WNBA 2024 Season Preview! Aces vs. Liberty Part II? Storm making moves? Clark, Reese or the field for Rookie of the Year?

When the Las Vegas Aces won last season’s WNBA championship by defeating the New York Liberty three games to one, the W passed the baton to the college game and it continued the exponential growth the women’s game has experienced in recent years. 

If one loved South Carolina, Iowa, UConn, NC State, LSU, USC, Notre Dame, etc. our message has been simple – keep that same energy for the women of the WNBA!

And there is a lot of energy to go around. Plenty of it was present recently in Edmonton where over 16,000 fans packed Rogers Place to see the Los Angeles Sparks take on the Seattle Storm. Tinseltown’s team defeated Emerald City’s team with the final being 84-79. 

May 14 is the big day when four teams take to the court. As was the case last season, the New York Liberty will open the 2024 campaign in our nation’s capital at the Washington Mystics in what will be Aaliyah Edwards debut with a rebuilding ‘Stics team. 

Also – the much-ballyhooed regular season debut of Caitlin Clark with the Indiana Fever. Indiana opens the season on the road at Mohegan Sun Arena to take on a Connecticut Sun team that is sure to once again contend for a championship. 

Speaking of contenders – it does not get any more “contender” than the Las Vegas Aces – winners of the last pair of WNBA championships. Michelob Ultra Arena will be the site as the Phoenix Mercury make the short trip up to Sin City. 

Also speaking of contenders – there is the new look Seattle Storm. The regular season return of Skylar Diggins-Smith and also the first regular season matchup for Nneka Ogwumike sporting the Storm’s gold and green colors. Climate Pledge Arena will be the site for the Storm’s opening contest of 2024 vs. the Minnesota Lynx. 

The following day will see the remaining four teams have their respective turns at the mic. One can expect plenty of LSU fans to make the trip to Arlington’s College Park Center to see Angel Reese’s regular season debut with the Chicago Sky as they will face off against the Dallas Wings. 

Plus – it will also see the regular season debuts of Rickea Jackson and Cameron Brink with the Los Angeles Sparks. The Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State will be the site and the Sparks’ opponent will be the Atlanta Dream. 

Let us also remember that this will be the final WNBA season where the number of teams will be at 12. When the 2025 campaign commences a new team based out of the San Francisco Bay Area will take to the court.

How do our 12 teams stack up as the start of the season approaches. Without further ado, here is where we have our 12 teams ranked with all 12 having 0-0 records!

To any team that has aspirations on claiming the 2024 WNBA championship – that road goes through Sin City. Following Finals wins in 2022 and 2023, the target that is on the back of the team that Becky Hammon coaches may be larger than ever. 

That is no problem as this battle-tested group is used to playing with targets on their backs. When a team has a Core Four of A’ja Wilson, Chelsea Gray, Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum that team can win any game it plays. The Aces made headlines because of the retirement of Candace Parker, but Las Vegas played sans Parker for much of last season and still won the whole shebang. 

In previous seasons, a lot was put on that core four and they held their own. The Aces have faced questions about its depth in previous seasons – it appears they addressed that in the draft particularly with getting Dyashia Fair from Syracuse. This year’s Vegas rendition may be more dangerous than ever. New colors – same Aces. 

How many times have New York Liberty players replayed that final play from Game 4 of last year’s Finals in their respective heads? Our guess is at least 1,000 … per week. The same probably applies to Lib coach Sandy Brondello. 

That number may or may not be an exaggeration but the point is teams that get oh so close only to be denied at the finish line – especially in front of their home fans – can be especially dangerous the following season. There are several reasons why New York won 32 games last season. Last year’s regular season MVP Breanna Stewart is one of them. Jonquel Jones is another reason. Sabrina Ionescu is another reason. Courtney Vandersloot is another reason. Betnijah Laney-Hamilton is another reason. 

After last season’s near miss it is once again championship or bust for the Liberty. And as every championship has shown us they need a supporting cast. Kayla Thornton is part of that for New York and Lib Loyals are excited for how Marquesha Davis performs in seafoam, black and copper. Despite a superb preseason, Jaylyn Sherrod was unceremoniously waived from the team prior to opening day. Such is life when a team can only carry 11 players at the starting gate. Will this finally be the year a championship arrives at Atlantic and Flatbush?

The Seattle Storm is an organization that simply gets it. It has an all-woman investment group that recently saw Sue Bird become part of said investment group and it recently opened a brand new practice facility. Is that thing plush or what? 

What is also plush is the team that Noelle Quinn will have to work with this season. Last season was a rebuild for the Storm but general manager Talisa Rhea decided to do something about that in the offseason. Seattle’s investment in facilities was a massive reason for why it was able to land Nneka Ogwumike from the Los Angeles Sparks. It was also a reason why Skylar Diggins-Smith decided it was the team she wanted to relaunch her career with after a tumultuous tenure in Phoenix. Combine those two with a Jewell Loyd who set a WNBA scoring record this past season plus winning All-Star Game MVP? 

