At the end of the day, there wasn't necessarily a wrong choice for who to crown as the 2023 WNBA Most Valuable Player, with Breanna Stewart, Alyssa Thomas, and A'ja Wilson all deserving of taking home the acclaim. However, Las Vegas Aces head coach Becky Hammon only has one horse in the race (Wilson, of course, is her choice), especially when her star forward and reigning MVP led the Aces to an incredible 34-6 record — the best in the league.
Disappointingly for Wilson, Hammon, and the rest of the Aces squad, it was New York Liberty forward Breanna Stewart who won the trophy, accruing the most number of points despite not having the most first-place votes. And just to add even further to the perceived disrespect towards the Aces star, it wasn't her who led the league in first-place MVP votes (it was Alyssa Thomas).
So to the surprise of absolutely no one, the Aces head coach just threw her hands up in disbelief after witnessing the best player on the league's best-performing team come third in th MVP race.
“A’ja was the most dominant player in the league this year, on the most dominant team, on the most dominant offense the league has ever seen with the No. 1 defense. I don’t know what else the girl has to do,” Hammon said, per Andy Yamashita of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Of course, in the context of the MVP race, it always helps to be the driving force of the best team in the league, like A'ja Wilson is for the Aces. But in recent years, there's been a shift in how MVP voters think; in the NBA, team success doesn't take center stage anymore in the voting process, but rather, voters want to isolate the overall impact of a player, and whether that constitutes being the most valuable in one's league or not.
The concept of being “valuable” always varies from voter to voter; but on the surface, it seems like Wilson has Stewart beat on the individual level. The Aces star put up gaudier defensive stats and was overall more efficient from the field. However, Stewart is a more effective floor-spacer and playmaker and she also helped the Liberty improve their record considerably. Their on/off numbers are very similar as well, although that helps Stewart's case more because of the Aces' outrageous overall net rating.
In summary, this was an MVP race with no wrong answer to it, but it's now up to the Aces star to wear that chip on her shoulder like a badge of honor and lead her team to another championship instead of taking this defeat to heart.