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Breaking Down the 2018 All-Star Selections: How Will New Format Play Out?

The votes from fans, coaches, players and media have been collected and tabulated and on Tuesday evening the 22 players that will participate in the 2018 WNBA All-Star Game were officially unveiled.

This was the first step under the new All-Star format that scraps the traditional East vs. West matchup and instead allows the top two vote-getters to serve as captains and select their own teams from the remaining 20 All-Stars.

Today, we know the captains — Washington’s Elena Delle Donne and Los Angeles’ Candace Parker — and the remaining 20 players that they will choose from to fill out the rosters, which will be announced on Thursday (8 PM ET, ESPN2).

Here are some initial takeaways from today’s announcement of the All-Star field, which presents some interesting questions on how the teams will shake out.

1. First-Time All-Stars

This year’s All-Star class is filled with veteran talents, with nine players having at least five All-Star Game selections on their resumes. However, there are two players that broke through to make their All-Star debuts this season – and both are former No. 1 overall draft picks. First up is 2015 No. 1 pick Jewell Loyd of the Seattle Storm, who has been an integral piece in Seattle’s rise to the top of the WNBA standings along with fellow All-Stars Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird. The other first timer is 2018 No. 1 pick A’ja Wilson, who is the only rookie to earn a selection in this year’s All-Star Game. She is the 23rd rookie to ever be selected as an All-Star in the 14-year history of the event and the first since Chiney Ogwumike and Shoni Schimmel in 2014. There were no rookies selected in 2015 or 2017 and there was no All-Star Game in 2016 due to the Olympics. Wilson was an absolute lock to be named an All-Star as she has taken the league by storm in her rookie campaign. She ranks sixth in the league in scoring (19.9), third in rebounding (8.7), fifth in blocks (1.78) and second in double-doubles (9) and has led the Aces to a 10-13 record, which already surpasses the team’s win total from each of the past three seasons.

2. Bird Breaks Record For All-Star Selections

On the opposite end of the spectrum from the two first-time All-Stars is Sue Bird, who was selected as an All-Star for the 11th time in her illustrious career, breaking a tie with Tamika Catchings for the most All-Star selections in WNBA history. Bird and Catchings both made their All-Star debuts in 2002 when they became the first pair of rookies selected as All-Star starters. Last season, Bird became the WNBA’s all-time leader in assists (currently at 2,752 and counting) and she is also the league’s all-time leader in All-Star assists with 47 in her first nine appearances (she missed the 2007 All-Star Game due to injury). In addition to Bird earning her 11th All-Star selection, Diana Taurasi was named an All-Star for the ninth time in her career (tied with Tina Thompson for third most begin Bird and Catchings) and Seimone Augustus was named to her eighth All-Star Game.

3. West vs. East

Of the 22 All-Stars announced on Tuesday, 16 come from Western Conference teams compared to just six from the Eastern Conference. The imbalance between the conferences was an impetus to the WNBA changing its playoff format two seasons ago to remove conference affiliation and put the best teams in the postseason tournament regardless of conference. As a result the last two WNBA Finals have been between Western Conference powerhouses (Minnesota and Los Angeles) that would have met in the Western Conference Finals under the previous format. With the All-Star Game following suit to remove conference affiliations, we see the dominance of the Western Conference when it comes to selecting the top 22 players in the league.

  • Guards: 7 West, 2 East
  • Frontcourt: 9 West, 4 East
  • Total: 16 West, 6 East

4. Most Represented Teams

The Phoenix Mercury, L.A. Sparks, Seattle Storm and All-Star host Minnesota Lynx all have three players represented at the All-Star Game. As discussed above, all four of these teams hail from the Western Conference as this group of four teams accounts more than half of the All-Stars available to be selected. It will be interesting to see how the selection process shakes out as there will definitely be current teammates that become All-Star opponents.

5. Who Will Be The First Player Selected?

The new All-Star format nearly resembles a pick-up game at the local gym or park, only with the best players in the world available to choose from to form a squad. While being named an All-Star is an honor, there is something to be said about being the first player selected. It is a recognition that from a collection of the most elite talent in the world, you were the player that was wanted most. If Candace or Elena need any help determining a top candidate for that No. 1 spot, there is a back-to-back All-Star MVP there for the taking. Minnesota’s Maya Moore was named the star of stars at each of the past two WNBA All-Star Games (2015 and 2017, there was no game in 2016 due to the Olympics). If Maya can win a third All-Star MVP she would tie Lisa Leslie for the most all-time (1999, 2001, 2002) and would be the first to win three straight. Moore holds the record for highest scoring average in All-Star history with 20.2 points per game in her five All-Star appearances. Parker ranks third all-time (14.7) and Tina Charles ranks seventh (13.0) as they are the only other 2018 All-Stars among the top 10.

