Ladies and gentlemen, we (potentially) have liftoff!!! The WNBA recently rolled out their plans for the start of the 2020 season. COVID definitely forced several sports leagues to adjust on the fly and the W rose to the occasion as usual. The league has been working with the WNBPA and other stakeholders to formulate a plan to make this season a reality. After much deliberation, they have a blueprint for how they want the 2020 campaign to unfold. The league announced a 22 game season with standard playoff format will take place at the IMG Academy in Florida. It’s going to be interesting to see how the season plays out without the rigors of travel and how players adjust to playing in empty arenas.
While no actual basketball has been taking place, the W has still been busy. Earlier this year, the league and the Players Association agreed to a historic CBA which led to the wildest free agency period ever. We saw teams make some serious power moves and put themselves in prime position to make a title run. Then in April, the league made history again with its first virtual draft. It was the most-watched draft in 16 years. This was also a much-heralded draft class so we’re definitely excited that we’ll actually get to see them take the court this summer. If anybody thought the coronavirus pandemic was going to stop the WNBA’s momentum they were sorely mistaken. The league is stronger than ever and is steadily picking up steam.
This season was certainly lining up to be one for the books. Huge props to the powers that be for salvaging it. After delivering on their promise to “Run It Back”, the Mystics reward is to face a field of revamped and motivated teams for their title defense campaign. But they’re bringing heavy artillery to war as well. Coach Thibault (who also serves as GM) brought back some familiar faces.
They acquired former MVP, Tina Charles, in a trade a couple of days before the draft. The Mystics also scooped up Leilani Mitchell the next day. Charles will help them deal with the bruising bigs that gave them trouble during last year’s title run, and Mitchell will add to the bevy of three-point shooters to help spread the floor. If any team plans to knock the Mystics off their championship perch, they better bring their hard hat and lunch pale. Because it’s going to be a hard day at the office.
There will definitely be some worthy challengers. First foremost, Stewie’s back in Seattle. Add a healthy Sue Bird and Morgan Tuck to the mix and the Storm might be back to their championship form from two years ago. Last year’s runner up looks to be on a revenge tour as well. They lost Courtney Williams but picked up Dewanna Bonner and Briann January. Jonquel is going to do Jonquel things and Alyssa Thomas will continue to stuff the stat sheet. The Sun could very well find themselves right back in the Finals.
The Aces and Mercury also made some noise this offseason. Losing Kelsey Plum hurts Vegas but if Angel McCoughtry returns to form, that’s going to be a problem for the league. Phoenix grabbed one of the best point guards in the league in Skylar Diggins-Smith. Diana Taurasi gets to move off the ball and Brittney Griner can keep terrorizing the middle on both ends. An injury to Griner possibly cost the Mercury a chance to advance in last year’s playoffs so you know they’re chomping at the bit for another postseason opportunity.
Everybody’s attention will be focused on Broadway though. The New York Liberty went from cellar dwellers to the darlings of the W. They drafted Sabrina Ionescu with the no. 1 pick and took UCONN star Megan Walker in the first round as well. They moved to the Barclays just in time for their star power to arrive. The Liberty will be a very interesting team to watch. They’re young but they’re going to turn heads.
While everyone is anxiously waiting for the ball to start bouncing again, the ladies of the WNBA have still been active. With all the civil unrest in the country, you know they’re going to make their voices heard. Natasha Cloud is still vocal as ever as she made her stance loud and clear in a poignant article for The Player’s Tribune. Several players also made their presence felt at protests and on social media. And Maya Moore continues to commit herself to criminal justice reform as she takes a sabbatical from the WNBA.
The league has also made it clear that they will continue to keep these issues front and center throughout the season. They’ve announced a player led platform that will heighten the league’s impact on racial and social justice matters. The W has always been front and center fighting for equality and they will undoubtedly show up in this situation like they always have.
The league is going to look extremely different this year. All 12 teams will be at a central location and no fans will be in attendance. There are no doubts that even with the modifications withstanding, the W will put out a great product. It’s going to be a monumental season in the league’s history and I can’t wait for the ladies to check ball.