The Swish Appeal crew breaks down the 2018 WNBA All-Star selections in this ultra-competitive season and discusses the exciting dynamic duos of the season.
Maya Moore, earner of the most votes of any All-Star, has declined to fulfill the duties required of the captains, stepping aside for those with the second- and third-most votes to assume those roles. Any speculation on her reasons for stepping aside?
Albert: I’m not sure why Moore would not want to be a captain despite being the leading vote-getter. If anything, maybe she just doesn’t want the focus of an All-Star team being on her.
Christine: My initial assumption was that she and Elena Delle Donne were planning something awesome that would only work if they were on the same team, but ... well, they’re not on the same team, so I’m not sure!
Cara: If I were going to speculate on the reason I would want it to be so that there are more names from the WNBA that get some publicity for being All-Star caliber hoopers! If that is the reason then I love it!
Jim: I read that Maya said she had too many commitments due to the Lynx hosting the game. I do not know what that means but it is pretty selfless of Maya, recognizing that she did not have time and stepped aside to allow someone else to take the role.
Charles: When the news first broke out, I was worried that it may be due to a personal matter but thankfully that wasn’t the case. My gut tells me it’s just Maya Moore wanting to focus on the Lynx and being an ambassador for the city and the league.
Tamryn: Moore pulling out of the captaincy duties reminds me of her long overseas season, championship and late return to the Lynx, after winning the 2017 WNBA title. Although we forget, she is human. I do, wonder, though if her choice would be different if the Lynx were at the top of the standings.
One of the biggest stories is rookie A’ja Wilson getting her first All-Star honor. What are your thoughts on what this means for her, the Las Vegas Aces and the league?
Albert: The Aces have been rebuilding for some time since their time in San Antonio, so I think Wilson’s All-Star nod is validation to the Aces that she was the right pick for the 2018 Draft. Furthermore, her statistical production justifies it. In the WNBA, it isn’t uncommon to see rookies make the All-Star team, so this is just a testament that the WNBA just seems to be getting better quality rookies as the years go on.
Christine: There’s always a worry that rookies who did big things in college will have a comparatively terrible rookie season in the WNBA, but the fact that the Aces recognized her potential in spite of so many team adversities — the move, the new coach and notably, Kelsey Plum, not performing in her rookie season after a historic career at Washington — makes Wilson’s pick a stellar move. She’s having a fantastic season in her own right, justifying the pick again and again, and it’s exciting to see that (and, by proxy, a glimmer of hope that the Aces are moving in the right direction) recognized with an All-Star selection.
Cara: I think it’s great! I feel like the W always puts effort into building excitement for incoming rookies and around the draft. I think that Wilson having such a great transition from being a standout college player to the professional ranks is definitely a success story that can continue to increase that excitement around the draft in the future and launch another WNBA star for the general public to identify with the league. I think it has also been great for the Aces that they are new to Vegas, but synonymous with a player that is having a great rookie season so far.
Jim: A’ja Wilson being recognized as one of the top players in the league is huge for her and the Aces. There is significant backing in Las Vegas for the team and to have a player that young who is making a name for herself just adds to that. It also speaks to the health of the league and the depth of the talent pool, which helps with growth going forward.
Charles: For A’ja Wilson, it is just a testament and validation of how hard she works and the talent she possesses. A’ja is already establishing herself as one of the premier players in the WNBA and the All-Star nod is just further reinforcement that she’s having one of the best rookie seasons in WNBA history. Now, for the league and the Aces, they should be ecstatic. The WNBA moved to Las Vegas and entered a new market and anytime that happens there are questions of whether the team will succeed. But Wilson has put that to rest and easily is on her way to being a face for the city and of the WNBA. She’s outspoken, intelligent, hard working and respected by all of her peers. She’s already on track to being the face of the future.
Tamryn: Witnessing A’ja Wilson’s rookie season is like seeing a bunch of things come to fruition that didn’t even seem linked many years ago. I was in arenas for the Charlotte Sting games, and I’d followed Dawn Staley’s career since her collegiate days. And then she goes to University of South Carolina (my alma mater, with Columbia being my hometown) and builds a powerhouse team. And all of Staley’s basketball offspring have done well in the league, with Allisha Gray winning Rookie of the Year in 2017 and Kaela Davis joining her on the All-Rookie team ... culminating in what we’re seeing from Wilson now. It’s beautiful to reflect on all of the stones leading up to this great time in WNBA history. Las Vegas is lucky.
At the other end of the spectrum, veteran future Hall of Famers Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi got the honor as well. What does this do for their legacies? What does their inclusion say about the quality of the league?
Albert: Bird and Taurasi have earned their berths due to their commitment to keeping themselves in excellent game shape over the years. Their inclusion on this team is a testament to their longevity and commitment to staying in excellent game shape over the years.
Christine: In general, the longevity of players in the women’s game — Bird and Taurasi certainly, but most 10-plus-year vets — is made all the more impressive by how many of these players play year-round, or played year-round for most of their careers. Staying in peak game shape for a full season is an accomplishment in its own right, but staying in peak game shape 24/7, not to mention dealing with times where players’ seasons may overlap, is huge. It’s incredible that players can perform despite these challenges, not to mention get All-Star nods after more than a decade in the league, and it illustrates that the WNBA itself truly showcases the world’s best players.
