The National Women's Hockey League continues its offseason with numerous player signings, its first international draft and several front office moves. In case you've missed anything over the last few weeks, let's take a look at what's happened in the league.
This WNBA season is flying by; we're already at or past the halfway point of the 34-game slate. Fortunately for fans, there has been no shortage of action across the league. Unfortunately for fans, all of the action may make it hard to decide who becomes an All-Star this year.
The Verizon WNBA All-Star Game 2018 is set to tip off on Saturday, July 28, at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Fans can vote early and vote often through next Thursday, July 12. (More on the rules for voting can be found here.) Fans will make up the highest percentage of votes with 40%; current WNBA players/head coaches and a team of national media will each make up 20% of the votes.
For the first time in its history, the WNBA will do away with conference teams for its All-Star Game; instead, 22 players will be selected and the two top vote-getters will get to pick their respective teams. But who should you vote for?
Fans get to vote for 10 players regardless of position or team, while media and players/head coaches vote for nine guards and 13 frontcourt players outside of the WNBA staffers' own team. While I think pretty much everyone on a WNBA roster deserves an All-Star nod this year, I've narrowed my picks to 10. Here they are in alphabetical order:
DeWanna Bonner, Phoenix Mercury
Phoenix fans will likely see a few representatives from their team in Minnesota later this month, and I hope Bonner is one of them. The forward is back with the Mercury after giving birth to twins last year, but she shows no signs of slowing down. Bonner has the second-highest minutes per game average on the team with 31.9, just one minute less than leader and likely All-Star selection Brittney Griner. Bonner has been a nice addition to a packed squad on both sides of the ball. In addition to her nearly 16 points per game (15.7), she also leads the team with an average of 1.2 steals per game.
The All-Star weekend will be a celebratory one for Bonner and her wife, Indiana Fever star Candice Dupree, regardless of the voting results. Their twin girls turn 1 on July 27, a day before the game.
Liz Cambage, Dallas Wings
I'm betting the Wings faithful are thrilled that center Liz Cambage decided to play stateside this season. She has shined in her return to the WNBA, leading Dallas with 19.7 points per game (8th in the league). Cambage also ranks second in the league with a stellar 9.9 rebounds per game and has a team-high 2.0 blocks per game. Her play has only been enhanced thanks to teammate Skylar Diggins-Smith; both should be easy picks for the All-Star Game.
Tina Charles, New York Liberty
It's been an up and down year for the New York Liberty after a tumultuous offseason that saw the team move to a much smaller venue nearly an hour away -- all with a new head coach. But one bright spot for the Liberty has been the continued excellence from Tina Charles. The center has been named a Player of the Week for a WNBA-record 29 times, and it shows on the court. Charles' 20.1 points per game is good for fourth in the league and first on the Liberty. Her play on the court could also be seen as a motivational tool for many of her younger teammates, including standout rookie Kia Nurse. I fully expect Charles to get her sixth WNBA All-Star nod this season, and for some of her teammates to eventually follow in her footsteps.
Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
EDD started the 2018 season off strong before sitting out four games due to an illness. She has more than recovered since then, though, scoring more than 10 points in each of the last seven contests, including an average of 24.7 points last week. Delle Donne also finished a perfect 100% from three in the Mystics' three contests last week on the way to her second WNBA Player of the Week award this season. The 2015 WNBA MVP is in the conversation for this season's accolade and it's easy to see why. Despite her dominance, however, EDD's play is also helping her fellow players -- many of whom are younger -- and I expect that Washington will send multiple representatives to Minnesota.
Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx
The reigning MVP has had another great season so far for the defending champion Lynx. The team has gone through some rotation changes but Fowles has been a staple, averaging just over 32 minutes per game. She leads the Lynx in steals per game (1.8) and shooting 59.4% from the field goal range. Fowles also leads the entire league with 12.3 rebounds per game, most of them on the defensive end. She's helped the Lynx escape close games while having several career nights on her own. As one of the younger Minnesota starters, Fowles has a few dominant seasons still left in her. I expect Fowles to lead a pack of Lynx at the game on their home court.
Chelsea Gray, Los Angeles Sparks
Teammates Candace Parker and/or Nneka Ogwumike are likely to be chosen for this year's All-Star Game, but Chelsea Gray should get a closer look as well. She ranks third on a balanced Sparks roster with 15.1 points per game, but she plays the most (31.3 minutes per game), has the most assists (5.5 per game), and is one of only two players to start every single game so far this season. So she's been a helpful force when her team has needed it the most. And let's not forget the Sparks' first game of the year, when Gray hit a last second shot to give Los Angeles the win at Minnesota. Gray's ability to be clutch makes her a valued member of the Sparks and should be a valued member on an All-Star team.
