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Inside The W with Michelle Smith: Top 10 Matchups of the First Month

A WNBA season that was filled with so much uncertainty now has a start date — July 25 — to go with a 22-game schedule that includes matchups that are intriguing as ever.

In a season in which teams are adjusting to missing stars, building chemistry with new stars and life in the WNBA bubble, looking too far ahead seems fraught.

There are plenty of great matchups in the first month of the season, so let’s pick 10. And we will go from there.

July 25
New York vs. Seattle
No. 1 draft pick Sabrina Ionescu will make her WNBA debut against a team that many consider one of the favorites to contend for the 2020 title in the Seattle Storm. This game will also mark the first time back on the floor for Breanna Stewart since she led the Storm to a WNBA title back in 2018 and won WNBA MVP. Stewart missed the 2019 season with an Achilles injury, but she isn’t even the only comeback story on the Seattle roster. Also back is future Hall of Fame point guard Sue Bird, who missed the 2019 season as well. And the Bird vs. Ionescu matchup in the opening game of the season is going to be one to watch, particularly after Ionescu led her college team, Oregon, to win over Bird and the U.S. National team last fall in Eugene. The Liberty are a very young team, and they will open the season against a team with most of its top talent back, a team that’s hungry to reclaim a title.

BRADENTON – JULY 13: Sabrina Ionescu #20 of the New York Liberty poses for a portrait during Media

July 25
Los Angeles vs. Phoenix
This is always a game you want to watch as a WNBA fan with two star-filled rosters going head-to-head. It’s a battle of the ‘big threes’. The Sparks will have Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike and Chelsea Gray going up against Diana Taurasi, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Brittney Griner. This is a new look for the Mercury. Taurasi is back on the floor, healthy after missing most of 2019 with injuries. Diggins-Smith is one of the biggest offseason acquisitions of any team in the league, and Griner is at the peak of her career. Finding the chemistry between these three – and particularly between Taurasi and Diggins-Smith – will be key early on. The Sparks should have little trouble considering how long Parker, Ogwumike and Gray have been on the floor together.

BRADENTON – JULY 14: Brittney Griner #42 and Skylar Diggins-Smith #4 of the Phoenix Mercury poses for a portrait during Media Day

July 26
Chicago vs. Las Vegas
In one of the most dramatic moments in WNBA postseason history, Dearica Hamby’s heave from almost halfcourt sent the Aces to the WNBA semifinals last season and sent the Sky home brokenhearted. Chances are Chicago hasn’t forgotten that feeling. The Sky, under second year head coach James Wade, come back with most of their roster intact, including the All-Star guard tandem of Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley. The Aces are playing this shortened season without center Liz Cambage, but will lean heavily on forward A’ja Wilson, Hamby and guards Jackie Young and Kayla McBride.

BRADENTON – JULY 11: Angel McCoughtry #35 of the Las Vegas Aces looks on during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

July 28
Washington vs. Connecticut.
A rematch of the 2020 WNBA Finals series won by the Mystics, this one won’t be quite the same without Jonquel Jones or Courtney Williams on Connecticut’s roster and with questions about whether Tina Charles or Elena Delle Donne will be on the floor for Washington. The matchup of the night here will be Emma Meesseman vs. Alyssa Thomas duel in the frontcourt.

BRADENTON – JULY 11: The Connecticut Sun huddle during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

July 29
New York vs. Dallas
Most notable about this game between two teams that made big offseason changes is the reunion of Ionescu and Satou Sabally, who were teammates at Oregon before going No. 1 and No. 2 in the 2020 WNBA Draft. The Dallas Wings are in the midst of a big makeover with Moriah Jefferson, who has sat out the past two seasons, ready to make her Dallas debut in the backcourt, young talent like Sabally and Bella Alarie and the addition of Katie Lou Samuelson. Putting all of those pieces together with second-year sensation Arike Ogunbonwale makes Dallas an intriguing team.

BRADENTON – JULY 10: Bella Alarie #32 of the Dallas Wings looks to get open during team practice at IMG Academy on July 10, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

July 29
Atlanta vs. Las Vegas
The biggest storyline here will be Angel McCoughtry’s first game playing against the franchise she built in Atlanta as their cornerstone player for nearly a decade. McCoughtry missed the 2019 season recovering from a knee injury and then moved on from the Dream after 10 seasons. The Dream are remade this season with 10 new players built around veterans Elizabeth Williams and Monique Billings. The backcourt will be without Renee Montgomery and Tiffany Hayes, who have opted out of the 2020 season, giving an opportunity for rookie Chennedy Carter, the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, to make an immediate impact.

BRADENTON – JULY 11: Chennedy Carter #3 of the Atlanta Dream handles the ball during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.

August 1
Los Angeles vs. Seattle
Two star-studded teams will meet in this game with a surplus of great individual matchups. Which do you like best? Natasha Howard vs. Nneka Ogwumike inside? Chelsea Gray vs. Jewell Loyd? Candace Parker vs. Breanna Stewart? This one is a win-win no matter which way you look.

BRADENTON – JULY 11: Breanna Stewart #30 of the Seattle Storm handles the ball during practice

August 8
Los Angeles vs. Minnesota
One of the best rivalries in the WNBA is back for another edition, this time with a big twist. The Lynx will lean heavily on All-Star Center Sylvia Fowles and 2019 Rookie of the Year Napheesa Collier as they play another season without Maya Moore, and now without Seimone Augustus, who after 14 years in Minnesota, will play for L.A. That will make this game even more compelling than it always is.

BRADENTON – JULY 10: Candace Parker #3 of the Los Angeles Sparks warms up during practice at IMG Academy on July 10, 2020 in Bradenton, Florida.

August 10
Phoenix vs. Dallas
Skylar Diggins-Smith will play against her former team for the first time. Arike Ogunbowale, the top scoring rookie in the league in 2019, will have a chance to match her scoring prowess against the greatest scorer in WNBA history in Taurasi.

BRADENTON – JULY 10: Diana Taurasi #3 talks with Skylar Diggins-Smith #4 and Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury during practice at IMG Academy on July 10, 2020 in Bradenton, Florida.

August 18
Indiana vs. Connecticut
The Fever have a new head coach in Marianne Stanley with a long history in the WNBA, and the Connecticut Sun are still hunting for their first WNBA title after last season’s title run. Connecticut is playing without All-Star center Jonquel Jones, but have added DeWanna Bonner to the roster to provide experience, versatility and an offensive punch. Indiana still looks like an up-and-coming team with a load of young players, including rookie forward Lauren Cox, the No. 3 pick in the draft, and Teaira McCowan, one of the biggest players in the league. This is a team with a boatload of talent at guard with Victoria Vivians, Erica Wheeler, Kelsey Mitchell and Tiffany Mitchell.

BRADENTON – JULY 10: Jasmine Thomas #5 of the Connecticut Sun during practice at IMG Academy on July 10, 2020 in Bradenton, Florida.