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All-Star Game Preview Part II: Team USA

The Team USA All-Star roster is full of superstars, including MVP candidates Breanna Stewart, Tina Charles, A’ja Wilson and Brittney Griner.

Los Angeles Sparks v Phoenix Mercury
Phoenix’s big three of Skylar Diggins-Smith, Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner celebrate.
Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

The USAB women’s national team will play in the WNBA All-Star Game before representing the U.S. at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Here is the roster for Team USA:

Let’s take a look at these 12 deserving Olympians, one of whom is making her first WNBA All-Star Game appearance and two of whom have made double-digit All-Star Games.

Ariel Atkins (first)

Washington Mystics

17 ppg, 3.4 apg, 1.4 spg

Atkins has had a couple of really big games and has established herself as a major star this season. Her teammate Natasha Cloud has led the campaign for her to be considered the “best 2-guard in the league” and the list of names ahead of her at the shooting guard position has been shrinking, as evidenced by her selection to Team USA. Perhaps it really is just Jewell Loyd and Diana Taurasi when Taurasi is at her best. Arike Ogunbowale is in the conversation too, but she is a point guard/shooting guard. Atkins’ superb defense in addition to her offense makes her a special player.

Los Angeles Sparks v Washington Mystics
Ariel Atkins (jersey #7)
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Sue Bird (12th)

Seattle Storm

10.8 ppg, 5.7 apg, 1.1 spg

Bird’s efficiency has been impressive this year. She is shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 44.6 percent from beyond the arc with 45 makes. She is third in the WNBA in 3-point makes and seventh in 3-point percentage. Her scoring average was higher earlier in the season, but has been dragged down by a recent quiet stretch. She continues to make history in her 18th year as she has moved into second place all-time in 3-pointers made and sixth all-time in scoring.

Tina Charles (eighth)

Washington Mystics

25.8 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 1 spg

This headline from a recent article by Swish Appeal’s Cat Ariail pretty much sums up how Charles’ season has gone:

Charles is averaging 25.8 points per game, which is 0.5 ahead of Taurasi’s WNBA record set in 2006. She has scored in double figures in all 16 of her appearances this year, 20-plus 13 times and 30-plus seven times. With three 30-point, 15-rebound games in 2021, she has moved into first place all-time in 30-15 games with five.

Connecticut Sun v Washington Mystics
Tina Charles
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Napheesa Collier (second)

Minnesota Lynx

17.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.4 bpg

Collier had a signature performance on June 25 with 23 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in a key overtime win over the mighty Las Vegas Aces. Her scoring average is a career best by 1.2 points over last year, but her rebounding numbers are down. Collier was given an outside shot at the MVP award coming into the season and while she’s not leading that conversation currently, the Lynx are 10-4 with her and she has them in a good position as the Olympic break approaches.

Dallas Wings v Minnesota Lynx
Napheesa Collier
Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Skylar Diggins-Smith (fifth)

Phoenix Mercury

18.8 ppg, 5.2 apg

Diggins-Smith is quietly having an amazing year amid the Mercury’s struggles and Brittney Griner’s excellence. She, like Griner, has been phenomenal in numerous losing efforts and continues to bring high energy and superb leadership win or lose. She had scored in double figures in all 17 of her outings, including eight 20-point games. She has also notched double-digit assists twice.

Minnesota Lynx v Phoenix Mercury
Skylar Diggins-Smith
Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Sylvia Fowles (seventh)

Minnesota Lynx

16.4 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 2.1 spg, 1.8 bpg

Fowles joined Collier in having a signature performance on June 25 with 30 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, four steals and four blocks. She also had 19 rebounds on June 23 and is currently on a streak of five-straight games with double-digit boards. Like Charles, she is having moments that make her seem like one of the greatest ever. In her postgame press conference on June 23, Fowles said: “I think I don’t speak on myself enough because that’s just not what I do, I’d rather let my game speak for itself. ... But at the end of the day I don’t think no post do what I do.”

Chelsea Gray (third)

Las Vegas Aces

12.1 ppg, 6.4 apg, 1.3 spg

Gray has put on a no-look pass clinic this season and is second in the league in assists per game. She has also been incredibly clutch and Aces head coach Bill Laimbeer has said that’s why the team brought her in. The Aces have largely lived up to expectations (they are 14-5 and in second place) and Gray is a big reason why.

Brittney Griner (seventh)

Phoenix Mercury

20.2 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 2.1 bpg

Griner is still in search of her first MVP award and is likely going to be in the conversation to win it this year. The Brittney Griner that we have seen this year is the one we know and love as one of the best players in WNBA. With Diggins-Smith and Taurasi also on the team, Phoenix can sometimes be tempted to go away from pounding the ball inside. But for the most part this season, they have wisely made Griner the focal point and she has delivered when her number has been called.

Minnesota Lynx v Phoenix Mercury
Brittney Griner
Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Jewell Loyd (third)

Seattle Storm

18.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.2 spg

Loyd has been one of the most exciting players to watch this year and has an intriguing storyline as a player who is a Robin and yet one of the best players in the world. She has been more clutch than Breanna Stewart so Seattle is likely going to want the ball in her hands late moving forward. The two superstars co-exist so well and that’s the reason the Storm are in first place. Loyd scored 20-plus in three of her first four games this year and has scored 20-plus four times in 14 tries since, lowering her scoring average. But she is probably capable of leading the league in scoring and could if she wasn’t playing with Stewart.

Breanna Stewart (third)

Seattle Storm

21.3 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.2 spg, 1.8 bpg

Stewart is right in the mix to win the MVP award and even if she doesn't win it, her legacy will continue to grow by virtue of being in that conversation year in and year out. Remember that Diana Taurasi is considered the GOAT even though she has only won the award once. Stewart has games of 36 and 35 points this year and her rebounding and shot-blocking numbers have been particularly strong, reminding us how good she is as a defender and as an overall post player in addition to her guard-like abilities on the perimeter. Her rebounding average is a career best and her blocks per game are 0.1 off her career high.

Atlanta Dream v Seattle Storm
Breanna Stewart (jersey #30)
Photo by Josh Huston/NBAE via Getty Images

Diana Taurasi (tenth)

Phoenix Mercury

15.6 ppg, 4 apg

Taurasi was out for a long stretch with a fractured sternum, but has been very good when available. She scored a season-high 25 and reached 9,000 career points on June 27. Phoenix needs her to be even better than she has been if it wants to turn its season around and get back into the contender mix. We’ll see if the GOAT is up for the challenge.

A’ja Wilson (third)

Las Vegas Aces

19.6 ppg, 9 rpg, 2.9 apg, 1.1 bpg

Wilson is quietly a contender to repeat as MVP and the Aces’ team success will certainly help her case. On a team full of offensive weapons, Wilson has managed to keep her scoring average above 19, which is very impressive. She’s not trying to do too much either. She is simply doing her job as the go-to scorer. Her 91.1 free throw percentage is sixth in the league and her 113 free throws made ranks first. Her rebound and assist averages are career bests.

Las Vegas Aces v Los Angeles Sparks
A’ja Wilson
Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images