Prior to the Seattle Storm at New York Liberty game on Saturday, leading All-Star Game vote-getter A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces and second-leading vote-getter Breanna Stewart of the Liberty drafted their teams for the 2023 WNBA All-Star Game, which will be held in Las Vegas.
Wilson went with Chelsea Gray with the No. 1 overall pick. Not surprising that she took an Aces teammate and she went with Gray over Jackie Young even though Young may be having a better season, shooting a ridiculous 57.3 percent from the field and 48.2 percent from three with 19.3 points per game. Gray probably has a higher ceiling than Young — she has the ability to be the best player in the league on any given night as we saw in last year’s Finals.
Stewart took Brittney Griner with her first pick even though Griner was a borderline starter. Stewart wanted to celebrate Griner being home from Russia and pay homage to how well she has handled her return. Wilson then went with Young with her second pick. She could afford to take two guards in a row seeing as she is a frontcourt player, and Young can certainly play the 3 if needed. Stewart answered by taking Jewell Loyd, reuniting with her Robin from the Seattle days, which was good to see.
Wilson continued the theme of picking players close to her by taking fellow South Carolina Gamecock Aliyah Boston with her third pick. Wilson and Boston simply are the two faces of the South Carolina program, each winning a national championship in Columbia. And they are both post players, so Boston has of course looked up to Wilson and is trying to follow in her footsteps. Stewart followed with a solid selection in Satou Sabally at No. 6 overall. Sabally is a Top 4 player in the league this year, so the draft got away from emotional picks and Stewart went with one of the best players available.
Wilson closed out her first round by taking Arike Ogunbowale, saying she herself didn’t want to play the 3, which she would have to if she took Nneka Ogwumike. So now Young can slide up to the 3 and Ogunbowale can play the 2. Stewart was left with N. Ogwumike, who was a steal at No. 8 seeing as she is an MVP candidate. However, Stewart is left without a point guard in her starting lineup. Loyd will have to play the 1 and Sabally or Stewart will have to play out of position at the 2.
Stewart addressed this issue with the first pick of the reserves portion of the draft, taking Liberty teammate Courtney Vandersloot. That gave her a true point guard who can come off the bench and play a lot of minutes with the starting bigs. Instead of taking most-successful-2023-player-available Alyssa Thomas with her first reserve pick, Wilson went with a pick that is hard to criticize in Kelsey Plum; Plum won the All-Star Game MVP Award last year. The pick ensured that all four Aces All-Stars will play on the same team.
Stewart then ensured all three Liberty All-Stars will play on the same team by taking Sabrina Ionescu. Given the way the starter drafting went, it was probably good that Stewart started the reserve portion of the draft off with not one, but two guards in a row. Wilson then put off taking Thomas again and continued the theme of emotional picks, taking another South Carolina Gamecock in Allisha Gray.
Stewart then ensured she will have both of her former Storm teammates by taking Ezi Magbegor. With the No. 14 overall pick, Wilson finally selected Thomas, saying she was impressed by all of Thomas’ triple-doubles this year.
Stewart’s selection of former UConn Husky Napheesa Collier at No. 15 ensured that all emotional picks were taken care of. It will be Liberty/Storm/UConn vs. Aces/South Carolina. With the No. 16 pick, Wilson went with first-time All-Star Cheyenne Parker.
Stewart then said she wanted a bucket-getter and went with Kelsey Mitchell. Wilson answered with the selection of DeWanna Bonner. Kahleah Copper went to Stewart in the last round, and Elena Delle Donne, who is currently dealing with an ankle sprain, went to Wilson.
Here is a list of the draft results:
- Wilson: Chelsea Gray
- Stewart: Brittney Griner
- Wilson: Jackie Young
- Stewart: Jewell Loyd
- Wilson: Aliyah Boston
- Stewart: Satou Sabally
- Wilson: Arike Ogunbowale
- Stewart: Nneka Ogwumike
- Stewart: Courtney Vandersloot
- Wilson: Kelsey Plum
- Stewart: Sabrina Ionescu
- Wilson: Allisha Gray
- Stewart: Ezi Magbegor
- Wilson: Alyssa Thomas
- Stewart: Napheesa Collier
- Wilson: Cheyenne Parker
- Stewart: Kelsey Mitchell
- Wilson: DeWanna Bonner
- Stewart: Kahleah Copper
- Wilson: Elena Delle Donne