The Las Vegas Aces enter the 2023 WNBA season as defending champions. On Friday, all 12 teams begin their bids to win it all this year. Here’s our list of them in order of who is best set up to accomplish that goal.
1) Las Vegas Aces
The Aces and Liberty both have big fives. It’s hard to tell which one is better, but our staff, and most media outside Swish Appeal, is leaning toward Vegas having the edge as an overall team, perhaps more because of their chemistry and experience of just winning a championship than having a better big five. Candace Parker came in eighth on our Top 30 player list; it’s worth noting that ESPN put her at No. 5! If the Aces get that Candace Parker, watch out. Don’t forget about how good of a sixth-best player Alysha Clark is either.
2) New York Liberty
I’ll play devil’s advocate here since I’m the only staff member who put the Liberty first. Breanna Stewart has the championship-winning gene, just like A’ja Wilson, and more of an ability to take over a game offensively than Wilson. Her singular greatness can have more of an impact than Wilson’s, though some will argue Wilson has the better chemistry surrounding her. The other thing is that I believe the Liberty have two Tier 1 players in Stewart and Jonquel Jones. There is a drop-off in my mind when you get to Parker, Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum. However, it is pretty impressive that the Aces have four of Swish Appeal’s Top 8 players. The Liberty only have two. To be clear, the Aces are the frontrunners based on the national consensus.
3) Washington Mystics
The Mystics are really popular right now. They appeared at No. 2 in former Swish Appeal editor-in-chief Sabreena Merchant’s power rankings over at the The Athletic and at No. 2 according to our Edwin Garcia. Elena Delle Donne got back on track last season and the team is ready to make some noise under first-year head coach Eric Thibault. The Mystics are full of underrated players: Ariel Atkins, Natasha Cloud, Myisha Hines-Allen and Amanda Zahui B. And then there’s Kristi Toliver, who hasn’t always been underrated, but is somewhat under the radar right now because of her age.
4) Connecticut Sun
The Sun are going to do their best to compete with the big fives of the Aces and Liberty by relying on their big four: Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones, Tiffany Hayes and DeWanna Bonner. It’s nearly the same big four that led them to the Finals last year; Jonquel Jones being out and Hayes being in is the only difference. Now, Jones may be a superstar while Hayes is just a star, but the Sun still have some pretty good top-end talent. They also have a new head coach in Stephanie White who has Finals experience. She led the Fever to the championship round in 2015.
5) Phoenix Mercury
Remember those Top 8 players I mentioned when talking about the Aces and Liberty? The only non-Aces/Liberty players featured in our Top 8 are on either the Mystics (Elena Delle Donne) or Mercury (Brittney Griner). If Griner can shake off the rust and be an MVP-type player, maybe the Mercury will come in fifth place in the league. Griner will have the help of Diana Taurasi, who is a big question mark like Griner but can still amaze us. ESPN doesn’t think Skylar Diggins-Smith will play for the Mercury this season because of her beef with head coach Vanessa Nygaard. With Diggins-Smith, I think Phoenix should be higher on this list, but without her, some of our staff had the team quite a bit lower.
6) Dallas Wings
Arike Ogunbowale and Natasha Howard are a good 1-2 punch. This team’s fate will likely be decided by another player though, and that would be Teaira McCowan. She got the big payday; now it’s time for her to prove that her hot streak toward the end of last season is the real her and that she can be a consistent star. There was a pretty big drop-off in voting points after the Sun; teams 5 through 10 were very close and it’s because none of them (assuming Phoenix doesn’t have Diggins-Smith) are loaded. The Wings, for example, have a good amount of talent, but don’t forget that they lost Allisha Gray, Marina Mabrey, Isabelle Harrison and Kayla Thornton.
7) Atlanta Dream
This should be a big season for Rhyne Howard, who is coming off her Rookie of the Year campaign. Allisha Gray is a great two-way player who is often underrated; like McCowan with the Wings, we should be monitoring her ability to step up. AD Durr could also be a big-time player for this team; she averaged 10.7 points last year when not missing time with a hip injury. Cheyenne Parker and Aari McDonald will be key as well.
8) Los Angeles Sparks
The Sparks haven’t made the playoffs since Candace Parker left, raising questions about Nneka Ogwumike’s ability to win at a high level without some better help. She doesn’t have a very good supporting cast for a third straight season. The Sparks do however have one of the best head coaches in the league in Curt Miller, who is now at the helm in LA after taking the Sun to at least the semifinals four years in a row.
9) Minnesota Lynx
The Lynx have a legit big three in Napheesa Collier, Aerial Powers and Kayla McBride. So they have a case to be higher on this list. Add in Diamond Miller, who wasn’t as sure of a pick as Aliyah Boston but may have just as much upside, and Minnesota could actually be in pretty good shape. Its not loaded with talent though and we were splitting hairs between teams 5 through 10.
10) Chicago Sky
Courtney Williams’ numbers dipped last year in her return to Connecticut, but if she can return to her 2021 All-Star self, the Sky may have a legit big three too: her, Kahleah Copper and Marina Mabrey. Yet, the Sky are not a popular pick to have success this year; they are No. 10 in ESPN’s power rankings as well. The losses of Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot, Emma Meesseman and Allie Quigley are of course huge.
11) Seattle Storm
The Storm got two of our five last-place votes. The depth just is not there after Jewell Loyd. It will be interesting to see how many wins Loyd can guide this team to though. Nneka Ogwumike was the best player on a championship-winning team during her MVP year of 2016, but had Candace Parker by her side. Now she is the best player on a team again, but is not having success because there isn’t enough talent around her. Loyd could probably be the best player on a good team like Ogwumike was in 2016, but I’m not sure this year’s Storm is such a good team.
12) Indiana Fever
The Fever got the other three last-place votes, relegating them to No. 12, which is where they are in ESPN’s power rankings as well. I was hopeful they would make it out of last place in our power rankings, but they remain in the basement. We’ll see if they can prove some people wrong though. Kelsey Mitchell, Aliyah Boston, Erica Wheeler and NaLyssa Smith sounds like a pretty good core.