The defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces are off to a blistering start, dominating teams in a fashion rarely seen in the WNBA, which has them on pace to become the first repeat champions since 2002.
Well before the WNBA season began, there was little doubt that the Las Vegas Aces would be the favorite to win it all again. But far too often, the prohibitive favorite flames out to become just another keeping 'with the Jones' contender. That’s what makes this Aces team different.
They are the defending champs with a core group led by All-Star forward/center A’ja Wilson, WNBA Finals MVP Chelsea Gray, All-NBA First team guard Kelsey Plum, and guard Jackie Young, a two-time All-Star who was the league’s most improved player a year ago.
And in the off season, what did they do? They added Candace Parker, one of the greatest players in WNBA history, to an already stacked roster of top-shelf talent.
It would come as a shock to no one if the Aces were able to finish with the best regular season record ever—currently held by Phoenix, with a 29-5 record in 2014. But for a team focused on defending its championship while doing so in a dominant fashion, regular season success means little. And yet even with all the talent they brought back and the addition of Parker, the Aces play with a different kind of championship hunger, the kind you often mistake for teams on the come-up with something to prove.
They easily dismantled the New York Liberty, 98-81, a star-studded squad that was built to be a challenger to the Aces this season. Up next will be a Saturday afternoon showdown against the Connecticut Sun, the only team to beat Las Vegas this season. The Aces went about setting the tone for this year from the opening game of the season by delivering a 41-point drubbing to the Seattle Storm, which stands as the largest margin of victory ever for a WNBA team in their season opener.
Having an unspoken understanding of who they are, what they have to do and an unshakable ability to smash anything in their path, is what makes this team special. As in, dynasty-in-the-making special.
It's a word that really hasn’t been part of the WNBA vernacular in quite a while. In fact, no team has been able to repeat as WNBA champions since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2002. Even before the Sparks' back-to-back championships, the only true dynasty came when the Houston Comets won the WNBA’s first four championships. That team had a Big Three of stars in Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson, all of whom would eventually be enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
When it comes to future Hall of Famers, the Aces have as many or more players on their current roster whose career trajectory points towards basketball immortality among the greatest to ever play the game. But such talk won’t gain any serious traction until the Aces seal the deal and do what their dominant play this season suggests, which is to win another WNBA title.
There’s still about half a season’s worth of games left to be played before the postseason begins. As we have seen, upsets of some sorts are sure to happen when the playoffs roll around. But this team, and all their weapons of mass basketball destruction, seem too locked in, to lose when it counts most.
Their play does more than just explain their success, but rather serves as a trailer of sorts to a dynastic-movie in the making. It may seem to some a bit premature to talk about this Aces team in such flattering, G.O.A.T. terms. But it’s hard to deny their dominance and consistently elite play.
A second straight championship does more than secure their place as the team to beat in the WNBA. It’s a wake-up call to the rest of the basketball community that there’s a new basketball dynasty on the horizon. And it’s the Las Vegas Aces.
They’re that good, that talented and built to be a basketball power for years to come.