86°F
weather icon Partly Cloudy

5 things to watch as Las Vegas Aces start WNBA season

Updated May 24, 2019 - 3:33 pm

The Aces finished their first WNBA season in Las Vegas with a 14-20 record.

They open their second season as the betting favorite to win the league championship.

Injuries to star players have ravaged some of the top teams in the league. Stars on other teams are sitting out for personal reasons. And the Aces figure to be much better than last season.

Here are five things to monitor before they open the season Sunday against the Los Angeles Sparks at Mandalay Bay Events Center.

1. The frontcourt

WNBA first-team selection Liz Cambage is teaming with reigning Rookie of the Year

A’ja Wilson to form possibly one of the best frontcourt tandems in league history. Cambage couples her 6-foot-8-inch frame with uncanny strength to bully opponents on the low block, and the 6-4 Wilson is brilliant facing and attacking the basket.

Aces coach Bill Laimbeer could stagger their minutes, too, ensuring one of the two is on the court at all times.

“I can’t wait to get on the court with her, getting into systems and making things work,” Wilson said during training camp. “She’s going to be a big body presence that we’re going to have in the paint, always.”

2. The bench

The Aces fortified their starting lineup with the acquisitions of Cambage and No. 1 overall pick Jackie Young, thereby fortifying their bench. Forward Dearica Hamby re-signed in the offseason, veteran wing Tamera Young returns to the rotation, and former Sixth Woman of the Year Sugar Rodgers provides scoring from the guard position.

Centers Carolyn Swords and JiSu Park are sturdy in the interior, and Sydney Colson is an experienced backup point guard.

“They have to figure out who their identity is and who their go-to people are offensively,” Laimbeer said. “It’s going to be a work in process how they’re going to work together.”

3. Jackie Young

Young, a 6-0 guard from Notre Dame, is a blur in transition and bully in the halfcourt on the perimeter. She will handle the ball some and figures to be a versatile, multipositional defender.

“I’m super excited for our first game,” the rookie said. “We’re just working hard, focusing on (Los Angeles) so we know what we’re doing.”

4. Kelsey Plum

Plum, drafted No. 1 overall in 2017, was among the most improved players in the WNBA last year and shot 43.9 percent from 3-point range after struggling as a rookie. She could be even more efficient this season playing alongside Cambage, Wilson, Young and All-Star guard Kayla McBride.

“She’s an intriguing person. She’s maniacal at times,” Laimbeer said of Plum. “She’s an intense, driven individual. … She loves to play basketball. That’s who she is. She’s worked hard at it.”

5. The last roster spot

The Aces will start the season with 11 players, one fewer than the league limit of 12. They have some salary cap flexibility to add another player.

More Aces: Follow at reviewjournal.com/aces and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Las Vegas Aces foward A’ja Wilson finds groove with efficiency

Wilson is finding her groove offensively, and submitted last week her best two individual performances of the season — a 28-point outburst against the Washington Mystics and a 20-point game against the Dallas Wings — to garner Western Conference Player of the Week honors.