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.
Aces unveil local TV deal
The Aces have signed a deal with Sinclair Broadcasting Group to televise 16 of their 17 WNBA home games this season locally on KVCW-12.
“The Aces are Las Vegas’ team, and it was important for us in this broadcast agreement to find a true partner in the community,” Aces assistant general manager Christine Monjer said Friday in a statement.
Anne Marie Anderson will call the games for the second straight year, and Rushia Brown will provide color commentary.
The Aces also will play 21 times on national broadcasts — twice on ESPN2, five times on NBATV, six times on Twitter and eight times on CBS Sports Network.
— Sam Gordon/Review-Journal