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Season In Review: Las Vegas Aces

As the end of 2020 draws near, WNBA.com is wrapping up this historic season by reviewing each team’s season. Take a look back at notable contributors and season highlights with the 2020 Season In Review. Next up: Las Vegas Aces.

Overview

Despite missing some key pieces, the Aces would finish the regular season with the league’s best record (18-4), earn their first Finals berth in franchise history and produce the 2020 MVP.

As Las Vegas boarded the plane to IMG Academy, they were missing two marquee players in center Liz Cambage (medically excused) and point guard Kelsey Plum (recovering from Achilles injury). The Aces, however, added five-time All-Star Angel McCoughtry who would provide veteran leadership and Finals experience. A’ja Wilson emerged as one of the league’s biggest stars both on and off the court while reigning Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby would run it back yet again. In the backcourt, Kayla McBride and Jackie Young would be joined by veteran Danielle Robinson.

The Aces began their season 1-2, but quickly found their rhythm and took off on a seven-game win streak. The Aces finished their season on a six-game win streak, helping earn them the No. 1 seed and a double-bye as they entered the postseason.

In the semifinals, the Aces persevered in a hard-fought five-game series against the Sun – and for the first time in franchise history, the Aces were heading to the Finals. Though Las Vegas fell short in the end, they exceed almost everyone’s expectations – and will have plenty to build on come 2021.

Top Contributors

A’ja Wilson

In just her third season, Wilson became one of the league’s biggest stars. The 24-year old was named the league’s Most Valuable Player along with being unanimously selected to the All-WNBA First Team and earning All-Defensive Second Team honors. Most recently off-the-court, Wilson was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list.

Wilson ranked in the top six in points (2nd), rebounds (6th) and blocks (T1). The athletic 6-4 forward impressed as she averaged 20.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 2.0 BPG and 1.2 SPG in 31.7 MPG. Wilson scored at least 20 points in 15 of 22 games, including a season-high 31 points against the New York Liberty on Aug. 9. She recorded seven double-doubles and had two games with five blocks.

Off the court, A’ja Wilson served on the WNBA’s Social Justice Council. The council cultivated designated spaces for community conversations, virtual roundtables and other activations to address the country’s long history of inequality, implicit bias and systemic racism that has targeted black and brown communities.

Angel McCoughtry

On July 26 Angel McCoughtry would make her Aces debut. McCoughtry silenced anyone who thought the seasoned veteran was past her prime as she dropped 25 points (the fourth-highest point total for a player making her debut for a team in WNBA history) and collected eight boards. McCoughtry’s impressive play continued throughout the season, too.

The 34-year-old started all 22 games averaging 20 MPG. McCoughtry recorded 14.4 PPG on 51.8% shooting and 47.1% from beyond the arc. The seven-time All-Defensive Team selection also proved that she’s still a force to be reckoned with. On the defensive end, McCoughtry averaged 5.1 RPG and 1.3 SPG.

Off the court, McCoughtry spoke up regarding the social and racial injustices occurring across the country. Prior to the 2020 WNBA season, Angel McCoughtry suggested adding Breonna Taylor’s name to the back of WNBA jerseys. Shortly after McCoughtry, the Aces and WNBA all began working on McCoughtry’s vision.

McCoughtry’s efforts didn’t stop there. She continued to speak up about racial injustices and specifically Breonna Taylor’s case.

“[This is] for our ancestors who didn’t have a chance to speak as loud as we can now through social media and technology,” said McCoughtry, “I think it’s just important for ourselves, for our nation.”

Dearica Hamby

The reigning Sixth Woman of the Year proved that she could do it again, and even better the second time around. After recording career highs across the board in MIN, PTS, FG%, 3PM, 3P%, REB, AST and STL, Hamby earned her second-straight Sixth Woman of the Year award. Coming off the bench, Hamby managed 13.0 PPG on 53.9% shooting while hauling in 7.1 RPG and snatching away 1.7 SPG. The six-year veteran scored in double-digits in all but four games.

What might be most impressive though is that Hamby was able to play at this level while still parenting her 3-year old daughter Amaya who accompanied her in Bradenton. Amaya stole the hearts of WNBA fans (and Holly Rowe) as she cheered for her mom on the sidelines.

Though the forward was juggling basketball, being a mother, a global pandemic and social unrest, it didn’t stop her from leaving it all on the court.

“When people talk about my legacy, I want them to say that I played my ass off no matter the circumstances and that I love being a mom,” Hamby says. “Every opportunity I get, I treat it like it’s my last. Even with parenting, I don’t take any moment for granted.”

Season Highlights

Aces’ Win Streaks

On August 2, Las Vegas took off on a seven-game win streak (their longest of the season). The MVP led the team in scoring in five of the seven games, including a 31-point outing against New York.

On August 18, the Aces fell to their newfound rival, the Sky. However, the team quickly bounced back and headed on a four-game win streak. Las Vegas closed out their season on a six-game win streak to post a combined record of 17-2 over August and September. A’ja Wilson earned Western Conference Player of the Month for August and September, while Bill Laimbeer earned Coach of the Month twice over that same time span.

A’ja Wilson Suprised With MVP Award

On the morning of Sept. 17th, A’ja Wilson and the Aces headed to the Player’s Lounge for what they thought was a referee meeting. In actuality, the league staged a fake meeting to surprise Wilson with her WNBA trophy. After everyone settled in WNBA Commissioner, Cathy Engelbert slipped through the back door carrying the trophy and stunned Wilson. An emotional Wilson thanked her teammates, coaches and the Aces organization crediting them for the accomplishment as well.

Wilson’s MVP achievement was announced on The Jump on ESPN later that day.

Aces Semifinals Battle

On Sept. 20, the Semifinals and best-of-five series began. The Aces would face the gritty Sun who had already defeated Courtney Vandersloot and the Sky in Round 1 and Candace Parker and the Sparks in Round 2. The Aces would fall 87-62 in Game 1, but prevail 83-75 in Game 2 to even the series. In Game 3, Wilson’s double-double wasn’t enough and the Aces were defeated, 77-68. Ahead of Game 4 Dearica Hamby was ruled out and would miss the rest of Playoffs due to a knee injury. It was win or go home for the Aces. Thanks to McCoughtry’s 29 points the Aces evened the series and forced Game 5. On Sept. 29 McCoughtry and Wilson combined for 43 points, and the Aces punched their ticket the 2020 Finals.