With the WNBA Finals and World Cup over, it’s time to take a look back at what each WNBA team did this season and forward at what their offseason goals should be. Here is the final installment in our series: the No. 1 seed and champion Las Vegas Aces.
Aces statistical rankings (per game)
- 2nd net rating (7.9)
- 1st scoring (90.4)
- 1st offensive rating (111.9)
- 9th scoring defense (84.1)
- 6th defensive rating (104)
- 1st pace (80.6)
- 3rd field goal percentage (46)
- 5th field goal percentage defense (43.7)
- 2nd 3-pointers made (9.5)
- 2nd 3-point percentage (36.1)
- 12th 3-pointers allowed (9.1)
- 10th 3-point percentage defense (35.6)
- 3rd free throw attempts (19.8)
- 8th personal fouls drawn (17.8)
- 2nd free throw percentage (82.3)
- 5th opponents free throw attempts (16.5)
- 2nd personal fouls (15.8)
- T10th offensive rebounds (6.9)
- 6th offensive rebounds allowed (8.2)
- 1st defensive rebounds (28.4)
- 12th defensive rebounds allowed (28)
- 4th total rebounds (35.4)
- 10th total rebounds allowed (36.2)
- 1st turnovers (11.1)
- 1st opponents steals (5.6)
- 10th turnovers forced (12.6)
- 5th steals (7.7)
- 6th blocks (3.9)
- 9th opponents blocks (4.1)
- 4th assists (20.8)
- 9th assists allowed (21)
Analysis of statistical rankings/offseason goals
For a team that finished tied for the best record in the regular season, the Aces didn’t dominate a ton of statistical categories. They were basically just a really good shooting offense, played at a fast pace and got that extra point by taking a lot of threes. They also took care of the ball better than anybody in the WNBA, but didn’t do well on the other side of that category (forcing turnovers). Same thing goes for rebounds. They got a lot of them, but surrendered a lot of them too. That’s because there were just so many possessions for both sides in their games.
The Aces were ninth in scoring defense, which isn’t that concerning because they were sixth in defensive rating — again, because of the high volume of possessions. They were about average when it came to overall defense and rebounding despite having A’ja Wilson who is one of the best in the world at both. They were also average when it came to turnover margin, as mentioned.
The only glaring weakness for Vegas was 3-point percentage defense, a category in which it was 10th (35.6 percent). Giving up the most 3-point attempts in the league, which the Aces did, is somewhat unavoidable because teams know they have to fire away from deep in order to keep up with your offensive firepower. But you would hope to have better disruptive defense on the perimeter so that a good percentage of those threes don’t go in.
The Aces have their core under contract for 2023 and they just won the championship with that core. They’re not going to be making any changes to their core to improve any weaknesses. But perimeter defense is an area they can try to get the players they do have to improve in. And they could look for good perimeter defenders for their last couple roster spots. However, they may look to versatile bigs to fulfill that need because they have six guards under contract and only three frontcourt players.
Under contract for 2023*
- Chelsea Gray (protected) (PG)
- A’ja Wilson (protected) (PF/C)
- Kelsey Plum (protected) (SG)
- Dearica Hamby (protected) (SF/PF)
- Riquna Williams (SG)
- Jackie Young (protected) (SG/SF)
- Kierstan Bell (SG)
- Aisha Sheppard (SG)
- Iliana Rupert (C)
Unrestricted free agents*
- Kiah Stokes (C)
- Sydney Colson (PG)
- Theresa Plaisance (PF/SF)
Analysis of players/offseason goals
The Aces have every member of their big five under contract for 2023. That’s A’ja Wilson, Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young and Dearica Hamby. That was the starting lineup for most of the season. And, even when Hamby comes off the bench, those are the stars. So Vegas will have a good shot at repeating and all the difficult decisions are put off until later.
The Aces’ bench produced very little for them this season. Vegas lived and died with their starters and it worked out phenomenally well. The bench didn’t get much of an opportunity to prove itself, but probably wouldn't been that strong had it been asked to do more.
Riquna Williams, also under contract for 2023, is the team’s best bench player and she of course came up super clutch in Game 4 of the Finals. She’s known as “the Microwave” because of her ability to score points in a hurry — she has a 51-point game to her credit while in the WNBA. Her clutchness in Game 4 of the Finals makes her even more valuable moving forward because now we know she has that championship DNA — she had never won it all before. So it’s good to have her back as well.
After Williams, you have veterans in Kiah Stokes and Theresa Plaisance, who are both unrestricted free agents. Stokes is a good defender but doesn’t give you much offensively — she was well known in the playoffs as the player other teams let shoot. Plaisance’s 3-point prowess at 6-foot-5 is an asset and she had a solid season with the Washington Mystics in 2021. Vegas won’t be able to afford Stokes unless they cut Williams or Stokes takes a big pay cut. And it won’t be able to afford its third unrestricted free agent, Sydney Colson, unless it cuts Williams or gives up Plaisance. Colson isn’t a big contributor, but in her the Aces would lose comedic relief.
The Aces can pay Plaisance or another player $76,519 and still afford an 11th player at the minimum. Or that money could be split evenly at $69,402 apiece for the final two roster spots. Anyone with three-plus years of experience must be paid at least $74,305, so the Aces could be looking at two more young players to go along with 2022 rookies Kierstan Bell, Aisha Sheppard and Iliana Rupert. The No. 36 pick usually doesn’t make it in the league, so those two spots are more likely to be filled by a second-rounder from 2021 or 2022 who is available. The Aces could also trade up in the 2023 draft.
They could potentially be looking at five stars, a great sixth woman and then five very young and unproven players. So maybe it would be best to keep Plaisance or get some other veteran for the seventh spot in the rotation. That would just mean you’d have to pay your 11th player less, so it may have to be that No. 36 pick.
* Per Her Hoop Stats