lead in assists. She is the WNBA’s all-time leader in assists per game.

The Liberty made a blockbuster three-team trade with the Sun and the Dallas Wings on Jan. 16 to acquire All-Star center/forward and 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones. Jones is a consistent rebounder, and her versatility makes her tough to defend.

Arguably the most prominent name acquired by the Liberty was former Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart, who led the league in scoring last season. She adds Finals experience to the Liberty, winning two championships and Finals MVPs in 2018 and 2020. Stewart also won MVP for the 2018 regular season.

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These superstar additions made by New York and Las Vegas have many pinning them with championship expectations. Creek says these moves will elevate each team’s chances to contend.

“With the trades going on, the league is being put in a great position for more support all around,” Creek said. “In my opinion, Candace Parker and Breanna Stewart are gonna be perfect fits for their new teams and their success. They will be playing with many other top players in the league, which will be setting them up in positions to win a championship. Also, with the Liberty picking up Epiphanny Prince and Courtney Vandersloot, they will be loaded at every position.”

Copy edited by Nhandi Long-Shipman

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