The Las Vegas Aces will take on the Seattle Storm in a nationally-televised (ABC) game at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 15. It will be the 2021 WNBA season opener for both teams, who last met in the 2020 WNBA Finals.
The Storm, of course, were the victors last time around, winning their fourth championship and the second in the previous three seasons. Seattle defeated Las Vegas three games to none, outscoring the Aces by double-figures in each game to earn a title many expected the Storm to win.
Entering 2021, the tables have turned. Las Vegas had a tremendous offseason, signing star point guard Chelsea Gray in free agency and bringing back dominant low-post scorer Liz Cambage, who sat out the 2020 season. The Aces led Swish Appeal’s preseason power rankings thanks to these additions, who will join forces with reigning WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson to form what may be the league’s most talented three-player core.
The Storm, meanwhile, lost both Natasha Howard and Alysha Clark — two of the WNBA’s top defensive players who were the heartbeat of Seattle’s havoc-inducing, aggressive defense — in free agency. The team’s starting small forward position seems to lack consistency heading into the season, and while the newly-acquired Candice Dupree will undoubtedly bring plenty of veteran leadership to the Storm locker room, her style of play doesn’t exactly fit with what won Seattle the 2020 championship: defensive playmaking and 3-point shooting.
Seattle still has one of the best players in the world in Breanna Stewart, one of the greatest point guards of all-time in Sue Bird, and an athletic two-way playmaker in Jewell Loyd, but the Storm as a unit aren’t quite as strong as they were in 2020. Meanwhile, most of their competition at the top of the standings — the Aces, for example — upgraded considerably.
It’s part of what makes Saturday’s Finals rematch between the two teams so interesting: Las Vegas will have more or less the same identity as it did in 2020, but the roster itself looks plenty different, with both Cambage and Gray now in the fold and Dearica Hamby, who missed the 2020 Finals due to injury, back at full strength. The Storm will enter the game as the defending champions, and yet Las Vegas may actually be the team to beat.
Las Vegas Aces (0-0) vs. Seattle Storm (0-0)
When: Saturday, May 15 at 3 p.m. ET
Where: Angel of the Winds Arena, Everett, WA
How to watch: ABC
Aces injury report: Angel McCoughtry (out for season; knee)
Storm injury report: Epiphanny Prince (contract suspended; partial season), Mercedes Russell (contract suspended; partial season)
Keys to the matchup: Stewart remains a one-woman wrecking crew, but it’ll be tough for her to match the combined output of Cambage and Wilson in the frontcourt. The Aces’ twin towers typically score many of their points at the free throw line, so Stewart will need to stay out of foul trouble if Seattle is going to have a chance at winning. Who gets the defensive assignment on Gray is another interesting angle; she’s not built like most point guards, so Storm head coach Dan Hughes may assign Loyd or another larger perimeter defender, rather than Bird, to check her.