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2020 WNBA Team Preview: Las Vegas Aces

The 2020 WNBA season is set to be the most unique in the league’s 24-year history. Teams have arrived at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL to begin training camp for a 22-game season with all games played at a single site without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic. The bubble is set and the season is set to tip off on July 25. In the lead up to the season, will break down each team in the league, continuing with the Las Vegas Aces.

2019 Season Recap

  • 21-13, 2nd in West, 4th in League
  • Lost in Semifinals to Washington (3-1)

Off-Season Moves

  • Draft: No. 33 Lauren Manis, who has been waived
  • Trades: None
  • Players Added: Angel McCoughtry, Danielle Robinson, Alex Bentley and Avery Warley-Talbert signed as free agents, Lindsay Allen re-signed after not playing in 2019 due to injury
  • Players Lost: Sydney Colson (Chicago), Epiphanny Prince (Seattle) and Tamera Young (unsigned) left as free agents; Kelsey Plum suffered a torn Achilles, Liz Cambage and JiSu Park have opted to not play in 2020
  • Returning Players: Dearica Hamby, Kayla McBride, A’ja Wilson and Jackie Young remain under contract; Re-signed Carolyn Swords (after she briefly retired), Sugar Rodgers, Kelsey Plum and Liz Cambage

Who’s at IMG Academy

Between free agency, trades, the draft and players choosing not to participate in the season due to health concerns, the teams that take the court in 2020 may look a lot different than they did in 2019. Here’s a look at some of the key players that will represent the Aces in 2020.

A’ja Wilson

  • 2019 Stats: 26 GP, 28.4 MPG, 16.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.7 BPG, 47.9 FG%
  • After a rookie year for the ages, Wilson’s numbers took a slight hit in her sophomore season due to the addition of Cambage. She still finished ranked 7th in the league in scoring, 17th in rebounding and 4th in blocked shots as she earned her second straight All-Star nod. With Cambage out for 2020, the spotlight will once again be on Wilson to lead the way for the Aces.

Kayla McBride

  • 2019 Stats: 34 GP, 29.1 MPG, 13.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.8 3PG, 42.5 FG%, 42.8 3P%
  • McBride ranked 8th in 3-pointers made (62) and fifth in 3-point accuracy (42.8%) in 2019 and finished as the runner up in the 3-point contest for the second straight season. The sharpshooter should get plenty of open looks this season with Wilson and McCoughtry garnering plenty of attention.

Angel McCoughtry

  • 2018 Stats (Atlanta, DNP 2019): 29 GP, 27.5 MPG, 16.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 42.0 FG%, 27.6 3P%
  • When the season tips off this weekend, it will be nearly two years since McCoughtry’s last full WNBA game (Aug. 7, 2018) as she missed all of 2019 with a knee injury. McCoughtry, who ranks fifth all-time in regular season scoring average (19.1 PPG) and in playoff scoring (22.8 PPG, min. 10 GP), has been a scoring machine and defensive standout (7-time All-Defense selection) throughout her career.

Dearica Hamby

  • 2019 Stats: 34 GP, 24.8 MPG, 11.0 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 48.8 FG%, 32.1 3P%
  • In addition to making one of the most memorable shots in WNBA playoff history to send Vegas to the semifinals, Hamby was also named Sixth Woman of the Year in 2019. She’s proven to have starter talents and will likely be called upon to play a bigger role in 2020 with Cambage out for the year.

Danielle Robinson

  • 2019 Stats (Minnesota): 34 GP, 27.0 MPG, 10.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 43.7 FG%, 22.0 3P%
  • Robinson spent the first five seasons of her career with this franchise while it was located in San Antonio. The veteran point guard will not only help the Aces backcourt depth and fill the void left by Plum, but Robinson can also serve as a mentor to last year’s No. 1 overall pick Jackie Young.

Carolyn Swords

  • 2019 Stats: 29 GP, 8.9 MPG, 2.6 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.1 BPG, 43.8 FG%
  • Swords retired from the WNBA in February to take a job in the Aces front office but was signed out of retirement to help fill the void left by Cambage and Ji-Su Park on the Vegas frontline.

Three Questions

1. How much will the loss of Cambage and Plum impact the Aces?

Last year’s signing of Cambage immediately upgraded the Aces from playoff hopeful to title contender. Now the Aces will try to maintain that contender status without her as Cambage has opted out of the 2020 season. Obviously, this puts more pressure on Wilson, who proved as a rookie that she can shoulder a load of responsibility for this team (20.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 28.9% USG). Cambage’s absence also likely changes Hamby’s role from super sub to full time starter alongside Wilson.

But it wasn’t just the frontcourt that suffered a loss, as Plum’s torn Achilles takes away a player that was coming into her own in last year’s playoffs and showing why she was a No. 1 pick in this league. The addition of a veteran point guard in Robinson will help lessen the impact of the loss, but it does put more pressure on second-year guard Jackie Young to make a sophomore leap.

2. Will McCoughtry’s health hold up?

Similar to the addition of Cambage a year ago, the addition of McCoughtry raises the ceiling for this team – assuming she is healthy and her knee holds up to the rigors of a condensed season. There is no question about McCoughtry’s talents and how she can impact the game on both sides of the ball – she’s been one of the top wing players in this league for a decade and led the Dream to the Finals three times. But it’s been nearly two years since she’s played in a WNBA game, so there is a sense of the unknown as to how she’ll look once the games tip off.

3. Is it time for the Aces to go all-in on 3-point shooting?

As it has in just about every level of basketball, the 3-point shot has become increasingly important across the WNBA in recent years. However, the Aces have resisted the trend more than other teams as they have finished last in 3-point attempts in each of the past two seasons: 10.9 attempts per game in 2018 and 15.0 attempts per game in 2019.

Last season, the Aces led the WNBA in 3-point percentage (36.7%) as a team, but they made (5.5 per game) and attempted (15.0 per game) the fewest triples in the entire league. With McBride (42.8%, 5th) and Rodgers (35.7%, 24th), the Aces have two of the top 3-point shooters in the league and with McCoughtry’s ability to drive and kick and Wilson’s ability to command double teams and pass out from them, there should be ample opportunities for the Aces to spread the floor and fire away from distance.