Let the real games begin. In their quest for back-to-back WNBA championships, the defending champion Las Vegas Aces left no crumbs on their way to a historic 34-6 campaign. The Aces dominated the 2023 regular season in every sense of the word.
Las Vegas had the most potent offense in the WNBA. They led the league in offensive rating (113.0), points per game (92.8), and field goal percentage (48.6 percent). The Aces also had the best defense in the WNBA. Apart from having the best defensive rating in the league (97.7), they were number two in opponents' points per game (80.3) and opposing field goal percentage (42.6 percent). Vegas also finished with a 15.3 net rating, five whole points higher than the No. 2 seeded New York Liberty.
A'ja Wilson could be well on her way to a second MVP trophy following another dominant campaign. Jackie Young, Kelsey Plum, and Chelsea Gray all averaged at least 15 points per game. They're doing all of this with Candace Parker on the sidelines.
All signs point toward another Aces coronation this October. With that said, here are three reasons why the Las Vegas Aces will win the 2023 WNBA Finals after their historic regular season.
1. A'ja Wilson
Need we say more? A'ja Wilson has arguably been the most dominant woman in basketball. We say arguably because a certain someone named Breanna Stewart is having perhaps the best season of her Hall of Fame career in New York. Still, Wilson's play over the last few weeks indicates that she is ready for the big stage to defend her team's title.
She just notched the Player of the Week award in Week 14 on averages of 33.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3.5 steals. In Vegas' last five games of the regular season, Wilson averaged 29.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks while shooting over 67 percent from the field.
Wilson also had arguably the best individual performance of any player in the history of the WNBA. In case you missed it, the two-time WNBA MVP tied the league's single-game scoring record with 53 points in a 12-point win over the Atlanta Dream over three weeks ago.
Overall, Wilson played all 40 regular season games and averaged career-bests in points (22.8), rebounds (9.5), and blocks (2.2) while making also a career-high 55.7 percent from the field.
2. Too much star power
Forget the fact that they have one of the league's most dominant players, the Las Vegas have an absolutely stacked team of stars surrounding A'ja Wilson. We're talking about Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young, and Chelsea Gray — all of whom are averaging at least 15 points per game for the league-leading aces.
Plum saw her scoring average dip a bit this season to 18.7 points per game after averaging over 20 points the year before. Still, the Aces' second leading scorer is one of the most explosive offensive talents in the league and could potentially go off on any given night, like she did in her 40-point outburst (on 14-of-18 shooting) against the Minnesota Lynx in early July.
Young, meanwhile, is as steady and efficient as they come. The 25-year-old was the third leading scorer of the team this season with an average of 17.6 points. She also shot an incredibly efficient 52.3 percent from the field and a league-leading 44.9 percent from beyond the arc.
Of course, who could forget about Playoff Chelsea Gray? It's postseason time, so you just know Gray is going to kick it up a notch in the playoffs. In Vegas' run to the 2022 WNBA championship, the 30-year-old averaged 21.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 7.0 assists. Also, she couldn't miss from the field. Gray shot 61.1 percent from the field and an insane 54.4 percent from long distance.
We haven't even talked about Candace Parker, who underwent surgery on her fractured foot. There hasn't been any updates on whether Parker will be able to come back at some point this season. If the veteran does, it only further boosts Las Vegas' hopes to win its second title in a row.
We've heard all athletes say how it is extremely difficult to defend a championship. Winning one is already a challenge on its own. Trying to win two in a row is more daunting than the average person can ever imagine.
Athletes are humans, anyway. They can suffer from complacency as well. But that has not been the case for Las Vegas all season long.
The proof is in the pudding. They won 34 of 40 games in the regular season. If that isn't motivation for them to do better than they did when they won their first championship, then I don't know what is.
Add the fact that their biggest rivals this season, the similarly loaded New York Liberty, is breathing heavily behind their necks. Add the fact that New York actually has the Aces' number lately, having gone 3-1 against them in August. The Liberty also won the Commissioner's Cup over the Aces in pretty convincing fashion. This could further fuel the defending champs to prove that, while New York did win the mid-season championship, the league still runs through the Aces.