Above the Break: Looking to the WNBA’s Future

With the 2022 WNBA season appearing in the books, we’re looking back at how it all ended and what looms for the future of the league.

The 2022 WNBA season is over, with the Las Vegas Aces winning their first WNBA title on Sunday. In her first year as a WNBA head coach, Becky Hammon took a team that had been competing for the past few seasons and gave them that final push over the top, focusing on diverging more and really opening up Aja Wilson, which she won for the second time. prize. Or an M’VP award, I should say.

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

How did the WNBA Finals end?

The Aces were a good team under Bill Laimbere, but they were also a very focused team. They ran Laimbeer’s crime, which worked in the past but is also increasingly outdated. Becky Hammon was able to zoom in on the Aces in the modern era, creating an attack with plenty of variety, a big part of what earned the Aces nickname.

Then there is Connecticut. The Sun made the finals largely because Alyssa Thomas allowed them to get a little weird with the rotation as she is able to effectively manage the attack while playing 4.

Vegas and Connecticut are basically the two teams everyone has been waiting for to get over the hump. Connecticut State appears to have stalled as a rival team that won’t win a title… and that could still be true, because the Sun didn’t win a title this year. But the way coach Kurt Miller was able to use Thomas really helped this team get to the best version of themselves: a bruising attack that hits opponents on both ends.

The finals battle between these teams was awesome, especially when the teams showcased how different they are at the same time. There were times down the stretch of Finals where Vegas went with A’ja Wilson on 5 and then four guards around, with Riquna Williams on 4, while Sun went the other way with a very large squad that saw Brionna play Jones, Jonquil Jones, Alyssa Thomas and Deewana Bonner in the same the time. It was a clash of tactics, and while Vegas was advancing, Connecticut managed to dominate the Vegas attack, not letting the Aces score more than 85 points in any final game. If the Sun had only one ocean threat, things would have gone differently.

This WNBA Rookie class is the future

After a disappointing rookie class in 2021, the 2022 group made up for it, producing three players who look on their way to being stars in this league – Ryan Howard, Nalissa Smith and Shakira Austin.

Howard won Rookie of the Year for Dream, averaging 16.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Being one of the best prospects of the last few years while in Kentucky, Howard quickly shrugged off concerns about her engine, taking control of the Atlanta team and driving them to their best season since 2018. It didn’t end with a watershed appearance, but Howard looks like someone who could be the best player in the world. Qualifying team by 2023.

Smith was Indiana’s No. 2 pick, part of the Fever’s big junior class. It took a little longer for Smith to find a foothold, but in 32 games, she averaged 13.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Smith did something she never did at Baylor, which was to develop a 3-point game. There are some question marks surrounding the other young players in Fever, but Smith would be a solid piece for this team.

Then there is Austin who finds herself in a completely different situation. While Howard and Smith were tasked with playing the major parts in rebuilding the teams, Austin played with a rival Mystics team that they didn’t really look like they needed at first due to their depth. But Austin quickly showed that she was a vital piece for the Mystics, starting 32 games at the center and averaging 8.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

This draft was expected to feature three very good players. So far, this expectation appears to have become a reality.

Time to set the WNBA’s priorities

2023 is the first season for prioritizing, and prioritizing could fundamentally change the way the WNBA looks.

So, what is prioritization?

Essentially, the CBA will require players to be here at the start of the season. This has been a problem in the past because many players travel abroad in the off-season because overseas teams usually pay much better than WNBA teams.

I have a lot of problems with prioritizing. If the WNBA is going to require players to be here at the start of the season or else they will be suspended for an entire season, the league needs to find a way to pay more money to the players. Demanding players to prioritize their lower-paying jobs is anti-worker. Perhaps there will be some solution that involves every good player signing one-year contracts so that he never joins a team during training camp… Oh, no, the league has also figured out how to get around that by saying that any player who didn’t have a contract Before training camp and still playing abroad when the new season begins, he will not be eligible to enroll in the WNBA.

I understand what the league is trying to do. The current system makes it difficult to know who will play and when. And there is a caveat that players in the first two seasons are exempt from prioritizing. However, I have a feeling that prioritizing is going to be pretty messy, and there’s a chance that until the next TV and CBA deal – which in theory should help raise league-wide salaries – the league will see some of its top players choose not to. game.

WNBA draft prospects to watch

Just because the WNBA season is over doesn’t mean women’s basketball is complete. In addition to the Women’s Basketball World Cup, which began on Wednesday, college season is approaching soon.

There are a lot of compelling reasons to watch girls’ college basketball and I’m sure I can jump right in right now and create an endless list of players to be excited about this season, but since this is a WNBA column, I want to focus on some of the players that WNBA fans need to follow them.

The first is Aliyah Boston, South Carolina Center. Boston is the top center in college basketball, a fact that has been true for the past two years. At 6-foot-5, Boston has the size to be the dominant force in the WNBA and looks almost guaranteed to be the #1 overall pick this year.

Three other players to follow for recruiting purposes are Iowa’s Ashley Jones, Stanford’s Haley Jones, and Maryland’s Diamond Miller. All three play on the wing, and each has things that make him attractive. Miller has the most points on the upside. Jones has the upside in the toy industry. Jones is probably the best pure shooter out of the three. This is a draft with an obvious #1, but other sweepstakes picks will be fine as well.

Watch college basketball. Do it.

(And this is a summary of Above The Break for this WNBA season. Thanks to everyone who read this column this year!)

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