Recognizing WNBA players and teams with Game Balls for May 2024

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

It was billed by many as the most anticipated season in WNBA history. One month into said season, one can see exactly why it was so incredibly hyped up by those even traditionally outside of the W’s sphere. 

While today’s 40-game WNBA slate is more of a marathon than the sprint it previously was, an impressive month of May can certainly be a table setter for things to come later on down the line. Several players and teams had those impressive first months. 

Without further ado, we at Beyond The W are bestowing game balls for those who did indeed shine the first month of the 2024 campaign!

Connecticut Sun

When a team goes wire to wire in a month without a blemish in their schedule, that is an automatic game ball. 

Ask many a pundit who they believed would be an undefeated team at the close of May and many of them would have said either the Las Vegas Aces or the New York Liberty. 

Apparently they forgot that the Sun are in that same elite stratosphere and they proved it throughout this past month. 

The contributions are not only coming from Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner. They have also been because of a healthy and rejuvenated Brionna Jones. Connecticut has also received worthwhile contributions from DiJonai Carrington, Ty Harris, Rachel Banham and Tiffany Mitchell. 

Stephanie White was Coach of the Year last season and she is proving exactly why she got that award. The game that Sun fans have circled on their calendars is June 8 when they host the Liberty in a Commissioner’s Cup contest. That could be a matchup that sees the Sun get in the win column once again – and would be another statement win to the rest of the W. 

Speaking of victories – Cheryl Reeve has done it again. 

Similar to Connecticut, the Lynx may not have the flashy names that the WNBA regularly puts on its hypothetical marquee. Minnesota as a team deserves to be on that marquee. 

Remember that at this same time last season, the Lynx began said season 0-6 with pundits both inside and outside the Twin Cities asking if Minnesota should simply tank the remainder of the season. 

Not only did the Lynx not tank, but they made the postseason. This season, Minnesota is looking like a team that belongs on the same court with the Aces, Liberty and Sun. 

In fact they were on the same court with those Sun and almost defeated Connecticut on Connecticut’s home floor. 

Napheesa Collier is giving Alyssa Thomas and A’ja Wilson company in the MVP chat. Kayla McBride is once again looking like one of the premier sharpshooters in the WNBA. Courtney Williams, Bridget Carleton, Alanna Smith and Natisha Hiedeman have added to the Lynx’s success. Alissa Pili scored 20 points in a recent win over the Phoenix Mercury. 

When a team can say its only losses after one month in the season were via Connecticut and Las Vegas, that team is doing something right. 

The Los Angeles Sparks were expected to struggle as a team this season. It is what happens when a franchise is in the throes of a rebuild. Teams like the Sparks are building for the future and its two lottery picks in Cameron Brink and Rickea Jackson are poised to be cornerstones of said future. 

What has particularly impressed us about Brink has not been her scoring production. Anyone who has watched her play knows she is certainly capable of lighting up a scoreboard. Brink’s bread and butter while wearing gold, purple and teal has been her defense. 

So. Many. Blocks. 

Remember when Candace Parker debuted in the WNBA as a rookie and won MVP? One month into the season and Brink is firmly establishing herself in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation – as a rookie. 

It was an emotional blow when their big of the past – Nneka Ogwumike went to the Seattle Storm. Brink is looking like a big of the future.

A few Indiana Fever fans (along with a few Iowa fans who magically became Fever fans) may be thinking about Boston’s overall struggles and asking why should she get a game ball? 

It was because of one game in particular – a recent contest between the Fever and Sparks in Southern California. The Fever were in search of their first win of the season – a topic that the media turned into Caitlin Clark getting her first victory in the W. 

In spite of earlier impressive performances from Clark, all of them were in Indiana losses. The May 24 contest between the Sparks and Fever saw Indiana get in the win column for the first occasion this season. 

A big part of that was the 17 points and six rebounds Boston contributed in a winning Fever effort. It was with this performance that hopefully Christie Sides learned a valuable lesson. 

Playing through Clark may garner a bunch of headlines but it is the interior play of Boston (as well as Temi Fagbenle (currently injured)) that will get the Fever in the win column more and more. When all is said and done, Clark is still a rookie finding her footing in the WNBA. It was the classic example of why coaches say all the time that winning in the trenches is much better than flashy losses. 

Following all of the turmoil that has engulfed the Sky over the last several months, expectations were low coming into this season for Chicago.

The team had a new head coach in Teresa Weatherspoon and a new general manager in Jeff Pagliocca. The Sky had ballyhooed draft picks in Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso (who recently returned for Chicago’s nationally-televised matchup at Indiana to kick off Commissioner’s Cup play). 

And while Chicago as of this writing is 3-4, the Sky even looked mostly good in those defeats. Marina Mabrey is launching 3-pointers at an alarming rate. Diamond DeShields appears to have rediscovered the form that won her a championship with this same franchise in 2021. The veteran presence of Elizabeth Williams and the rising star that is Dana Evans have also given the Sky a lift. Chennedy Carter appears to have finally found her footing as a WNBA player. 

It is only a month into the season and a lot can change between now the close of said season. But the early leaders in the clubhouse for Coach of the Year may be Weatherspoon along with Reeve in Minnesota. 

Too few folks are talking about the comeback season that Charles is having. 

To be fair, it was a legitimate question on what Charles we would see after taking more than a year off from WNBA play. Not to mention what her overall role would be on a team that has an established big three of Rhyne Howard, Allisha Gray and Cheyenne Parker-Tyus. 

Charles is proving that she has still got it. On May 23, the Atlanta Dream earned a 73-67 victory over the Washington Mystics. It may be tempting to look at this statistic and think – it is the Mystics who have still yet to notch a victory this season so far. 

But a 17-point, 15-rebound double-double for someone who is getting re-acclimated to W play is an accomplishment in itself. 

Also, let us look at the 12 points and 11 rebounds she got in a win over the Dallas Wings. Charles can still provide productive minutes (and be in the starting lineup for the Dream), but she does not have to do it all ala what she did in her latter years in New York. 

Not to mention the eight rebounds and seven points she got in a win over the defending champion Las Vegas Aces. One may look at the Aces and think that they will be the true Aces once Chelsea Gray returns – a fair assessment.

So far only two teams have wins over the defending champions. Atlanta is one of them. Even in a recent defeat to the Sun, Charles still gave the Dream another double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds to lead Atlanta in both categories that game. She also collected four steals – also a game-high among Dream players.

Copper’s Phoenix Mercury team is the other squad that at this point in the season has earned a win over Las Vegas. And the Mercury, who have been sans Brittney Griner recently because of a foot injury, earned that win over the Aces in large part due to Copper’s heroics. 

She scored 37 points in that May 21 win – on the Aces’ home floor. That performance in many ways was momentum from what did in the Mercury’s contest before that. 

It was a tightly-contested 88-85 victory at home over the Dream – one where Copper lifted her team to victory with a 38-point performance.

Phoenix has struggled recently with blowout losses to Connecticut and Minnesota but Copper still deserves a game ball for once again looking like the Copper that was Finals MVP (ironically against the Mercury) in 2021.