And then…there were four.
As it turned out those four would likely have been the same four we would have seen if the WNBA playoffs were still being contested under the previous format.
The Las Vegas Aces, Chicago Sky, Seattle Storm and Connecticut Sun occupied the top four seed entering postseason play. As it turned out, those are the final four teams standing with a championship in the balance.
Five-game semifinal contests await between the Aces and Storm as well as the Sky and Sun. These four teams were the best teams throughout the course of the season, making it all the more fitting that Las Vegas, Seattle, Chicago and Connecticut would be the last four teams competing for a championship.
Here is a look at all four teams and how we see these series playing out.
Las Vegas Aces
There has arguably been no season where a championship appears to be on a tee for the Aces than this one. From the fact that coach Becky Hammon has led Las Vegas to the best record in the WNBA to A’ja Wilson likely being named league MVP, everything is coming up Aces in 2022.
Add that to the fact that Las Vegas probably has not one, or two … but three MVP-worthy players when one adds Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young to what Wilson has done and a big three has certainly taken shape in Sin City.
The Aces’ biggest issue has been their depth – and that took a hit when Dearica Hamby went down with an injury prior to the start of the playoffs. But as Las Vegas making short work of the Phoenix Mercury appeared to prove, the path to a WNBA championship runs through Michelob Ultra Arena
Given the late-season struggles of the Storm at the conclusion of the 2021 season under coach Noelle Quinn, it was justifiable why a sizable amount of Storm Crazies were worried that those struggles would continue into 2022.
Except Seattle was hampered by injuries in the latter portions of 2021 and with Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and a retiring Sue Bird at the helm, the Storm are once again in championship form. This was proven by Seattle making short work of the Washington Mystics.
It has not only been the Storm’s big three that has been catalysts for the team all season. Tina Charles is hungry for her first championship. Ezi Magbegor has proven to be an anchor on the defense. Mercedes Russell has given the team plenty of production with her minutes.
The Aces have defeated the Storm thrice this season – including once at Climate Pledge Arena. As badly as fans (and maybe even the WNBA itself) may want the story of Bird winning a championship in her final season, the Aces appear to hold all the cards (and the home court advantage). Las Vegas in five.
To be the champs, one has to beat the champs.
As of now, the Chicago Sky are still the champions even though James Wade (this year’s Executive of the Year) received everything they could handle and then some from a New York Liberty team just now getting re-acclimated to playoff basketball.
Everyone knows at this point wherever Candace Parker goes, championships have the potential to follow. Everyone knows that the Sky also have Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley as part of its talented veteran nucleus. Everyone knows that Chicago still has last year’s Finals MVP in Kahleah Copper who herself has become a household name in WNBA circles.
But two major reasons why the Sky are once again sitting at the top of the W’s food chain are Rebekah Gardner (who has put herself in the Rookie of the Year conversation) and Azura Stevens who has proven her value in her own right.
Just because New England’s resident WNBA team has been short on playoff success does not mean it is short on talent. From Alyssa Thomas to Courtney Williams to last year’s MVP Jonquel Jones, there are plenty of reasons why so much winning basketball has been played at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Unfortunately, ever since coming close to tasting Finals glory in 2019 in that series with the Mystics, Curt Miller’s Team Keesusk has encountered even more hard luck in the playoffs. The Sun did not have Jonquel Jones in 2020 as she did not travel to the bubble and Thomas was sidelined for much of the 2021 season for an achilles injury.
Jasmine Thomas was bit by the injury bug this time. As the Sky were in its three-game tilt with the Liberty, Connecticut was taken to the limit in its short series with the Dallas Wings, having to win a Game 3 on the road in Arlington. The Sun prevailed in the three games over the Wings. Up to this point, Jones, Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner along with Williams are the five Sun who have averaged at least double digits in scoring this season.
Expect Connecticut to give the Sky a series, but the defending champions are the defending champions for a reason. Chicago proved this when they went down 1-0 to New York only to come back and send the Liberty packing in the final two games of that series.
Chicago owns four victories over the Sun this season, but all of those were close victories. Sky in five.