We have unofficially reached the halfway point of the 2019 WNBA regular season. I say "unofficially" because while some teams have played 17 or more of their 34 games, others have not.
So, roughly halfway. And what have we learned? The players in this league and the teams in this league are good. Really good.
As of press time, just three and a half games separate the first place team (Las Vegas Aces) from the eighth place team (Phoenix Mercury). The four squads out of playoff contention right now aren't too far behind, either, with three of them trailing the Aces by just six games. So, even though we're at the roughly halfway point of the regular season, there is still no real contender for the WNBA title, the Finals, or even the playoffs. As we've seen already this year, one good stretch or one bad stretch can change everything.
But let's pause for this week and discuss the All-Star Game. For some, it'll be a chance to show off their skills, while others will get a chance to rest. Let’s go.
10 out of 12 teams represented in WNBA All-Star Game... for now
After weeks of speculating and some interesting math, we now know who will be playing in the WNBA All-Star Game later this month. Players from 10 of the 12 teams in the league will square off against each other on July 27 in Las Vegas, led by captains Elena Delle Donne (Washington Mystics) and A'ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces). In a bit of irony, the coaching staff of the captains will coach the other person's team based on their WNBA squads' records through July 12. Las Vegas' Bill Laimbeer and his staff will coach Team Delle Donne, while Washington's Mike Thibault will lead his staff in coaching Team Wilson.
Here are the starters, listed in alphabetical order by team:
- Connecticut Sun: Jonquel Jones
- Las Vegas Aces: Liz Cambage, Kayla McBride, A'ja Wilson (captain)
- Los Angeles Sparks: Chelsea Gray
- New York Liberty: Kia Nurse
- Phoenix Mercury: Brittney Griner
- Seattle Storm: Natasha Howard, Jewell Loyd
- Washington Mystics: Elena Delle Donne (captain)
The reserves were named Monday afternoon. Here they are in alphabetical order by team:
- Chicago Sky: Diamond DeShields, Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot
- Connecticut Sun: Alyssa Thomas
- Indiana Fever: Candice Dupree, Erica Wheeler
- Los Angeles Sparks: Nneka Ogwumike
- Minnesota Lynx: Sylvia Fowles, Odyssey Sims
- New York Liberty: Tina Charles
- Phoenix Mercury: DeWanna Bonner
- Washington Mystics: Kristi Toliver
Both rosters could change before tip-off in just under two weeks, as Loyd and Delle Donne are currently injured and may not be able to play. If one or both players end up sitting out, the league will name their replacements. In addition, All-Star starter and Seattle Storm forward Natasha Howard is currently facing allegations of domestic violence against her wife, and it's unclear what actions – if any – will be taken as the season continues.
Before the season began, some speculated that the All-Star Game might not be as, well, star-studded without players like Maya Moore, Candace Parker, and Breanna Stewart. While their and many others' contributions will be missed, I think it's a blessing in disguise for the WNBA. The All-Star Game will feature a good mix of veterans and new faces, and that can only be a good thing for a league growing in popularity and competitiveness by the minute.
This year's roster also brings a bit of history to the All-Star Game, as discovered by Across the Timeline. Two of my favorite record-setting facts involve the Chicago Sky, who as mentioned above are sending three reserves to Vegas.
I like that Courtney Vandersloot is going to be in the All-Star Game (and not just because her wife is too). She's been an underrated force for the Sky, especially this year. She may not light up the scoreboard – her teammate and fellow All-Star reserve Diamond DeShields holds that honor – but some call Vandersloot the "assist queen" for a reason.
This is an interesting stat (props to the Across the Timeline team!). While I'm sure Sky fans would love it if the four players mentioned above that aren't currently in Chicago would come back, I think this fact emphasizes the parity in the league. The six players in the tweet play for four different teams. While all of these teams have different records, each of these players deserves to be part of the All-Star Game, and they all have Chicago to thank.
The selection of Phoenix forward DeWanna Bonner to the All-Star Game was a no-brainer, especially since she was just a tie-breaker away from being named a starter. She is also continuing to put up big numbers for the Mercury, including a game-high 27 points in their loss at Minnesota on Sunday. Bonner's 19.4 points per game average leads the league right now. But it's nice to see her wife, Indiana Fever star Candice Dupree, get a nod for the All-Star Game as well. She leads her team with 31.7 minutes per game and a second-best 11.7 points per game as the Fever continue their comeback season. What a way for the couple to celebrate – especially on the weekend of their twins' birthdays.
Not to be outdone, Dupree's teammate Erica Wheeler also received a nod to play in the All-Star Game. She's had a good season for the Fever as well, averaging 11.6 points per game in almost 26 minutes played per contest. And, oh yeah, she went undrafted after playing college ball at Rutgers. Not bad at all.
No one may be more grateful for their All-Star Game appearance than Minnesota Lynx guard Odyssey Sims, who earned her first nod in six years in the league. She's definitely making the most out of her experience with a new team that was once her arch-rival, and the league and players are that much better for it.
The rosters for the Three-Point Contest and the returning Skills Competition have yet to be announced. I expect two-time champion Allie Quigley to defend her title in the Three-Point Contest, especially since both contests are being moved to the Friday before the game and not at halftime (though Quigley certainly killed it last year anyway!).
Before that, though, there are still two more weeks of play as the second half of the regular season begins. Here's a look at week 9:
Wednesday, July 17
- Atlanta Dream (5-11) at Chicago Sky (9-8): 12:00 PM Eastern [Twitter]
- Dallas Wings (5-11) at Phoenix Mercury (7-8): 3:30 PM Eastern [NBA TV + NBA TV Canada]
- Seattle Storm (10-8) at Minnesota Lynx (10-7): 8:00 PM Eastern [NBA TV + NBA TV Canada]
Thursday, July 18
- Dallas Wings at Los Angeles Sparks (9-7): 3:30 PM Eastern [NBA TV + NBA TV Canada]
Friday, July 19
- Washington Mystics (9-6) at Indiana Fever (6-12): 7:00 PM Eastern [CBS Sports Network]
- Atlanta Dream at Connecticut Sun (11-6): 7:30 PM Eastern [NBA TV + SN1]
- Las Vegas Aces (11-5) at Seattle Storm: 10:00 PM Eastern [NBA TV + NBA TV Canada]
Saturday, July 20
- Los Angeles Sparks at New York Liberty (7-10): 3:00 PM Eastern [NBA TV + TSN]
- Phoenix Mercury at Dallas Wings: 8:00 PM Eastern [NBA TV + NBA TV Canada
Sunday, July 21
- Atlanta Dream at Washington Mystics: 3:00 PM Eastern [NBA TV + NBA TV Canada]
- Indiana Fever at Chicago Sky: 6:00 PM Eastern [NBA TV + NBA TV Canada]
- Minnesota Lynx at Las Vegas Aces: 6:00 PM Eastern