Finally ! The WNBA is back next week with the first games starting on May 6th. This year I’ll be looking at two teams in particular : Las Vegas and Chicago. I’ll talk about Chicago and a potential back-to-back championship tomorrow as on this article I’m focusing on Las Vegas. So let’s talk about the Aces !
Two years of highs… and lows…
Two years ago the Aces peaked for the first time. During the 2020 playoffs, without Liz Cambage, Las Vegas easily accessed the WNBA finals. The team, coached by Bill Laimbeer and led by a fabulous A’ja Wilson who realized an MVP level season, proved that they were now able to reach the top of the WNBA with a young and talented roster. Unfortunately but quite logically, Vegas’ first title hopes ended up in rough way, with a good old sweep by Seattle. A tough but important loss as starting from this point, everyone knew how far this team could go. When the 2021 season started, we all thought that it would be THE year for the Aces, especially since Seattle clearly lost a lot of of its important players during the summer. However, those who watched the 2021 WNBA season know how it ended. A tough and unexpected loss against Phoenix in semi-finals with a team of Vegas that looked stunned as if they were unable to play their game properly. One player was highly criticized : Liz Cambage. Already criticized during the regular season, Cambage was quickly considered as the main issue in the Aces roster. True or not, we’ll never know but it’s hard to say that only one player can be responsible for the team’s loss. In addition to that, during the past season, Bill Laimbeer showed some limits in his coaching, especially in the way he was using two all-star calibers interiors, in the person of A’ja Wilson and Liz Cambage. So after a tough and disapointing season, it was clear that Las Vegas needed to make some modifications… and we can’t say they didn’t.
New coach, new roles and new dynamic
Announced as the new Aces head coach just a few month ago, Becky Hammon comes in Vegas with the objective of changing the team’s dynamic and finally bring a WNBA for the Aces. After a long and succesful career as a player and a lot of years of experience as Popovich’s assistant coach in San Antonio, it’s finally time for her to lead a team, in the league she onced played in. But what does it means for the Aces ? Becky Hammon is one of the most talented coach in the US. Her experience, both as a player and as an assistant with the one of the greatest coach the NBA has ever known are elements that a team Las Vegas was looking for. She knows and understand the game perfectly and as an retired WNBA star, she’ll be respected by the players.
But this summer in Vegas, another main change happened : Liz Cambage left the team and this is very important in how the team will play this season. Without Cambage, Wilson has all the space and the game time she needs to perform like she did during the 2020 playoffs. We’ll see if losing Cambage was a good thing for the team or not but the last time they played without her was during the 2020 playoffs and they reached the final. We need to add to this argument the fact that in two years, Aja Wilson obviously gained in experience and skills, as well as Kelsey Plum who’s starting to look like a solid and reliable point guard for Las Vegas.
The disapointing 2021 season belongs to the past now and no doubt they’ll be ready to take on this new season. Becky Hammon as their new coach, a lot of space and game time for A’ja Wilson and a more experimented Kelsey Plum as a point guard, Las Vegas have some solid arguments this season. Can they be champions ? Yes, but they’ll have to play perfectly especially against teams like Chicago. Their season will also depends on how good A’ja Wilson will be and on how Becky Hammon will coach this team (even if I don’t really have doubts on how good she’ll be as a head coach).
More objectively, I’d say that Vegas needs to aim for a strong regular season and a good performance in play-offs before heading for a potential title next year. But who knows, maybe they’ll get the ring this year…
This year Las Vegas Aces roster :
- Kierstan Bell (G) #1
- Sydney Colson (G) #51
- Chelsea Gray (G) #12
- Dearica Hamby (F) #5
- Theresa Plaisance (F) #55
- Kelsey Plum (G) #10
- Aisha Sheppard (G) #4
- Kiah Stokes (C) #41
- Riquna Williams (G) #2
- A’ja Wilson (F) #22
- Jackie Young (G) #0