On the court, WNBA storylines extended beyond super teams. We also saw supreme statistical achievements, from sharp shooting to record-breaking scoring to a tidal wave of triple-doubles. Here’s a look back at the highlights.
(As the WNBA’s first back-to-back champs in more than 20 seasons, the Las Vegas Aces earned their own retrospective. A look back at all things Aces is coming on Friday.)
Expectations and early action
Things kicked off with a four-game opening night, followed by Brittney Griner returning to the court in front of the Phoenix Mercury’s X-Factor. The Connecticut Sun, ever disrespCTed by preseason prognostications, instantly announced themselves as contenders, with Alyssa Thomas providing a preview of the stat-stuffing play that she would display throughout the 2023 season.
The Wings’ ascendence
For the past few seasons, WNBA watchers have been waiting for the Dallas Wings to fulfill their potential. In 2023, the franchise began its ascendance. With an early July win over the Las Vegas Aces, the Wings announced that they had arrived.
That ascendence was propelled by the superstar turn of eventual Most Improved Player Satou Sabally. Her first-career triple-double encapsulated her all-round, high-impact play. Dallas also continued to be boosted by the scoring exploits of Arike Ogunbowale.
The duo, along with Natasha Howard, would elevate the Wings to the No. 4 seed in the league’s playoff standings. After sweeping the Atlanta Dream in the first round, Dallas met a highly-motivated Las Vegas squad in the second round. Although unable to steal a game from the champs, the experience should equip them to reach higher heights in seasons to come.
The new-look Liberty
But from the season’s tip, New York received everything they imagined—and more—from Breanna Stewart. In her first season with her home-state squad, Stewart compiled a MVP-caliber campaign, eventually capturing the award for the second time in her career.
An all-time 3-point shooting season from Sabrina Ionescu—which included an incredible All-Star weekend shooting spree—helped the Liberty become the best version of themselves. They reached their peak in the Commissioner’s Cup Championship. With a MVP effort from Jonquel Jones, the Liberty took the Cup from Aces, one of New York’s three victories over the defending champs before the postseason.
After defeating the Washington Mystics and Connecticut Sun in hard-fought first and second round playoff series, the Liberty met the Aces in a much-anticipated superteam showdown in the WNBA Finals. While New York avoided the sweep with a Game 3 victory, the Liberty mostly looked to be a level below the Aces. Despite the disappointment, New York’s superteam experiment was a success, restoring one of the W’s original franchises to relevance and prominence.
Highs and lows in the Valley
Already the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, Diana Taurasi crossed the 10,000-point plateau in early August. The 41-year-old scored a regular-season career-high 42 points on the historic night, a high point in an otherwise underwhelming season for the Phoenix Mercury.
For the duration of the 2023 season, the Mercury were without Skylar Diggins-Smith. According to the point guard, the franchise was not supportive of her return-to-play plan following the birth of her second child during the offseason. More side eyes were directed toward Phoenix when the team hired Nate Tibbetts, a NBA assistant with no experience in high-level women’s basketball, as their next head coach.
Let’s hope Sky-Digg finds a new WNBA home in the forthcoming offseason. And while Phoenix did not receive the No. 1 pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft, a top-three pick can help the organization envision a return to brighter days.
Jewell, Aliyah and AT shine
Jewell Loyd, Aliyah Boston and Alyssa Thomas each put together stupendous seasons.
The now-unquestioned leader of the Seattle Storm, Loyd exhibited a refined offensive game in 2023. The All-Star Game MVP got buckets upon buckets as she scored the most points in a single season in WNBA history. Behind Loyd, a group of promising young players and the fourth pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft, the Storm seem set to re-emerge as a postseason threat.
The first No. 1 pick in Indiana Fever history, Aliyah Boston did not disappoint, instead overachieving high expectations with a historically-efficient season that led to a unanimous Rookie of the Year honor. With Boston and the No. 1 pick in 2024 WNBA Draft, the Fever are on upward trajectory, poised to return to playoffs for the first time since the retirement of Tamika Catchings.
For the Connecticut Sun, Alyssa Thomas once again was unrelenting, earning deserved consideration for Defensive Player of the Year and MVP. She was at the forefront of the W’s triple-double explosion, while also leading the league in total rebounds and assists.