Kelsey Mitchell, Indiana Fever
The new class of rookies has been stunning this year, and Kelsey Mitchell is no exception. The former Ohio State star is making waves in her first pro season, helping the Indiana Fever look much better than their 1-16 record might suggest. Mitchell currently leads Indiana with just over 15 points per game. She also plays the second highest amount of time (28.9 minutes per game), bested only by some player named Candice Dupree. Kelsey is proof that the future is bright for the Fever. She (and fellow rookie Victoria Vivians, for the record) would benefit from playing with and against some of the best ballers in the world, and I hope she gets that chance.
Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx
She's scored at least 20 points throughout each of the Lynx's past seven games (all wins), and she doesn't show signs of slowing down anytime soon. Moore also won her second straight Player of the Week award after a 3-0 record last week. The people behind the Minnesota Lynx twitter account have their own explanation.
The best basketball player on the planet still plays in Minnesota. pic.twitter.com/PPdqTwlRfw— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) July 2, 2018
Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
As of press time, the Seattle Storm sit second in the league standings. A lot of that is thanks to Breanna Stewart. The forward currently leads the WNBA in points per game (21.9) while adding a team-best 7.6 rebounds to the mix (6th in the league). Stewart is a key part of a balanced Seattle squad that is already exceeding expectations this year. She's been part of the MVP conversation for most of the season, and her Storm are six wins away from their first winning season since 2011. I expect Stewart to be one of several Seattle players in Minnesota for the All-Star Game this year.
A'ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces
People expected A'ja Wilson to make a splash in her first pro season, and she has not disappointed so far. The rookie out of South Carolina leads the Aces in several categories, including a team-best 20.1 points per game. Wilson is also the only Las Vegas player to start and play every game, and she's scored at least 10 points in every contest thus far. Her career mark is 35 points in a come from behind victory at Indiana (June 12). While it's unclear how many points she would score in an All-Star Game, Wilson is all but certain to be chosen.
Who would you pick for this month's All-Star Game? You have many chances to see the players in action for yourself before the game tips off on July 28. And since we're just at the halfway point of the season, I'll have a special recap and preview of each team in the coming days here on The Victory Press.
In the meantime, here's what's on the docket for this week.
Week 8 Schedule
Tuesday, July 3
- Seattle Storm (12-5) at New York Liberty (5-11): 7:00 PM Eastern
- Chicago Sky (6-10) at Dallas Wings (7-8): 8:00 PM Eastern
- Indiana Fever (1-16) at Minnesota Lynx (10-6): 8:00 PM Eastern [Twitter]
- Connecticut Sun (9-7) at Los Angeles Sparks (12-5): 10:30 PM Eastern
Thursday, July 5
- New York Liberty at Washington Mystics (10-6): 7:00 PM Eastern [ESPN 3]
- Indiana Fever at Dallas Wings: 8:00 PM Eastern [ESPN 3]
- Los Angeles Sparks at Minnesota Lynx: 8:00 PM Eastern [ESPN 2]
- Chicago Sky at Las Vegas Aces (6-12): 10:00 PM Eastern
- Connecticut Sun at Phoenix Mercury (13-5): 10:00 PM Eastern
Friday, July 6
- Seattle Storm at Atlanta Dream (8-8): 7:00 PM Eastern
Saturday, July 7
- Washington Mystics at Los Angeles Sparks: 7:00 PM Eastern
- Minnesota Lynx at Chicago Sky: 8:30 PM Eastern
- Connecticut Sun at Las Vegas Aces: 10:30 PM Eastern
Sunday, July 8
- Phoenix Mercury at Atlanta Dream: 3:00 PM Eastern
- Dallas Wings at New York Liberty: 3:00 PM Eastern
- Washington Mystics at Seattle Storm: 7:00 PM Eastern
Filed under: wnba all-star game; wnba; basketball; dewanna bonner; liz cambage; tina charles; elena delle donne; sylvia fowles; chelsea gray; kelsey mitchell; maya moore; breanna stewart; a'ja wilson; phoenix mercury; dallas wings; ny liberty; washington mystics; minnesota lynx; los angeles sparks; indiana fever; seattle storm; las vegas aces
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