The Storm have a Big 3. And add the defensive presence of Ezi Magbegor into the mix and one can arguably call what Seattle has as a Core Four. Nika Mühl is also a much-talked about draftee out of UConn. The rest of the WNBA had problems contending with the Aces-Liberty duopoly of last season. Seattle has re-entered the chat. 

New England’s WNBA team has somewhat earned a reputation for getting so close but being unable to grab the brass ring. Always the groomsman but never the groom. With the talent that the Connecticut Sun throw at teams on a year-by-year basis, that has to change one of these years – doesn’t it? 

Maybe this will be that year for Connecticut. They are coming off a season where Stephanie White managed to claim Coach of the Year honors in her first season at the helm with the Storm. We must also remember that this is a team that had an Alyssa Thomas that was right there in the thick of things with Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson in the MVP conversation. Let us also remember Connecticut sill has DeWanna Bonner who would surely get more of her flowers for being among the W’s elite if she were in a bigger market. Let us also remember the Sun will have a healthy Brionna Jones.

And let us also remember its general manager Darius Taylor recently gave the Sun a boost right before the season. Connecticut just completed a trade with the Mystics to land Queen Egbo. Here is all one needs to know about the Sun – prior to last season’s All-Star break only two teams were successful in putting the Aces in the loss column. Connecticut was one of those teams. This team can defeat any opponent, any day, any time, any venue.

Ever since the tumultuous departures of Skylar Diggins-Smith and Liz Cambage some years ago , it has appeared the Dallas Wings have gone through a multi-year process where the franchise was hoping things would come together. Last season – that happened. 

The WNBA may not officially recognize its semifinals as the Western Conference Finals or Eastern Conference Finals but that is essentially where the Wings were last season against the Aces. Latricia Trammell made a strong case last season for Coach of the Year. Any team that has Arike Ogunbowale, Teaira McCowan and Natasha Howard as part of its core is a threat to win any game it plays. The Wings will also receive a boost following the Olympic break when Satou Sabally returns from shoulder surgery to complete its Core Four. Oh – and Dallas was the other team outside of Connecticut that defeated the Aces prior to All-Star. 

Jaelyn Brown – a rookie out of Cal – impressed massively in Dallas’ preseason contest against Indiana. She should make the roster. One can also expect we see more of what Maddy Siegrist can do in her sophomore season. Oh – and we did not even mention the Wings moving to downtown Dallas in 2026. Things for the Wings are looking up – on and off the court. 

In many ways, the 2022 season was the beginning of Atlanta’s ascent into the WNBA’s upper echelon. In many ways, the 2023 campaign can be looked at as a “mission accomplished” year given the Dream did qualify for the playoffs. 

Tanisha Wright is entering her fourth season at Atlanta’s helm. And as is the case with other teams the Dream have a formidable Big 3 of its own. That trio is, of course, Rhyne Howard, Cheyenne Parker and Allisha Gray. We also sometimes underestimate how Dan Padover is as a general manager – he practically built the Aces into the juggernaut they are today. Padover recently completed a trade to Crystal Dangerfield – a former Rookie of the Year with the Lynx – into the team. Also Tina Charles is back. Yeah – that Tina Charles. All-time leading Liberty scorer Tina Charles. 

While Atlanta was one of last year’s eight playoff teams, it had to leave a sour taste in the Dream’s mouths given the first-round exit they suffered at the hands of the Wings. In 2024, the expectation for the Dream is to not only qualify for the postseason but to continue its ascent by winning a first-round playoff series. 

One would be hard-pressed to find a team that underwent more front office turnover than Phoenix did. Following last year’s debacle of a season, change was all but a given in the desert because Mat Ishbia is not one who takes losses lightly. Out went Vanessa Nygaard, in comes Nate Tibbetts. 

How a team that had Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner finished a season with a 9-31 record is mindboggling. A reason for that can be found in the team’s abysmal 1-19 mark in matchups away from the Footprint Center. Ishbia and general manager Nick U’ren were looking to change that over the offseason and did so by acquiring Kahleah Copper via trade from the Chicago Sky. That is former WNBA Finals MVP (2021) Kahleah Copper for those keeping score at home. Also Natasha Cloud will be sporting orange and purple this season and let us not forget about that superb playoff game she had against the Liberty last season.

Phoenix welcoming in Cloud and Copper were certainly done to ensure Taurasi will have one more season as a contender before she likely calls it a career. And Phoenix will be the site of this year’s All-Star festivities prior to the Olympic break. The Mercury should have a resurgent 2024 but we also said that about 2023 and look what happened. The direction of Phoenix following this season will be very fascinating to observe. 

A certain basketball icon of the Land of 10,000 Lakes will be at the top of next year’s draft board. That is likely red meat for various basketball pundits who pontificate the Minnesota Lynx ought to tank the 2024 season so the ping pong balls fall their way to bring that icon home. Here is the problem with that – the word “tank” is not in coach Cheryl Reeve’s vocabulary.

Minnesota made headlines away from the court with Glen Taylor re-assuming ownership of the franchise after a deal to sell the franchise to Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez (yes, that Alex Rodriguez) fell through in the eleventh hour. On the court, the return of Napheesa Collier paid massive dividends for the Lynx in 2023. What also applied was the continued shooting prowess of Kayla McBride. Adding the veteran presence of Courtney Williams also helps along with Diamond Miller and Dorka Juhász being in their sophomore seasons. 

