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Key storylines heading into 2023 WNBA Season

We go over the key storylines you should know ahead of 2023 WNBA Season starting on Friday, May 19.

New York Liberty v Las Vegas Aces Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The 2023 WNBA season is set to begin this Friday and it’s already setting up to be one of the most compelling campaigns the league has had to date. Interest in the league continues to grow as last year’s campaign marked the WNBA’s most-watched regular season in 14 years. To satiate the increased demand, the league has expanded the regular season for a second year in a row as each team will now play 40 games.

Driving this interest is a number of compelling storylines heading into the year and we’ll go over them below.

2023 WNBA Season storylines

Aces repeat aspirations

The Las Vegas Aces were dominant throughout the 2022 season and ultimately defeated the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA Finals to hoist the franchise’s first title. With a stacked lineup that includes two-time MVP A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum, and 2022 Most Improved Player Jackie Young, the franchise cemented itself as a “superteam” in the offseason by signing veteran Candace Parker to a one-year deal. This, along with them opening the league’s first team headquarters and practice facility, has made Vegas the current glamour franchise of the WNBA.

They enter the 2023 campaign as the favorites to repeat as WNBA Champions at DraftKings Sportsbook and will be the team everyone is gunning after throughout the year. They will face some early adversity with head coach Becky Hammon being suspended two games without pay for a violation of league workplace policies. However, they should be able to get into full gear and be must-watch television every time they hit the court.

Liberty superteam

On the other side of the country, another potential superteam to counter Las Vegas has emerged in the New York Liberty. Following a 16-20 season a year ago, the team made a few offseason moves that should propel them to the top fast. As part of a monster three-team January deal involving the Sun and Dallas Wings, the Liberty dealt veteran Natasha Howard and got back former MVP Jonquel Jones. A few weeks later, the team made a pair of major signings acquiring former MVP Breanna Stewart as well as veteran guard Courtney Vandersloot. And just this week, they locked rising star Sabrina Ionescu into a multi-year deal through 2025.

New York currently has the second-highest odds to win the WNBA title at DraftKings Sportsbook and it will be interesting to see if these moves will actually vault them to the top.

Brittney Griner’s return

Arguably the biggest on-court story for the entire league this season is the return of Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, who was detained in Russia for 10 months last year on drug-related charges. The league and athletes from other sports advocated for her release throughout the year and in December, she was finally released in a prisoner swap. In her first public statement after returning home, she announced her intent to play during the 2023 season and re-signed with the Mercury on a one-year deal in February.

Phoenix’s first regular season game will be at Los Angeles this Friday at 11 p.m. ET and a national audience will be able to watch Griner’s official return on ESPN.

New stars

As is the case every year, the 2023 WNBA Draft brought a new crop of players that could potentially emerge as the new stars of the league. At the top is No. 1 overall pick Aliyah Boston, who is the odds favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook to win Rookie of the Year with the Indiana Fever. Right behind her are a number of other former college basketball stars who could break out, a list that includes Diamond Miller with the Minnesota Lynx, Maddy Siegrist with the Dallas Wings, and Haley Jones with the Atlanta Wings.

Race to the 2024 WNBA Draft

Something worth noting heading into the 2023 WNBA season is that the 2024 WNBA Draft class is already the most anticipated rookie class in league history. Cemented collegiate stars like Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, UConn’s Paige Bueckers, and LSU’s Angel Reese will be draft eligible and will all bring an immediate combination of skill and star power to whichever team takes them. This will be something to keep note of as the season plays out and the draft order is finalized.