2021 WNBA Team Preview: Las Vegas Aces

From one historic season to another, the WNBA’s 25th season is set to tip-off on May 14th. The league will commemorate the 25th season with a campaign, “Count It” and a distinguishing and purposeful 25th season logo. The WNBA will also celebrate the ways its players have shattered expectations and have stood at the forefront of advancement, inclusion, and social change for 25 years.

In the lead up to the season, WNBA.com will break down each team in the league. Next up: the Las Vegas Aces.

After making it to the WNBA Finals in their third season in Las Vegas, the Aces have bolstered their lineup and are back for another run at the franchise’s first title in 2021. Led by the reigning WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson, the Aces have (pardon the pun) stacked the deck with talent. Liz Cambage is back. Kelsey Plum is back. Chelsea Gray has arrived and brought Riquna Williams with her from L.A. And don’t forget about returning faces such as two-time reigning Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby and 2019 No. 1 overall pick Jackie Young.

2020 Season Recap

  • 18-4, 1st Place in League
  • Lost to Seattle in WNBA Finals 3-0

Offseason Moves

Two of the biggest changes for the Aces from 2020 to 2021 don’t involve adding new players, it was just about getting their own players back. Liz Cambage opted out of the 2020 season due to the pandemic and is back in Las Vegas in 2021 to form a formidable frontcourt alongside A’ja Wilson. Kelsey Plum suffered a torn Achilles in June 2020 and has made a full recovery to add scoring and playmaking to the backcourt.

Then there are the players that the Aces brought in, led by three-time All-Star point guard Chelsea Gray, who signed as a free agent after spending the past five seasons (and winning a championship) with the Los Angeles Sparks. The Aces also added Riquna Williams because having the player with the single-highest scoring game in WNBA history (Cambage, 53 in 2018) wasn’t enough, they needed the only other player to crack 50 points in league history (Williams, 51 in 2013).

Unfortunately, the Aces lost one of the league’s top two-way players this past weekend as Angel McCoughtry suffered a torn ACL and meniscus in her right knee during a preseason game against Los Angeles on Saturday.

One Big Question Heading Into 2021

How long will it take for this new-look Aces roster to hit its stride?

Wilson is the only returning starter from last year’s squad – Lindsay Allen (Indiana), Kayla McBride (Minnesota), McCoughtry (injured) and Carolyn Swords (unsigned). In their first preseason game, the Aces started Wilson, Cambage, McCoughty, Young and Gray, but lost McCoughty to injury.

Wilson has played two seasons without Cambage and averaged 20 points and eight rebounds both seasons – winning Rookie of the Year in 2018 and MVP in 2020. She’s played one season with Cambage and while her numbers dropped slightly (16.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG), the Aces have their highest potential – and their best chance at dethroning the Storm – with those two playing alongside one another.

After years of building chemistry with the likes of Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike – and knowing exactly where and when to find them on the court – Gray now has new teammates to learn and a new coach’s plan to execute on the court. While there is little doubt that she’ll do all of those things, it may take some time for all these pieces to play at their best as a unit. The Aces finished last season tied with Seattle for the top record in the league at 18-4 and earned the double-bye to the semifinals. The shorter this learning curve is, the better for the Aces as they look to make another run for the title.

WNBA Draft Ranking

Following the 2021 WNBA Draft, Michelle Smith ranked every team’s draft decisions. She rated Las Vegas 10th out of the 12 WNBA teams.

“The Aces must like where they are right now to take 19-year-old Iliana Rupert of France with a first-round pick considering the possibility that Rupert won’t play in the league this season.”

Where to Watch

The Aces open the 2021 season with a rematch of the 2020 Finals as they face the Storm in Seattle on Saturday, May 15 at 3 p.m. ET on ABC.