Bridget Carleton and Natisha Hiedeman are two other names to keep an eye out for. The Lynx also landed a major draft pick when they selected Alissa Pili – a young star with a fanbase that rivals a certain Indiana Fever draftee – out of Utah. Minnesota should make the playoffs – it is only a matter of where. Perhaps the momentum of the Timberwolves unbelievable season can translate to the Lynx. 

We may have lied a bit earlier when we said arguably no team went through more front office turnover than Phoenix. Chicago went through it as well and came out of it with a new general manager in Jeff Pagliocca. The Sky also emerged from that turbulent time by tapping Teresa Weatherspoon as its new head coach. 

It is somewhat forgotten that despite all of the twists and turns that the Sky’s 2023 season encountered that Chicago still qualified for the playoffs. It may have been as the eighth seed where the Aces made short work of the Sky in the first round but last season still checks out as a playoff run for Chicago. Of course this team made two of the more ballyhooed draft picks of last month’s draft when two national champions in Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso were selected from LSU and South Carolina, respectively. 

Unfortunately due to injury Cardoso is slated to miss the next 4-6 weeks of action. This is still an intriguing team with a cast of characters that includes Elizabeth Williams, Lindsay Allen, Brianna Turner and Dana Evans. And let us not forget a returning Diamond DeShields who was a key contributor to the team’s 2021 championship run. Tears were probably shed throughout Skytown when the team parted with Copper but that is what happens when a team is going through a rebuild. 

Now…about those facilities….

It was in 2016 when Tamika Catchings retired from the WNBA. Catch spearheaded Indiana to its first and only championship in 2012. Since then the Fever as a franchise have been simply there – just there. Going through the motions in a constant state of rebuild. That all changed last month.

Following last year’s selection of Aliyah Boston (last year’s Rookie of the Year) with the first overall pick, Lin Dunn revealed the worst kept secret in basketball circles the nanosecond the Fever won the draft lottery. Indiana brought Caitlin Clark to the Hoosier State. Selecting No. 22 has resulted in a windfall of attention, money and media coverage for the team in a state that is as passionate about basketball as ever. Other teams are moving games vs. the Fever to larger venues to accommodate demand and Indiana’s games will be broadcast over the air in Iowa and in Louisville.

The real question is if the Caitlin Clark effect will result in more wins. One would think it will. Will it result in more wins to finally get the Fever back to the playoffs is yet to be seen. Let us not forget the veteran presences of Erica Wheeler and Kelsey Mitchell. Let us also not forget about a NaLyssa Smith that can give the team much-needed production. The WNBA is a different beast from college but the Fever’s preseason game with the Wings displayed Clark’s game should translate seamlessly to the pros.

Seeing a cornerstone of one’s franchise such as Ogwumike travel north on Interstate 5 for (no pun intended) greener pastures in Seattle can be a sobering moment for said franchise. If it was not clear before that the Los Angeles Sparks were in the throes of a rebuild, it became clear when she took her talents to the Pacific Northwest. 

Curt Miller, who coached the Sun to a pair of WNBA Finals appearances, will be in his second season at the helm in LA. Also, the Sparks have a new general manager in Raegan Pebley with Karen Bryant putting more of an emphasis on Los Angeles’ day-to-day business operations. A team that is in a rebuild typically does so in large part through the draft – and the Sparks did that by bringing over Rickea Jackson from Tennessee and by keeping west coast kid Cameron Brink on the west side. 

One can expect Zia Cooke to be even more of a focal point than in her rookie season. Dearica Hamby is another name that stands out in addition to Kia Nurase, Stephanie Talbot, Layshia Clarendon, Lexie Brown and Stephanie Talbot. There may be few teams that are playing more with house money than the Sparks who may have their sights set on 2027 when another ballyhooed west coast kid in JuJu Watkins likely heads that year’s draft class. 

Now…about those facilities….

This one hurts – both figuratively and literally. It was in 2019 when the Washington Mystics continued the area’s “District of Champions” run by defeating the Connecticut Sun in what was a thrilling five-game WNBA Finals. Since then, that 2019 championship probably feels like it took place in 2019 B.C to many a Founding Fan. 

Washington not only has not been able to recapture the championship glory of that 2019 run despite having great teams on paper – but the team has been bit by the injury bug on more than one occasion. Whether it is the continuing back issues of Elena Delle Donne (who will not be playing this season) or recent injury woes regarding Shakira Austin, lack of health has been a major reason for the Mystics’ misfortune in recent years. 

Washington’s owner Ted Leonsis also took a loss during the offseason when his plan to move two other teams (NBA’s Wizards and NHL’s Capitals) across the Potomac into Virginia was shot down by Commonwealth legislators. On the court, Eric Thibault in his second season as head coach will have Aaliyah Edwards to work with in her rookie season. Also there is Ariel Atkins, Stefanie Dolson, Brittney Sykes, Emily Engstler and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough. And remember they just traded Egbo to Connecticut. Can someone say rebuild?