Breanna Stewart and Candace Parker have ushered in the WNBA’s superteam era

Breanna Stewart and Candace Parker have ushered in the WNBA’s superteam era

Breanna Stewart already has a compelling record as the greatest female basketball player of all time. At just 28 years old, Stewart has a resume on par with the sports giants: She won four national championships in four years at UConn (the Huskies haven’t won it all since she graduated), she has won two WNBA championships and two Finals MVPs with the Seattle Storm, she led the WNBA in scoring and earned All-Defense First-Team honors, and she has more MVPs and championships in her career.” off-season” in the EuroLeague.

Candace Parker is one of Stewart’s only real contenders for the GOAT title. Parker won two NCAA national championships in Tennessee, won the WNBA MVP as a rookie in 2008 and won it again in 2013, won the WNBA championships with the Los Angeles Sparks and the Chicago Sky, and has a Defensive Player of the Year trophy on his mantle.

Stewart is at the height of his storied career, while Parker, on the cusp of his 37th birthday, is at the end of his. The two superstars are intertwined again this offseason, and it may be setting up for at least another one-on-one clash with a championship on the line.

Stewart left the Storm to sign with the New York Liberty in free agency – where she marks the team’s second major addition of the offseason following their trade with 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones. Parker announced his decision to leave Chicago for defending champion Las Vegas Aces a week earlier. The WNBA is now fully into its superteam era, with star powerhouses on each coast feeling destined to meet in the 2023 Finals.

Photo by Joshua Huston/NBAE via Getty Images

Stewart is the type of player who can fit into any lineup, and her versatility will be key to making the Liberty a championship contender. At 6’4 with a ridiculous 7’1 wingspan, Stewart has the size of a big man and the skill of a guard. She’s a true three-tier scorer with an elite basketball IQ who can make an offense hum in any role. Stewie can shine as a handler or roll in the pick-and-roll, she can space the floor as a catching and shooting threat from deep, and she can capitalize on her scoring and passing threat in playing elbows. She is also an outstanding defender who is solid inside and always knows the right rotation to do on the perimeter.

In New York, Stewart is teaming up with two other legitimate All-WNBA talents in Jonquel Jones and Sabrina Ionescu. Jones comes from the Connecticut Sun after leading the team to the WNBA Finals last season. She’s the premier center in the league today, and something like the WNBA version of Joel Embiid: Jones is so strong yet graceful as an inside scorer, but also has the touch to extend the defense to three. Jones, 29, has been at the center of everything the Sun has done in recent years and will now benefit from Stewart’s scoring gravity that will keep defenders away from her.

Ionescu is the remaining superstar in New York. A high-profile No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, the 5’11 point guard began to live up to the hype last season by making the All-WNBA second team. Ionescu led the WNBA in assists while delivering big scores destroying defenses in the pick-and-roll. With two mega stars now alongside her, she will need to become a better threat after hitting 33% of her threes last year, and prove she has the adaptability to fit into less offensive builds. heliocentric.

With Betnijah Laney, Michaela Onyenwere, DiDi Richards and Kayla Thornton, the Liberty have wings to defend, rebound and move the ball around the three superstars. There’s also Marine Johannes, one of the league’s most exciting setters and shooters, who could serve as the super sixth woman in this roster. Johannes is a human highlight reel on his own with passes over his head and ridiculous back threes becoming the norm. When she’s your fourth-best offensive option, you’ve got yourself a great team.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Liberty will be the WNBA’s second superteam, as one already resides in Las Vegas. The Aces have been loaded with talent the past few years, but it all finally came together last season for the first pro sports championship in Vegas history. The Aces’ star collection was so overwhelming that it almost seemed unfair. They will only be better after adding Parker.

It all starts with A’ja Wilson for the Aces. The 6’5 big is at the peak of her career at 26 and feels like the biggest threat to Stewart’s “Most Alive” title. Wilson is a monster athlete who can dominate both ends of the court. Wilson won MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors last season after slipping to center following the departure of Liz Cambage, where she showed her quickness at defending ball screens and her ability to protect the rim in as a shot blocker. She’s even better on the offensive end, where she uses her agility and explosiveness in short spaces to become the best player in the league. With Wilson acting as the anchor for both offense and defense, every other member of the Aces can play their part.

The backcourt has three studs in Kelsey Plum, Chelsea Gray and Jackie Young. Plum was an MVP candidate herself last year as an explosive leader who can score on all three levels. Plum’s ability to play with or without the ball allows Gray to enter his bag as a shot-creator. Gray became a household name on her way to last year’s Finals MVP victory with incredible scoring play-offs highlighted by her advanced pulling shot. Oh yes, Gray is also one of the best passers in the league and deadly finds open teammates while operating from ball screens. It’s easy to forget that Young is also a former No. 1 overall pick (just like Wilson and Plun), and the progress she’s made as an outside shooter has helped her become a first-time All. -Star last year while winning WNBA Most Improved Player.

With so much firepower around her, Parker can bridge every crack without having to carry a big load. Parker adds so much size (6’4) and smarts to the lineup, and can still get a bucket in a pinch whenever she needs it. Her ability to space the floor as a point shooter, keep the ball moving as a connective passer, and score into the post will take Vegas to a whole new level. She felt like the best player in Chicago’s 2021 run to the WNBA Championship, and showed she still had a long way to go to help get the Sky in one game of back-to-back Finals appearances last year.

Stewart said she traveled to New York in part to continue to grow the game and improve pay for women in sports. She wants the league to start chartering flights and continuing to improve player salaries.

Breanna Stewart on SportsCenter on her decision to join New York Liberty:

“I want to go where I can continue to help this league improve, continue to raise the bar, and I wonder why not go to the biggest market in all of sport.”

— Lila Bromberg (@lilabbromberg) February 1, 2023

Superteams are always interested in basketball. Now the WNBA has two.

Stewart’s move to the Liberty makes LeBron look like he’s going to the Heat. There’s a star in place in Ionescu and another MVP-level player teaming up with her in Jones. Meanwhile, Parker’s move to the defending champions is a bit like Kevin Durant joining the Warriors. The Aces were already brimming with talent, and now they’ve added one of the greatest players of all time to fill their hole four.

Anything can happen in the WNBA playoffs, but it really does feel like the championship will come down to the Aces versus the Liberty. It will be the must-have basketball in every way.

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