Cara: It just shows the continuity in the women’s game. There are rookies that fans and the league are going to be excited about, and then there are your pillars in the vets that carry on that foundation and competitiveness. To me, it’s a testament to the women’s game in general and draws similarities to the evolution and endurance of the men’s game, and the All-Star nod definitely continues to enhance the personal legacies of these players on the court.
Jim: This is something that NBA and, frankly, all male athletes are lauded for continuously: their ability to play at high level past a certain age. I think that Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird do not get the same praise and their play shows that they truly deserve it. To play at a high level in a professional sports league is extremely difficult, but add to that most of the players are 10 or more years younger than they are and it becomes an extremely impressive feat.
Charles: It is absolutely awesome and it’s even better because it isn’t a lifetime achievement award. They 100 percent deserve to be in the game that they have become synonymous with. It is no coincidence that the two teams at the top of the league standings both feature two of the best to ever touch a basketball. The WNBA faces more turnover rosters-wise than any professional league, so the fact they can still play at this high of level has made them both the benchmark of consistency.
Tamryn: I’ve been mentally calling the 2018 WNBA season the “collision season,” and now I’ve uttered it out loud. On one end of the spectrum, we have rookies playing liked seasoned vets, while on the other it is vets still playing with fresh legs and more than a decade of experience. The clash of those factors makes the WNBA the most exciting sports league to watch, and the veteran players like Bird and Taurasi are redefining what it means to be an aging athlete. Think of the very good players who who were waived this season and consider that these two former Uconn standouts never lost their roster spots, but continued to dominate, hitting milestones, smashing records and earning All-Star honors.
Allie Quigley of the #11 Sky made the list even though she is not in the top 10 in the league in points, rebounds or assists. Meanwhile, her teammate, Courtney Vandersloot, is leading the league with 7.7 assists per game. What do you make of Quigley’s All-Star selection? If you feel her selection was a snub to someone else, who do you feel should have been selected in her place, and why?
Christine: As Swish Appeal’s resident Sky fan, I think both players mentioned should have been voted in. I also think it’s wild that Vandersloot hasn’t made an All-Star team since her rookie season. Of course, you can’t build an All-Star team based on pairs that work well together, especially in this new era that could see teammates split up. But I think they’re both excellent players in their own right, and I’d have to give the nod to Sloot if I could only pick one. She’s clearly one of the league’s best point guards, with or without Quigley.
Albert: I think that Quigley deserved to make the All-Star team this year. She has been Chicago’s most consistent scorer, since she is still making over 40 percent of her threes and nearly 50 percent of all her shots. As for Vandersloot, you can make a case for her to be on this team as well, but I’m not sure which of the current guards I’m willing to take OUT for Vandersloot. My compromise is just expanding the All-Star Game rosters to 12 players each.
Cara: I think Quigley being an All-Star is a testament to her career as a whole. She gets after it for the Sky every season. I do believe Vandersloot does, too, and in my opinion both of them should’ve been voted in as All-Stars. I think if it came down to picking between both of them, I may have Vandersloot edge in for the All-Star nod over Quigley, but I think they are both great players.
Jim: The case can be made for Quigley or Vandersloot. Of guards that average over 30 minutes per game, Vandersloot is the only player not selected. Quigley is third among those guards with a true shooting percentage of 59.6%, but her player impact estimate is last in the same group. Vandersloot is above Kristi Toliver in terms of player estimate, at 11.4, but her usage rate is only 17.7%, which is lowest among guards averaging 30 minutes per game. I think you could go either way between those two. I have no problem with getting either Quigley or Vandersloot, but not both.
Charles: I’m going to be the contrarian and say that Courtney Vandersloot should have been the Sky representative. I just think she’s more integral to the Sky’s success. Not that Allie Quiqley hasn’t had a terrific season, but I think Vandersloot sets the tempo for the Sky and brings more value to the team with her ability to score and setup teammates.
Tamryn: In reviewing the All-Star selections, it is clear that winning teams have the most representatives. So, how should players on under-performing teams be considered? I asked this question, using Quigley as a point of discussion, to suss out the impact of team record on All-Star potential. With that said, I would have gone Vandersloot over Quigley as well.
Were there any surprise additions or omissions? Who should have been included (or omitted), and why?
Albert: With only 22 players to pick from, I would say that expanding to 24 players is the better thing to do. I don’t have any complaints about the 22 who are in, but if I wanted to add someone for “biased fan” reasons, I would consider adding Ariel Atkins. She is averaging 11.4 points a game on 44.4 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent from three. The Mystics were looking for a wing player who could make threes and defend consistently. After looking at several options over the years, Atkins looks like she is that player.
Christine: Vandersloot. But more importantly, I want to echo Albert’s general suggestion that the game feature two teams of 12 instead of 11 — it’s interesting to me that they won’t field two full rosters for an exhibition game. If anything, it’ll help participating players get a tiny bit more rest and perhaps avoid injury for the all-important second half of the season.
