The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) is the premier professional women’s basketball league in the United States. Established in 1996, the league is considered the highest level of women’s basketball in the world. The WNBA is composed of 12 teams and operates on a seasonal schedule similar to the National Basketball Association (NBA), with games typically running from May through September.
The WNBA has been instrumental in promoting women’s sports and has served as a platform for some of the most talented female athletes globally. The league has produced numerous iconic players, including Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes, Diana Taurasi, and Maya Moore, who have not only excelled on the court but have also been influential off it, advocating for social justice and gender equality.
The level of competition in the WNBA is exceptionally high, with teams vying for the coveted championship title each season. The games are characterized by intense rivalries, strategic gameplay, and exceptional athleticism. The league has a dedicated fan base, and its influence continues to grow, both domestically and internationally.
The WNBA is more than just a sports league; it’s a platform for empowerment, a catalyst for change, and a testament to the power and potential of women in sports. It continues to inspire young athletes and break barriers in the sporting world.
The Phoenix Mercury will receive a huge boost when franchise icon Brittney Griner returns to the court this year.
In a case that made international headlines, Griner was arrested in Russia for carrying less than a gram of hash oil (illegal in the country) at a Moscow airport. In August, she was sentenced to a nine-year prison sentence.
But in December, U.S. president Joe Biden reached a prisoner exchange agreement with Russian officials that allowed Griner to come back home. In return, the U.S. released arms dealer Viktor Bout.
With Griner back in the fold, the team from Phoenix is being regarded by regional betting sites like Caesars Sportsbook Arizona, as promising contenders for the WNBA title. Residents of the Copper State interested in sports betting can take advantage of a special offer from Caesars in which you’ll get up to $1,250 plus 1,000 tier credits and 1,000 reward credits upon signing up.
The Mercury reached the 2021 NBA Finals with Griner (19-13 regular season record), losing to the Chicago Sky in four games.
But the offense greatly struggled without the franchise star in 2022, and the Mercury barely snuck into the postseason with a 15-21 regular season record. The Las Vegas Aces wound up sweeping the Mercury in the opening round of the playoffs.
There’s simply no replacing an all-time great like Griner. The eight-time WNBA All-Star led the WNBA in scoring during the 2017 and 2019 campaigns, and she led the league in blocks all but one year between the 2013 and 2021 seasons (2020 was the exception).
But with Griner returning, the Mercury should be considered one of the top contenders to win the 2023 WNBA Championship.
Griner led the Mercury to a league championship back in 2014, and despite plenty of regular season success, the organization has consistently fallen short in the postseason. But a motivated Griner is more than capable of carrying this franchise back to championship glory in 2023.
Phoenix has a well-balanced roster led by Griner and veteran guard Diana Taurasi, who’s just two years removed from her 10th WNBA All-Star selection. 24-year-old Sug Sutton, in her first season with the Mercury, is primed for a bigger role after seeing limited time in her rookie year with the Washington Mystics.
The Mercury wrap up their mini two-game home stand against the Los Angeles Sparks on Friday, June 2. Griner and company will then travel to Dallas to commence a three-game road trip against the Wings on June 7.
After another road tilt in Dallas on June 9, the Mercury will finish their road trip against the Indiana Fever.
Looking To Thwart An Aces’ Repeat
Las Vegas will aim to become the first team to win back-to-back WNBA championships since the Sparks, who won consecutive titles in 2001 and 2002.
The Aces won the title in their first year under new head coach Becky Hammon, a former six-time WNBA All-Star who worked as an assistant coach for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs under Gregg Popovich from 2014 to 2022.
All-Stars Kelsey Plum, A’ja Wilson, Jackie Young and Chelsea Gray powered a prolific Las Vegas offense that propelled the team to a 26-10 finish in 2022 — tied with the Sky for the league’s best record.
As previously noted, the Aces swept the Mercury in the opening round of the postseason 2-0, before outlasting the Seattle Storm in four games in the best-of-five semifinals. Las Vegas then held off the Connecticut Sun in four games to claim the championship.
Two-time All-Star and 2019 and 2020 Sixth Woman of the Year award winner Dearica Hamby was traded to the Sparks in an offseason blockbuster trade. In return, the Aces received Amanda Zahui B. — only to trade her to the Mystics.
With Griner back in the fold, the Mercury should be considered one of the Aces’ biggest threats towards preventing a repeat. Hamby was dealt in a cap-saving move, and her departure unquestionably leaves Vegas more vulnerable than last year.
The Aces and Mercury will meet four times during the 2023 regular season, beginning with a June 21 showdown in Phoenix. They’ll cross paths again in Las Vegas on July 11 before finishing the series with a home-and-home on Sept. 8 (in Phoenix) and Sept. 10 (in Vegas).