The 2018-19 NBA season came to an end on Thursday with Toronto winning the title over Golden State. But the game doesn’t stop. As the NBA gets set for the draft and free agency over the next few weeks, there is still plenty of action happening on the hardwood.
We are three weeks into the 2019 WNBA season and the 23rd season in league history has gotten off to a strong start. If you’ve been rocking with the W since the season tipped off then you know that already. If you’re just tuning in now and need to catch up on things, here’s what you need to know.
- Sun Rising in Connecticut
The Connecticut Sun sit atop the WNBA standings at 7-1 after picking up their fifth straight win on Friday night against Minnesota. The Sun have opened the season 7-1 for the second straight season, but hope to have a different end result in 2019 after last year’s 21-13 finish and second round playoff exit. Jonquel Jones (17.8 PPG, 12.1 RPG) leads a balanced Sun offense, as the team has not missed a beat following the departure of last year’s All-Star Chiney Ogwumike.
— WNBA (@WNBA) June 15, 2019
- Sister Reunion in Los Angeles
Speaking of Chiney Ogwumike, she was traded to the Los Angeles Sparks in the offseason, where she reunited with her older sister, Nneka, on the court for the first time since their two seasons together at Stanford. The Sparks are 4-2 to open the season – their first under new head coach Derek Fisher – with the Ogwumike sisters each averaging 14.5 (Nneka) and 13 (Chiney) points, respectively. The Sparks have been led by point guard Chelsea Gray (16.5 points, 5.2 assists, 47.4 3P%), who has proven to be one of the most clutch players in the league. And they should be getting Candace Parker back soon as she recently returned to practice after suffering a hamstring injury in the preseason.
- Defending Champs Won’t Back Down
When it comes to injuries no team outside of the Golden State Warriors has been hit harder than the Seattle Storm, who lost reigning league and Finals MVP Breanna Stewart to an Achilles tear in the offseason, legendary point guard Sue Bird just had knee surgery that will keep her out indefinitely and head coach Dan Hughes is hoping to return to the sideline soon after undergoing treatment for cancer. Despite missing two All-WNBA talents and their coach, the title defense continues for the Storm, who have opened the season 5-3 behind big contributions from Natasha Howard – last year’s Most Improved Player has stepped up even bigger this season – as well as Jewell Loyd and second-year point guard Jordin Canada, who has large shoes to fill as she starts in place of Bird.
- A Winning Hand In Vegas
The Las Vegas Aces are star-studded with last year’s WNBA MVP runner-up Liz Cambage joining reigning Rookie of the Year A’ja Wilson and 2019 No. 1 overall pick Jackie Young in the desert. The Aces are 3-3 to open the season as they work Cambage (averaging 15.2 points and 6.0 rebounds in under 18 minutes per game so far) into the mix that also includes sharpshooter Kayla McBride and third-year guard Kelsey Plum. It may take some time for things to jell, but once this team comes together, the sky is the limit. There’s a reason they were selected by the league’s general managers as the title favorites entering the season, and why NBA superstars LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul were sitting courtside for their blowout win over New York on Friday.
— WNBA (@WNBA) June 15, 2019
- Phoenix’s Dynamic Duo
While Diana Taurasi is sidelined following offseason back surgery – she returned to non-contact practice on Thursday to celebrate her 37th birthday – the Mercury have been led by the top scoring duo in the league – DeWanna Bonner (averaging a league-high 23.8 PPG) and Brittney Griner (fifth in the WNBA at 17.7 PPG) with a combined 41.5 points and 16 rebounds per game. Bonner has two of the top four scoring games in the WNBA this season (31 points at Seattle, 28 points at Chicago) but both came in losses. Can the Mercury turn those big scoring nights into victories until they get Taurasi back on the court?
— WNBA (@WNBA) June 15, 2019
- Mystics Ready To Run It Back
The Mystics advanced to their first WNBA Finals last season before falling to the Seattle Storm. They entered the 2019 season with expectations to get back to the championship stage and finish the job this time around. The Mystics have opened the season 4-3 behind a balanced effort that has six players averaging in double figure points. One of those players is Emma Meesseman, who will be out for the next month as she plays for Belgium in Women’s EuroBasket. Washington did get Aerial Powers back from injury to help bolster the lineup. And with Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver getting healthier after opening the season a big banged up, the Mystics should be fine until Meesseman returns.
- Fever Finding Their Way
One of the biggest feel-good stories of the early season is the success of the Indiana Fever. They are 4-3 through seven games; last season, they did not get their fourth win until their 27th game of the season as they finished with a 6-28 record. After back-to-back seasons with single-digit wins, the Fever have turned the corner in 2019. Indiana has six players averaging in double figures, led by Kelsey (15.7 PPG) and Tiffany (13.3 PPG) Mitchell and the steady veteran play of Candice Dupree (12.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG). Indiana’s first win of the season gave the WNBA its first buzzer-beater of the season as rookie Teaira McCowan hit a game-winning layup in her rookie debut.
— WNBA (@WNBA) May 25, 2019
- New Look Lynx
Dynasties don’t last forever as Minnesota’s run of six WNBA Finals appearances and four championships in a seven-year span came to an end last season with a first round exit. Lindsay Whalen retired. Maya Moore announced she would not be playing in 2019. Rebekkah Brunson has not signed after dealing with a concussion last season. Seimone Augustus underwent knee surgery and has yet to play this season. The pillars of the Lynx dynasty are no longer with the team. But the Lynx opened the season 3-0 and now sit at 4-4 as new faces emerge to help Sylvia Fowles (a holdover from the final two Lynx title teams) and coach Cheryl Reeve keep the team in contention. Rookie Napheesa Collier has been impressive in her opening weeks in the WNBA as have offseason acquisitions Odyssey Sims, Lexie Brown and Damiras Dantas.
- Charles In Charge in New York
The Liberty closed the 2018 season with 13 straight losses and began the 2019 season with four more as they tied the Atlanta Dream for the third-longest losing streak in WNBA history. But that streak was snapped this past week as the Liberty picked up home wins over Las Vegas and Minnesota. Tina Charles leads the Liberty with 19.1 points (3rd in WNBA) and 7.9 rebounds (8th in WNBA) and became the Liberty’s all-time leading scorer earlier this month. After Charles finished last season as the only double-figure scorer for New York, the Liberty have two more this season with second-year guard Kia Nurse (13.9 PPG) and rookie guard Asia Durr (11.3) offering more balance to the Liberty attack.
Most consecutive games lost, WNBA history
20: Tulsa Shock, June 21 – Aug. 25, 2011
18: Indiana Fever, August 8, 2017 – June 14, 2018
17: Atlanta Dream, May 17 – July 3, 2008
17: New York Liberty, July 17, 2018 – June 7, 2019
— WNBA (@WNBA) June 4, 2019
- Sloot Dropping Dimes Again
How do you follow up a season when you break the WNBA record for total assists (258) and assists per game (8.6)? If you’re Courtney Vandersloot you try to top your own records. Through five games, she leads the WNBA with 8.4 assists per game. She already owns the top two assist average seasons in WNBA history, can she push the legendary Ticha Penicheiro – the WNBA’s first passing virtuoso and recent inductee into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame – out of the top three this season? As long as players like Diamond DeShields, Allie Quigley and Stefanie Dolson keep finishing off Sloot’s passes, she just might.
Highest average, assists per game, season (qualifiers)
8.6 Courtney Vandersloot, Chicago, 2018 (258/30)
8.1 Courtney Vandersloot, Chicago, 2017 (218/27)
8.0 Ticha Penicheiro, Sacramento, 2002 (192/24)