Aces vs lynx a'ja wilson
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

New FSM Feature: Are the 2023 Aces the Best Team in WNBA History?

Franchise Sports Media

 

FSM’s Cole Huff kicks off July with a column highlighting the Las Vegas Aces’ path to all-time greatness.

New FSM Feature:  Are the 2023 Aces the Best Team in WNBA History?

Aces vs Liberty Chelsea Grey
Photo Credit: Trisha Lacoste/Franchise Sports Media

Nearly one month ago, on a Sunday evening in June, I found myself chomping at the bit to spill onto the internet my early thoughts on the defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces’ smooth start to the season. Up to that point, they’d breezed through their first seven games, winning them all by a total margin of 114 points (an average of 16.3 points per game for those struggling to do some quick mental math) — actions I’d deem praiseworthy.

The hot start featured well-roundedness in the scoring department, lockdown defense, and new faces fitting in seamlessly to the Aces’ championship culture and style of play, giving the team a sense of unbeatability.

Yet, the Aces were beaten shortly after my several hundred complimentary words for them — specifically, less than 24 hours later by dropping a 94-77 contest to the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena. Slight overreactions from the outside media probably surfaced on the web or, at the very least, crossed the minds of the few who were wise enough not to publicize such reactions.

 

Aces vs Storm final score 96-63
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

But with a veteran-led, eight-player rotation containing a collection of individuals who’ve all tasted the celebratory championship champagne at some point in their respective WNBA careers, overreactions weren’t emerging out of the Aces’ locker room.

What’s happened since that June 8th night in Connecticut that saw DeWanna Bonner burn the Aces for a career-best 41 points? Perfection. Vegas has reeled off eight consecutive wins in the aftermath of that forgettable night against the Sun (all but one win by double-digit margins), distinguishing itself as the clear leader of the pack when it comes to the race for the 2023 WNBA title.

If such a separation wasn’t clear, look no further than Vegas’ two most recent games.

In what was hyped up to be a battle between the league’s two “superteams” and “locks” to appear in the 2023 WNBA Finals, the Aces outclassed the new-look New York Liberty from beginning to end. Their dominating Thursday-night victory saw the defending champions dish a season-best 32 assists on their 40 made field goals in a contest they led by as many as 27 points before settling on a 17-point win.

If that wasn’t telling enough, Vegas avenged its only loss of the season by dismantling the Connecticut Sun by 18 points during a Saturday matinee at Michelob Ultra Arena. The outcome could’ve differed if the Sun’s inside presence, Brionna Jones, wasn’t lost to an Achilles injury for the remainder of the season. Nevertheless, the July 1st showing had that of a statement win, even if the reigning champs don’t need such.

On the heels of that statement win, how about a bold statement on this Aces group? 

The statement:

“The Aces have the best WNBA team ever assembled.” 

The words above come from a good friend of mine who is a long-time WNBA media member — one whose basketball opinion I trust immensely. 

The sheer suddenness and unprompted nature of the proclamation caught me off-guard. Naturally, I pushed back. I asked, “Better than the 2017 (Minnesota) Lynx?” — a championship-winning team that rostered future Hall-of-Fame players and league-changing players such as Maya Moore, Sylvia Fowles, and Seimone Augustus. “Better than the early 2000s Sparks? Better the Houston Comets dynasty that won the first four W championships?” “On paper, yes,” he clapped back. And you know what? I can respect that train of thought.

 

On paper, the Aces’ roster is arguably as good as any we’ve seen. 

 

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

Although Candace Parker has exited her prime, she’s still an extremely versatile, scheme-proof veteran big who can turn back the clock on both ends of the court when the time calls for it. Two league MVPs later, and at 26, A’ja Wilson, is in her prime (or maybe just entering) and has a case for being the best player in the W.

Jackie Young is also entering her prime after raising her play to an even greater level in Year 5. Of course, the Point Gawd, Chelsea Gray, is the best at her position, and Kelsey Plum has proven to be the scorer in the WNBA that she was in college, where she still holds the NCAA record for total career points.

All of that is before getting to the bench, where Alysha Clark, Kiah Stokes, and Riquna Williams provide Becky Hammon with championship DNA and big-game experience as WNBA veterans.

It’s safe to say that the 2023 version of Becky Hammon’s Aces is miles ahead of the 2022 squad. But just 16 games into the season, the Aces still have a lot of work to reach the top of the mountain that they did a season ago. Even more, there’s a long way to go for them to be able to drop the “assembled” from best “Best WNBA team ever assembled.” However, that reality doesn’t appear to be very far away.

The Aces’ path to greatness resumes this Wednesday when they host the Dallas Wings at 7:00 pm PT at Michelob Ultra Arena.

Cole Huff breaks down the Aces’ early season success. 

 

-Cole Huff– Franchise Sports Media

Follow Cole on Twitter @ColeHoops

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