6. Will The Captains Draft Their Teammates?

Does Candace Parker feel an obligation to select fellow Sparks Nneka Ogwumike and Chelsea Gray to her All-Star team? Will Elena Delle Donne make sure to get Mystics teammate Kristi Toliver on her All-Star squad? Maybe Parker takes Toliver, who was her Sparks teammate during their championship run in 2016, so Delle Donne can’t have her on Team EDD. What if Delle Donne takes Nneka and we get to see Nneka vs. Candace at the All-Star Game? These type of questions bring a new level of intrigue and excitement to the All-Star Game that could not be seen in the traditional East vs. West format.

7. Will We Get An Ogwumike Reunion?

While sisters Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike have shared the same court numerous times as WNBA players, they have never been on the same squad since their days at Stanford, which ended in 2012 when Nneka graduated and became the No. 1 pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft. Chiney followed suit by going first overall in 2014, but with Chiney drafted to Connecticut and Nneka in Los Angeles, the sisters have been in opposite conferences for their entire professional careers. This is the second time both have been selected as All-Stars (2014 was the first) and the first time they have a chance to be teammates. While both have been in the USA Basketball National Team pool, they have not been selected together for a major international competition (World Championship or Olympics). At least not yet.

8. College Reunion Time

The Ogwumike sisters aren’t the only college teammates that have a chance to reunite at the All-Star Game. How about an all-UConn squad of Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart and Tina Charles? What about an all-Irish backcourt of Skylar Diggins-Smith, Jewell Loyd and Kayla McBride? Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles are already paired up in Minnesota but have roots that go back to their days at LSU together.

  • Connecticut: Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart, Diana Taurasi
  • Notre Dame: Skylar Diggins-Smith, Jewell Loyd, Kayla McBride
  • LSU: Seimone Augustus, Sylvia Fowles
  • Stanford: Chiney Ogwumike, Nneka Ogwumike

9. Don’t Call It A Comeback

Among the 22 All-Star selections, four of them did not play in the WNBA last season for a variety of reasons (five if we include A’ja Wilson, who was still in college).

Liz Cambage is back in the WNBA All-Star Game for the first time since 2011 when she was named as injury replacement for Candace Parker as a rookie. Cambage left the WNBA after 2013 and played in her native Australia and China before returning to the WNBA this season as a member of the Dallas Wings. The 6-foot-8 center has been everything the Wings were expecting as she ranks in the top 10 in scoring (7th, 19.9 ppg), rebounding (2nd, 9.1 rpg) and blocks (6th, 1.71 bpg). Those averages were before she went crazy with a WNBA-record 53 points (along with 10 rebounds and five blocks) against New York on All-Star selection day! Once today’s games are complete, Cambage will be the league’s second-leading scorer at 21.4 points per game.

Chiney Ogwumike missed the entire 2017 season recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon, which she suffered while playing overseas following the 2016 season. This was the second full WNBA season that Chiney missed due to a significant injury. She also missed all of 2015 as she recovered from micro fracture knee surgery. Chiney’s hard work to get back on the court has paid off with her second All-Star selection (and first since her rookie season in 2014). Ogwumike leads the Sun in scoring (15.0 ppg, 19th in WNBA) and ranks sixth in the WNBA in rebounding (7.5 rpg).

Angel McCoughtry sat out the 2017 WNBA season in order to rest and recover following eight years of non-stop year-round basketball between the WNBA and overseas play. Since making her return to the Atlanta Dream, McCoughtry has proven to still be a force to be reckoned with on a nightly basis. Last month, she scored a career-high 39 points against New York, which was the highest-scoring game of this WNBA season until Cambage’s record-setting performance on Tuesday.

DeWanna Bonner earned her second All-Star selection after missing the entire 2017 season after giving birth to twins! The three-time Sixth Woman of the Year and 2015 All-WNBA First Team selection is enjoying a fantastic run in her first season as a mom. She is averaging 15.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, a career-best 3.4 assists and matching her career-best in shooting at 46.5 percent. The Mercury own the second-best record in the WNBA (15-8) and the return of Bonner has been key to elevating the Mercury back to the top of the standings.