Team USA's roster is officially set which means the Americans are ready to defend their world cup title in Sydney, Australia. The defending world cup champions, and Olympic champions, will face Belgium in the second game on September 21 at 8:30 pm central time.
Even though the Americans' roster looks vastly different with tons of new additions, that doesn't stop them from being the top team in the power rankings and the immediate team to beat. Let's dive into the finalized roster.
Authors note: For the sake of clarity, this will not include players who played in any tournament other than a past world cup or Olympics. No U18s or others will be counted or put into consideration.
What makes the world cup so exciting is the addition of new faces of WNBA stars for the Americans. Players who either weren't considered for the Olympic squad or were cut from training camp have the ability to show off their skills especially with players like Diana Taurasi sitting out and the retired legends of Sue Bird and Syvlia Fowles no longer playing basketball. Of course, this years squad will unfortunately be without Phoenix Mercury star and two time world and Olympic champion Brittney Griner as she continues to be wrongfully detained in Russia.
Shakira Austin (Washington Mystics): There's nothing I like more than seeing a rookie make a Team USA squad for a major tournament game like the world cup. Austin was the third overall pick in the 2022 WNBA draft to the Mystics and proved to be a pivotal part of the rotation after the loss of Emma Meesseman to the Chicago Sky.
She proved herself immediately, starting 34 of the Mystics' 38 games including the playoffs. Her post presence and ability to defend some of the best while scoring on them are skills that can be hard to accomplish against established posts in the WNBA. She averaged 7.9 points and seven rebounds per game and earned WNBA All-Rookie Team honors.
Kahleah Copper (Chicago Sky): Copper is probably one of the most exciting additions to USA's squad. After her break out season in the "wubble", she became one of the most dynamic scorers and finishers in the league. In 2021, she led the Sky to their first ever WNBA championship and finished with the finals MVP.
When you look at Copper's stats, it doesn't give her style of play and ability to change the game with one shot justice. She is an acrobatic finisher. The shots she puts up at the rim don't seem real. Your jaw will drop when watching her finishes. I'd expect to see a ton of those down under.
This season, Copper averaged 16.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.
Sabrina Ionescu (New York Liberty): The moment fans have been waiting for; the debut of 2020 number one overall pick, Sabrina Ionescu's Team USA debut. This past season, Ionescu was healthy and dynamic. Sure, the team struggled but it is crucial to know that they fought so hard and were without Betnijah Laney, a key player, for majority of it. Regardless, Sabrina showed up and out for her team like she's known to do.
Opponents already know that Ionescu will launch threes like there is no tomorrow, crash the boards and dish out a ton of assists in fancy fashion. The question is, how will they stop her from doing so? A healthy Ionescu is a terrifying Ionescu that will keep the opposing team's hands full.
This season she averaged 15.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.
Brionna Jones (Connecticut Sun): When you're on a team as stacked as the Connecticut Sun are in the post, you'll probably find yourself on the bench. Jones did find herself there backing up Jonquel Jones but don't let that fool you. Brionna was awarded the WNBA's sixth player of the year for her efforts. She put up starter numbers for her squad which helped lead them to the finals.
Matching up against Jones will be hard. She is a traditional big with a lot of size and power down low. She's a proficient finisher at the rim and an excellent rebounder. She'll do a great job at filling in for Griner and will be tough to defend.
This season she averaged 12.1 points and a bit less than 4.1 rebounds per game.
Betnijah Laney (New York Liberty): To wrap up the newbies, we have Betnijah Laney. She only appeared in 12 games this season which might make fans wonder why she's on the squad in the first place. She was out with injury for majority of the season. When you ignore that aspect, you'll understand why she was chosen.
Laney was another player who had a break out season in the "Wubble" where she was awarded the league's most improved player with the Atlanta Dream. She then left for New York in the 2021 offseason and became a leader for the team. She stretches the floor and demands a double team when she gets the ball. She excels at dribble drives and finishing at the rim.
This season she averaged a bit less than 11.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game in her shortened season.
Ariel Atkins (Washington Mystics): Atkins is a dynamic three point sharpshooter who has Olympic experience. She was on the 2020 Tokyo Olympic squad but didn't see too much playing time. She should have the opportunity to excel in Sydney and take up a bigger, more prominent role down under.
Atkins continues to improve her game in every aspect. Her leadership and ability to knock down the three with ease while sharing the ball will help space the floor and give opportunities to everyone.
This past season she averaged 15.1 points, 2.4 rebound and four assists per game.
Chelsea Gray (Las Vegas Aces): What more is there to say about Chelsea Gray than the fact that she's a dynamic beast. After she didn't make the WNBA all-star team, she won Commissioner's Cup MVP and finals MVP. A fire was ignited under the point gawd and she just went flat out beast mode on opponents. It was truly impossible to stop her this season which is clear with how she helped Vegas win their first ever finals.
Not only can she dish the ball in ways you don't see often in point guards, unless you're looking at Sue Bird or Courtney Vandersloot, she can shoot the three, go downhill to finish at the rim and a critical part of her game is the midrange. She is running on a high and will guaranteed be more than a handful for opponents to stop her.
This season she averaged 17.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm): The Gold Mamba is back, y'all. Loyd continues to put up mind boggling numbers and buzzer beaters galore in her eighth season with the Storm. But what do you expect from someone as dynamic and pure as a shooter as she is? She is just another shooting weapon that will keep opponents on their toes. Need I say more?
This season she averaged 17.8 points, 2.5 rebounds and three assists per game.
Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces): After Plum won the first ever Olympic 3x3 gold medal for Team USA, she's been unstoppable. She went from starting no games in 2021 to starting every single game in 2022. Her numbers improved drastically and she was a candidate for the most improved. A healthy KP is a scary KP. Her scoring was off the charts and her assist numbers increased. She was a critical piece to the Aces' finals win.
This season she averaged 18.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.
Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm): Stewie, along with Wilson, are two players I don't need to say anything about for people to know how critical and important they are and will be in defending this title. Stewie was runner up for this seasons' MVP award and her pure style of play and ability to do literally anything just sums it up. You want scoring from everywhere on the court? Stewie's got you. You want great defense against literally any player of any position? Stewie is your woman. She is one of the unequivocal leaders of this squad.
This season she averaged 24.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
Alyssa Thomas (Connecticut Sun): I hate to add onto the people who say this every time AT is mentioned but she has two torn labrum in each shoulder and is putting up numbers like she's fully healthy. Sure her shooting isn't traditional but again, her shoulders are injured. Regardless, that one-handed shot is money when she's driving or putting up a floater.
She's a defensive beast as well and extremely versatile. She helped lead the Sun in being the top team in the offensive rebounding category and that does not go unnoticed. Another post presence who can finish and play formidable defense and clean up the glass will be so crucial to this squad.
This season she averaged 12.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Might I add that she recorded one triple-double in the regular season and two triple-doubles in the finals, the first player to do so? Yeah, she'll be hard to guard.
A'ja Wilson (Las Vegas Aces): Along with Stewie above, there is no need to say more than her name because everyone knows her importance. She won her second MVP award this past season and a lot was due to her expanding her shooting range. Under new head coach Becky Hammon, she was given the full opportunity to space the floor and shoot from three, a skill she rarely used until she was given the green light. Opponents better watch out because when Wilson is on the floor and knocking down shots left and right from beyond-the-arc, you'll be in trouble.
In her second MVP season she averaged 20 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game.