A look into the future of the WNBA

With the 2022 WNBA season in the books, we look back at how it all ended and what’s on the horizon for the future of the league.

The 2022 WNBA season is over, and the Las Vegas Aces claim their first WNBA title on Sunday. In her first year as WNBA head coach, Becky Hammon took a team that had been competitive for the past few seasons and gave them the final push over the top, emphasizing more spacing and really beating A’ja Wilson, who won her second MVP freely given. Or M’VP award, I should say.

Now that the dust has settled and the Aces’ Championship save is over, let’s take a look at some things we’ve learned this season and what to look forward to.

This is how the WNBA Finals ended

The Aces were a good team under Bill Laimbeer, but they were also a pretty narrow-minded team. They ran a Laimbeer offensive that had worked in the past but had also become increasingly archaic. Becky Hammon was able to bring the Aces into the modern age and create an offense with a lot more versatility, which is a big part of what earned the Aces the title.

And then there’s Connecticut. The Sun made it to the finals in large part because Alyssa Thomas allows them to get a little weird with rotations given her ability to run offense effectively while playing the 4.

Vegas and Connecticut are basically the two teams everyone’s been waiting for to get over the hump. Connecticut appeared to have faltered as a competitive team that wouldn’t win a title…and that could still be true given that the Sun didn’t win this year’s title. But the way head coach Curt Miller was able to use Thomas really helped this team achieve the best version of themselves: just one bloody attack that beats opponents on both ends.

The final battle between these teams was fascinating, especially when the teams showed how different they were at the same time. There were times in the finals when Vegas went with A’ja Wilson on the 5 and then four guards around them with Riquna Williams on the 4 while the Sun went in the opposite direction with an ultra-large lineup seeing Brionna Jones , Jonquel Jones, Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner all play at the same time. It was a clash of styles, and while Vegas took the lead, Connecticut was able to contain the Vegas offense and didn’t allow the Aces to score more than 85 points in a finals game. Had the sun had just one more perimeter threat, things could have been different.

This WNBA rookie class is the future

After a disappointing rookie class in 2021, the 2022 group more than made up for it, producing three players who appear well on their way to becoming stars in this league – Rhyne Howard, NaLyssa Smith and Shakira Austin.

Howard was named Rookie of the Year for the Dream, averaging 16.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. While in Kentucky, Howard was hailed as a top contender in recent years and quickly shook off concerns about her engine, taking control of this Atlanta team and leading them to their best season since 2018. It didn’t end with an appearance in the playoffs, but Howard looks like someone who can be the best player on a playoff team by 2023.

Smith was Indiana’s No. 2, part of a big rookie class for the Fever. It took Smith a little longer to find her footing, but she averaged 13.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game in 32 games. Smith did something she didn’t do at Baylor, which was to develop a 3-point game. There are some question marks surrounding the other young players in the Fever but Smith will be a strong figure for this team.

And then there’s Austin, who was in a very different situation. While Howard and Smith were tasked with playing key roles on Reconstruction teams, Austin played for a rival Mystics roster that initially didn’t really seem like they’d need them given their strength. But Austin very quickly showed that she was an important figure for the Mystics, starting 32 games at center and averaging 8.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

This draft should contain three very good players. So far, it looks like that expectation has become a reality.

It’s time for WNBA prioritization

2023 is the first season of prioritization, and prioritization could radically change the look of the WNBA.

So, what is prioritization?

Essentially, the Liga CBA will require players to be here at the start of the season. This has been a problem in the past because many players go abroad during the off-season, as foreign teams typically pay significantly better than WNBA teams.

I have a lot of problems with prioritization. If the WNBA requires players to be here early in the season or hit by a season-long suspension, the league needs to find a way to pay players more money. Requiring players to prioritize their lower paying job is anti-worker. Maybe there’s a workaround for that, where every good player signs a one-year contract so they’re never on a team during training camp… oh no, the league also figured out a way around that by saying every player who does not have a contract prior to training camp and is still playing abroad at the start of the new season is not eligible to register with the WNBA.

I understand what the league is trying to do. The current system makes it difficult to know which players will play when. And there is a caveat that players are exempt from prioritization in their first two seasons. Still, I have a feeling the prioritization is going to be very messy, and there’s a chance that by the time the next TV deal and CBA – which should theoretically help boost salaries across the league – the league will see some of its best players will play those who choose not to.

WNBA draft prospects to watch

Just because the WNBA season is over doesn’t mean women’s basketball is over. In addition to the FIBA ​​Women’s World Championship that started on Wednesday, the college season is coming up soon.

There are many compelling reasons to watch women’s college basketball and I’m sure I could go ahead and create an endless list of players I’m excited about this season, but since this is a WNBA column, I’d like to I’ll focus on some of the players that WNBA fans need to keep an eye on.

The first is Aliyah Boston, the center for South Carolina. Boston is the premier center in college basketball, a fact that’s been true in recent years. At 6-foot-5, Boston has the size to be a dominant force in the WNBA and looks almost guaranteed to be No. 1 overall this year.

Three other players to watch for drafting purposes are Iowa State’s Ashley Joens, Stanford’s Haley Jones, and Maryland’s Diamond Miller. All three play on the wing, each with things that make them attractive. Miller has the most goals up. Jones has the greatest playmaker advantage. Jones is probably the best straight shooter of the three. This is a clear #1 draft, but the other lottery picks will be good too.

Watch College Basketball. Do it.

(And that wraps up Above The Break for this WNBA season. Thanks to everyone who read this column this year!)

https://fansided.com/2022/09/23/wnba-future-prioritization-aliyah-boston/ A look into the future of the WNBA

John Verrall

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