Aces vs fever chelsea grey
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

New FSM Feature: A Look at the Aces’ Early Success

Franchise Sports Media

 

FSM’s Cole Huff debuts his first of many columns on the Las Vegas Aces’ quest for a second championship.

New FSM Feature: A Look at the Aces’ Early Success

Ladies and gentlemen, your defending champion Las Vegas Aces are off to a 6-0 start as they pursue a second-world title. While their early-season success may be going somewhat as expected, few could’ve predicted their first six games out of the gate would result in the best start in franchise history — a franchise-best start that’s had some different ingredients than we’re used to seeing. 

Let’s dive into it.

Cole Huff breaks down the Aces’ early season success. 

MORE ON THE HOT START

The Las Vegas Aces are off to a hot start to the 2023 WNBA season. 

Aces Jackie Young
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Not only are the defending champs currently the lone unbeaten team in the WNBA, they’ve mostly done so in convincing fashion. Three of their six wins have come by 18 or more points, with the most lopsided of them coming in a 41-point shellacking of the Seattle Storm out in Washington. The outcomes have offered diversity, which the team’s three reigning All-Stars have thrived in thus far.

Jackie Young, who leads the Aces in scoring at 21.8 points per game, has finished a game as Las Vegas’ leading scorer on multiple occasions, as has reigning two-time MVP A’ja Wilson.

Not to be forgotten was Kelsey Plum’s game-high 23 points during the opener in that beatdown of the Seattle Storm. The three, along with 2022 Finals MVP Chelsea Gray, continue to thrive and feature as the faces of Las Vegas basketball. But what’s different about the Aces now is how they’re much more than a top-heavy team.

THE NEW LOOK

The Aces have a new look as the WNBA defending champions. 

Aces Candice Parker
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

How many times did the Aces have to win games last season without their bench registering a single point? The question is rhetorical, but to answer my question — more than one. Time after time again, it seemed as though all five starters would need to play 35-plus minutes for the Aces to taste victory, which had many expecting them to run out of gas down the stretch of a long season.

Obviously, the gas tank did not hit E before being crowned champions. Yet, that wasn’t a formula the front office seemed interested in repeating in 2023. What changed? Well, a couple of former WNBA champs, including an all-time great, made their way to the city of sin to help carry some of the weight.

Statistically, the newcomers aren’t making a loud statement. Candace Parker has stepped into the starting spot and plugged holes as a do-it-all veteran. She’s averaging career-lows in points (8.7), rebounds (5.3), and minutes (22.3) as she slowly incorporates her way into the team. And if Parker’s box score numbers aren’t exciting, neither is Alysha Clark‘s 8.3 points per game.

But the two bring things head coach Becky Hammon has to be delighted about — veteran leadership, high basketball IQ, toughness, and competence — all crucial at any stage of the season. Parker’s arrival shifts last season’s part-time starting center, Kiah Stokes, back to the bench, where she and Clark have made the Aces’ second unit more than formidable.

Once Riquna Williams returns from a lower back injury, Vegas could have one of the better benches in the league — a scary truth for the rest of the league when considering what Vegas achieved last season without the ability to go deep into their rotation.

The Aces are a deeper team than what they were in 2022. 

STREAKING, BUT FOR HOW LONG?

How long can the Aces keep up their hot start?

Aces vs Lynx A'Ja Wilson
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Look, this has been a fun start to the season for Aces fans and players alike. But the team is going to lose eventually. The question is — when?

The Aces are set to play the final two games of their four-game road trip in Connecticut against the Sun. And despite losing former head coach Curt Miller to the Los Angeles Sparks and former league MVP Jonquel Jones to the New York Liberty, the Sun are still as strong as they were when they last saw Vegas in the 2022 Finals.

With a record of 6-1, Connecticut will be in a good spot at home with two chances to be the first team this season to hand Vegas an L. For the Aces, it’ll be a test of both mental and physical strength. How will they respond to facing a hungry team they eliminated in the championship round? The ends of long road trips are never easy, so how will they battle the continuous travel and the desire to head back home?

For their sake, hopefully, the response leads them back to Michelob Ultra Arena with eight wins and no defeats.

The Aces look to remain undefeated heading into a matchup against the Connecticut Sun. 

TIDBITS:

Cole Huff has his Aces news and notes. 

Aces vs Sparks Beckie Hammon
Photo Credit: Alon Sowell/Franchise Sports Media

We touched on A’ja Wilson and Co. beginning their title defense with a new look on the court. But we didn’t get into their new, albeit temporary, look on the outskirts of the 94-foot hardwood court.

Head coach Becky Hammon did not fill her usual position on the Aces’ sideline to begin the year as she served a two-game suspension by the WNBA following a league investigation. Assistant coaches Tyler Marsh and Natalie Nakase filled in as interim head coaches, each earning victories. 

Candace Parker also moved into 7th place all-time in WNBA career assists during the Aces’ 84-80 win over the Indiana Fever on Sunday.

The Aces are looking to repeat as the defending champions. 

NEXT UP

The defending champs will face the Connecticut Sun tonight for the second time since the two squads met in Game 4 of last season’s WNBA Finals and the second time in two days. Vegas will look to extend its undefeated record to 8-0.

Keep coming to Franchise Sports Media for your Aces coverage.

-Cole Huff– Franchise Sports Media

Follow Cole on Twitter @ColeHoops

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