The WNBA is approaching in the next couple of weeks and after the draft was finalized, the teams are starting to mold themselves into what will be the regular-season roster. Preseason is currently underway with the first contests beginning on May 6th starting with the new-look Indiana Fever at the home of Elena Delle Donne and the Washington Mystics. After the Seattle Storm raised the first-ever Commissioner's Cup, 2022 kicks off the second edition of this season-long competition. This year is loaded with superstar talent on almost every team and considering the offseason that the Chicago Sky had, they could be the favorites to win back-to-back WNBA titles for the first time since Lisa Leslie and the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002.
Given the news of Britney Griner's situation in Russia, arguably the biggest storyline before the season is how the Mercury are going to adjust with one of its most influential players under governmental control of an entirely different country. Recently appointed head coach, Vanessa Nygaard spoke on the situation, stating, "As a staff, we’ve adjusted knowing that she won’t be here at least for the beginning of the season to change a little bit about what we do offensively and defensively. I do want the players to feel good and it can’t be great. I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes worried about BG. All we can do is keep doing what we’re doing and hopefully hold it down here for the Mercury."
Losing Griner is going to not only have an effect on Phoenix mentally but on the court as well. Last season, Kia Nurse tore her ACL in October and missed the entire rest of the 2021 season, and is expected to miss a majority of the 2022 season as she recovers. Griner is arguably the best center in the WNBA with the expectation of possibly Liz Cambage, but without her, the Mercury needs to find a way to supplement her presence. During the offseason, Phoenix was busy signing 33-year-old, eight-time All-Star, Tina Charles from Washington, and versatile wing Diamond DeShields from the defending champion Chicago Sky.
The Mercury lack a lot of depth without Griner in the middle of the paint. It puts more pressure on Diana Taurasi, and Skylar Diggins-Smith to not only create plays for their teammates, but for themselves as they will have to take on a lot more responsibility. Phoenix is extremely top-heavy when it comes to talent, but for an entire WNBA season, the Mercury need Nurse and Griner back to find any sort of success in the postseason. Losing the player that averaged the second-most points in the league last season for an unknown amount of time could see the Mercury go through an adjustment period. The good thing is, the players that they added are elite in their own right, but the question remains, will it be enough to carry the load for a team that went through more changes than any other organization in the league in 2022.
The most heartfelt moment of the 2022 WNBA season is going to be the farewell tour of the Seattle Storm legend herself, Sue Bird. Since being drafted in 2002, Bird has lived up to the expectations that were put on her since coming from UConn. During the summer, Bird signed another one-year deal with the Storm as she is going to embark on her 19th season as a pro which would be a record for any player in WNBA history. She is not a player that is going to go lightly into the sunset. Bird has continued to prove even in her early 40s that she is an elite point guard with court vision that few in the league can match.
She was named an All-Star at age 40 where she started every game she played and averaged double-digit points along with 5.3 assists. The defending Commissioner's Cup title winners return the two-time Finals MVP, Breanna Stewart, and three-time All-Star and 2021 All-WNBA First Team selection, Jewell Loyd. The big three of Loyd, Stewart, and Bird along with the role players of Mercedes Russell, new addition Gabby Williams, and 2022 draft selection Evina Westbrook make this team a force to be reckoned with.
The team that came out of nowhere in 2021, and finished with the best record in the WNBA, Connecticut Sun looks to continue that trend with the reigning MVP Jonquel Jones returning to Connecticut on a new two-year deal. With Alyssa Thomas back in the fold and healthy following surgery on her torn Achilles, head coach Curt Miller will have a plethora of talent to choose from including Brionna Jones, and the homecoming of Courtney Williams following two short seasons in Atlanta with the Dream.
The Sun may have the deepest team in the league with six players being named as All-Stars at some point during their careers. The only reason to cause questions for this Connecticut team is the fact that it fell in the playoffs relatively easily after a season where it went 26-6. The Sun have proven it in the regular season, but the postseason is a whole different animal. Miller has an enormous amount of quality and intelligence at his disposal this season, and only time will tell if this squad can live up to the expectations after going 15-1 on their home floor.
The defending champion, Chicago Sky hopes to revitalize the magic from last season's historic run, taking the long way to hoist the title in the end. The team brings back Courtney Vandersloot, Candace Parker, and 2021 Finals MVP Kahleah Copper on top of the fact that the team went out and snatched the 2019 Finals MVP from Washington, Emma Meesseman makes Sky even more of a threat to win it all once again in 2022. Meesseman is a Belgian superstar who has the ability to stretch the floor with her length and shooting abilities. The team has possibly the best passer in the league in Vandersloot, and the best shooter in Allie Quigley on the same roster. It is going to be hard to beat the versatility and depth that head coach James Wade is going to throw at his opponents night in and night out.
Chicago traded DeShields, but with the evolution of Copper, and the addition of Meesseman, the Sky still carry championship potential. The only real concern is if the Cinderella run in 2021 was just a fluke, as the team went into the playoffs as a .500 squad with little to no expectations put upon them. This question can be quickly squashed given the experience they received during the run in the postseason, the multitude of talent that Chicago has in almost every position makes this team one of the favorites to win the title in the fall of 2022.
A new WNBA season full of changes, expectations, and a level of competitiveness that is looking like the best in the history of the league. Derek Fisher and the Sparks introduced their new face of the franchise in Liz Cambage. Trying to find its way back to the big time, Los Angeles acquired Katie Lou Samuelson and a young creative guard Jordin Canada making Los Angeles a team to watch in 2022. The Dream and the Fever hope to re-invent themselves with all of the young talent it brought to their team via the draft. The Wings and the Lynx will always be threats with Arike Ogunbowale, and Sylvia Fowles who is finishing out her storied career in 2022 in the lineup. New York and new head coach Sandy Brondello have questions about whether the team can bring itself to the next level without its top-pick Nyara Sabally on board in 2022 after being selected with the fifth overall selection. There is no doubt the excitement level is at an all-time high heading into the beginning of May. All of the logistics of the draft, and free agency are over, and now it is time for some of the best players in the world to battle it out in the highly entertaining, newly constructed, WNBA.