In just their second season in Las Vegas, the Aces snapped a four-year franchise playoff drought and clinched the No. 4 seed in the 2019 WNBA Playoffs. Securing a first-round bye, the Aces defeated the Sky, 93-92, in Round 2 to advance to the Semifinals. Although they lost the Semifinals series to the eventual champion Washington Mystics, the Aces established themselves as legitimate title contenders and look to be a force for years to come.
Considering this, let’s take a look back at the Aces’ 2019 season.
Leaders: Points (Wilson, 16.5); Rebounds (Cambage, 8.2); Assists (Young, 4.5); Steals (McBride, 1.2); Blocks (Wilson, 1.7)
Drafted No. 2 overall in the 2011 WNBA Draft out of Australia, Liz Cambage made a name for herself in her first few seasons in the league before leaving the WNBA to play overseas. In 2018, Cambage returned to the WNBA and signed with the Dallas Wings. After being out of the league for five seasons, Cambage looked like she hadn’t missed a step, averaging career-highs in PPG (23), RPG (9.7) and APG (2.3). She finished the season as the WNBA Scoring Leader and appeared to the All-Star Game for the first time since her rookie season in 2011. The highlight of her 2018 campaign came on July 17, when Cambage set the WNBA’s single-game scoring record with 53 points in a win over the Liberty. After having a standout season with the Wings, Cambage was traded to the up-and-coming Aces in exchange for Moriah Jefferson, Isabelle Harrison, and 2020 first and second-round picks. In her first season with the Aces, Cambage paired perfectly alongside A’ja Wilson, forming arguably the best frontcourt in the WNBA. Cambage finished the season averaging 15.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.1 APG, and 1.5 BPG. For a team that returned much of the same roster from a 2018 team that won 14 games, Cambage certainly took the Aces to another level in 2019.
Super Sophomore A’ja Wilson
Selected No. 1 overall in the 2018 WNBA Draft, A’ja Wilson boasted one of the most impressive rookie seasons in league history. Averaging 20.7 PPG and 8 RPG, Wilson was named Rookie of the Year and made a WNBA All-Star appearance in just her first season. A year removed from her breakout campaign, Wilson continued to impress in her sophomore season. In 2019, Wilson led the Aces in PPG (16.5) and BPG (1.7). Although statistically her production took a minor dip, this can be credited to both the addition of Cambage and an ankle injury that forced Wilson to be sidelined for over two weeks. In just two seasons in the league, Wilson looks like a franchise player for the Aces and a rising star in the WNBA. With her back and fully healthy next season, don’t be surprised to see Wilson’s statistical production mirror similar results as her rookie season.
The Hamby Heave
In a WNBA season filled with highlights and memorable moments, Dearica Hamby took the cake. In a single-elimination Round 2 matchup against the Chicago Sky, it all but looked like the Aces season was over. Trailing 92-90 with under 13 seconds remaining, Courtney Vandersloot was dribbling around in hopes of burning time off the clock. When double-teamed by two members of the Aces, and fearing an 8-second violation, Vandersloot passed the ball up the court towards second-year guard Diamond DeShields. Running at full speed, fifth-year forward Dearica Hamby intercepted the pass at midcourt and thinking the game clock was about to expire, heaved the ball towards the basket. Miraculously, the shot went in and the crowd erupted.
Hamby’s shot gave the Aces a 93-92 lead, which they held onto en route to advancing to the Semifinals. It was one of the most iconic moments in league history and one that will be rewatched for decades to come. Between hitting the game-winner in Round 2 and being named WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year, 2019 was quite a season for Dearica Hamby.
Boasting a roster with names like A’ja Wilson, Liz Cambage, Kelsey Plum and Kayla McBride, the Las Vegas Aces are easily one of the most complete teams in the entire league. That, alongside veteran Head Coach and 3x WNBA Champion Bill Laimbeer at the helm, makes the Aces a legitimate future contender. With no draft picks in 2020 due to the Cambage trade, the Aces’ roster in 2020 will likely be very similar to the way it is now. A player to keep an eye on this upcoming season is 2019 No. 1 overall pick, Jackie Young. In her first season with the Aces, Young averaged 6.6 PPG and a team-high 4.5 APG. At just 22 years old, Young has endless potential and is a player the Aces will depend on heavily as they strive for their first title in franchise history.