Cara: Echoing Albert and Christine on expanding the teams to 12. But I was not surprised by any additions or omissions and with the talent that was selected, no suggestions for inclusion or omission in my opinion.
Jim: I concur about adding two players. It seems common sense that the All-Star rosters would be the same size as a regular roster. I don’t know if I was surprised, but I was happy to see Kayla McBride on the list — definitely deserved.
Charles: I have no complaints about any of the 22 that made it so it’s tough to say that there was any egregious omissions from the list. But Courtney Vandersloot is one of the best guards in the league and should start being recognized for it.
Tamryn: Hence, the craziness of this season! None of us are willing to say one of the 22 should not have made it. All of them deserved their votes, without question. But, in addition to Vandersloot, I think Tiffany Hayes of the Atlanta Dream was overlooked. She is a former Player of the Week averaging 17.5 points per game. She was sidelined by an injury for a few weeks, so maybe falling from the headlines caused her to fall out of the consideration of the voters. So, if the rosters were increased to 12 players, I’d add Hayes and Vandersloot (with Natasha Howard of the Seattle Storm waiting in the wings).
From Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi to Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver to Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray ... and now to Kayla McBride and A’ja Wilson: The 2018 WNBA All-Star selections highlight team dynamic duos. Who’s your favorite dynamic duo and which pair has the best shot of powering their team to a WNBA Championship?
Albert: I go with Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd of the Storm. Both are among the WNBA’s leading scorers and led Seattle to the top of the standings, at least as of the day I’m writing this. Of all the dynamic duos, I say that the Storm has the best chance of winning multiple WNBA championships in the next several seasons.
Christine: I’m really liking Skylar Diggins-Smith and Liz Cambage for the Wings. It seems like they’re both everywhere on the court all the time, and when one has a tough game, the other picks up the slack. They’re one of the newer duos, though, so I wouldn’t expect them to compete for a championship just yet — soon, though.
Cara: Although I do like the Diggins-Smith and Cambage dynamic duo, I will put my favorite in as Wilson and McBride. I am really loving the versatility of a “big” woman that they both are consistently scoring and passing threats. I am excited to see how they can maximize their duo as they continue to learn one another’s strengths and weaknesses.
Jim: Super biased opinion from me from me, but Albert is dead on here. Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd have been playing great all year. I have missed only one or two games of the Storm this year and they look like champions-in-the-making to me.
Charles: Disclaimer for a super biased opinion, but Kayla McBride and A’ja Wilson are my favorites for sure. Getting to watch them live and see them interact on Twitter is like watching a buddy cop movie. They have a classic rookie and vet like relationship and it’s so genuine. I’m not sure there’s a more fun duo to watch play than McBride and Wilson, but I’m certain there isn’t a better duo than Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi. Those two are so under control and decisive that it feels like the Mercury never take a bad shot when they are on the court. Taurasi is one of the best to ever play and Griner is such a presence in the middle that they just compliment each other so well.
Tamryn: You expect me to make a decision here? It’s impossible, so I’ll just say that my favorite dynamic duo is mood-dependent. When I want rock star wild, it’s Cambage and Diggins-Smith or Wilson-McBride. When I want scalpel-like precision, it’s Taurasi and Griner. But the other tandems are also exquisite and undeniable.
The All-Star rosters were announced Thursday night! What are your initial reactions?
Tamryn: The thought of McBride getting fed from Bird and Taurasi, and sharpshooting from the backcourt alongside Kristi Toliver, makes my head spin. ***deep breaths, in and out***
Christine: As a lifelong Stanford fan, I’m so stoked to see the Ogwumikes on the same team again. So. Stoked. That said, I think Team Delle Donne has the edge — what Tamryn said, basically, plus: Breanna Stewart, Brittney Griner, and A’ja Wilson, and Delle Donne herself on the same team? I’m so excited for this game!
Jim: You can see the strategies by the captains for sure. Team Delle Donne is stacked with shooters, even the forwards are threats from outside. Team Parker is loaded with the best front court talent in the league. It is going to be fun to see the lineups that the coaches put together.
Charles : Team Delle Donne all the way! Have to ride with my Aces and seeing Brittney Griner and A’ja Wilson on the same team has me pumped for a BLOCK PARTY!
Any other thoughts, opinions or takes you wish to share?
Christine: Vandersloot was robbed!
Cara: With the new format, just excited to see how the WNBA All-Star game will play out and how the league and fans respond to it.
Jim: I was particularly miffed about the release of the All-Stars voting results by ESPN. The entire segment lasted around 60 seconds and was completely rushed to where it was nearly impossible to know who had been selected. I started watching and covering the WNBA just a few months ago but with as fan of other leagues, there is a noticeable lack of care and attention given to the WNBA by the biggest outlets. ESPN even got the NY Liberty logo incorrect, using the Liberty University logo. Just terrible.
Charles : It is great to see the level of excitement around the WNBA All-Star game. There is a buzz on Twitter, from fans, and from consumers. We need to keep pushing in the excitement and keep demanding more coverage because the WNBA is an amazing place right now.