Coming off their first title in franchise history, the Las Vegas Aces are positioned better than any other WNBA team heading into this offseason. The front office took care of its core throughout the 2022 campaign by extending Chelsea Gray, Jackie Young, Kelsey Plum, A’ja Wilson and Dearica Hamby through the 2023 season. Wilson, who the Aces can apply the core designation to after next year when she’s a unrestricted free agent, is the only one of those five who isn’t signed past 2024.

In a league that is expected to see a lot of player movement this offseason, the Aces will have the luxury of carrying over most of their roster when the season tips off next year. However, they do have a couple questions to answer before they defend their title.

How will the front office fortify the bench?

Last season, the Aces were able to pummel the rest of the league by relying heavily on their starters. According to the league’s lineup data, Gray, Plum, Young and Wilson played 699 minutes together. The most minutes any other four-player lineup logged outside of Las Vegas was the Seattle Storm with 597. That same formula might not work again with the league expanding its regular season from 36 games to 40 in 2023.

The Aces currently have nine players signed on their roster and $138,804 in cap space to work with, according to Her Hoops Stats. That number can grow depending on if they want to shed some of their unprotected contracts (more on that later). For now, they are looking at being able to sign one minimum contract for a player who has two years or less of WNBA experience (which counts for $62,285) and one player on a veteran minimum contract ($74,305).

Kiah Stokes and Theresa Plaisance are both unrestricted free agents. Stokes, who was a major part of the Aces’ defensive turnaround in the second half of the season, made $115,000 last season. The front office most likely won’t be able to match that number again in 2023 now that their starters all received a pay bump. Unless Stokes prioritizes wanting to stay with this group and go after another championship, Las Vegas is going to have to find some depth in the front court to replace her physicality down low. As for Plaisance, her improved mobility and uptick in three-point efficiency could bring her back to the Aces. Second-year forward Iliana Rupert will take on a bigger role if Plaisance leaves but there’s money to retain the former Mystic if she is willing to take another veteran minimum contract.

Live and breathe sports?

🚨 Get viral graphics, memes, rumors and trending sports news delivered right to your inbox with the Clutch Newsletter.

Whoever comes into the fold will need to help alleviate some of the starters’ regular season minutes. On their way to beating the Connecticut Sun in Game 4 of the Finals, the Aces looked exhausted and almost let the series go to a Game 5. That was highlighted by Wilson averaging 37.2 minutes per game in the playoffs. Las Vegas shouldn’t assume that is sustainable. Getting creative with the cap will be a huge component for the Aces being able to have the depth to repeat next season.

Which Riquna Williams will the Aces get in 2023?

In 2021, Williams flew under the radar as one of the most efficient shooting guards in the league coming off the bench for the Aces. She averaged 10.5 points on 44.4/41.7/92.0 shooting while ranking in the 94th percentile on catch and shoot attempts. After the season, Williams was rewarded with a two-year, $294,350 deal.

However, injuries plagued Williams’ 2022 campaign and her production dipped along with her minutes. She averaged just 6.7 points on 36.6 3P% and was limited to 21 games. Williams was able to save her best for last in postseason and scored 17 points in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals but averaged only 6.9 PPG in 10 playoff games.

Now, the Aces have to figure out what they want to do with the former Sixth Woman of the Year. Williams’ contract is unprotected and Las Vegas could become a player in free agency if they dump her salary before the start of training camp. New York Liberty guard Sami Whitcomb is coming off a down year but might come cheaper than Williams’ $148,350 price point. Free agent Epiphany Prince is another backup who could replace Williams depending if she decides to move on from Seattle or vice versa. There’s a long list of restricted free agents who could fit the role as well if their teams rescind their rights.

The option of restructuring Williams’ deal also exists and they could see if she would be open to coming back on a more team-friendly deal. If she is back with them in 2023, the Aces will need her to return to her 2021 form in order to offset the offensive burden placed on the starters.