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WNBA Playoffs

Your rooting guide for the 2023 WNBA playoffs: Players to watch, schedule, favorites, and team-by-team previews

Las Vegas Aces forward A'ja Wilson (left) and New York Liberty forward Breanna Stewart lead the MVP conversations and have their teams as the top seeds in the WNBA playoffs.Ethan Miller/Getty

The WNBA playoffs tip off Wednesday, with eight teams vying for the championship in a record year for viewership across the league.

The Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty, the top two seeds, dominated the regular season. They split the six-game series against each other (New York also won the midseason Commissioner’s Cup championship game) and could make for a thrilling WNBA Finals matchup. The rest of the field, including the third-seeded Connecticut Sun, will try to spoil the party.

The first round is a best-of-three series, with the winners advancing to best-of-five series in the semifinals and finals.


Below is a preview of each playoff team, plus top players to watch, odds favorites, and the first-round schedule:

From left: A'ja Wilson, Jackie Young, Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum, and Alysha Clark lead the top-seeded Aces as they look to repeat as champions.Ethan Miller/Getty

1. Las Vegas Aces (34-6)

Best player: A’ja Wilson, Forward

Head coach: Becky Hammon (2nd season)

Other players to watch: Chelsea Gray (G), Kelsey Plum (G), Jackie Young (G)

Root for them if you like: Star power and playoff poise

The defending champion Aces aren’t just better — they might be one of the best teams in history. Wilson has a frontrunner’s chance at her second consecutive MVP award. Gray, Plum, and Young joined her as All-Stars. Though Las Vegas is without marquee addition Candace Parker due to foot surgery in July, the team still boasts the league’s most prominent star core.

Last year, Gray exploded for one of the best individual playoff runs ever to lead Vegas to its first title. She’ll be a game-changing piece again with her three-level scoring efficiency, plus her passing wizardry (7.3 assists per game). Depth is a concern; lineups without all four standouts have been outscored by opponents since the All-Star break.

But as long as the core is healthy and clicking, it’s hard to picture this team losing a series. The Aces notched the No. 1 offensive rating (113.0) and defensive rating (97.7) during the regular season, and they lost back-to-back games just once.


From left: Courtney Vandersloot, Breanna Stewart, and Jonquel Jones all signed with the Liberty in the offseason and have propelled the team to title contention.Ethan Miller/Getty

2. New York Liberty (32-8)

Best player: Breanna Stewart, Forward

Head coach: Sandy Brondello (2nd season with Liberty, 8th overall)

Other players to watch: Sabrina Ionescu (G), Jonquel Jones (F), Courtney Vandersloot (G)

Root for them if you like: Pristine passing and 3-pointers

The Liberty are a “superteam” personified; Stewart, Jones, and Vandersloot joined the squad this offseason and have catapulted it to contender status. Stewart is neck-and-neck with A’ja Wilson for the MVP crown. Vandersloot led the WNBA in assists per game (8.1). Jones, the 2021 MVP with Connecticut, has seen her stats dip due to injury issues and a reduced role, but her two-way impact remains as valuable as ever.

Ionescu has decimated the league from long-range. She made 44.8 percent of her 3-pointers on nearly eight attempts per game in the regular season. Her 128 total made 3s are the most in a season in WNBA history. The 25-year-old is the fastest player ever to 1,500 career points, 600 assists, and 600 rebounds.

New York puts on a ball-movement clinic. An absurd 75 percent of their made baskets came via assists and they paced the league with 24.1 assists per game. That passing helped them win three of the last four head-to-head matchups with Vegas, including the Commissioner’s Cup championship game on Aug. 15.

Alyssa Thomas has put together a record-breaking season with six triple-doubles to power the third-seeded Sun.LM Otero/Associated Press

3. Connecticut Sun (27-13)

Best player: Alyssa Thomas, Forward

Head coach: Stephanie White (1st season with Sun, 3rd overall)


Other players to watch: DeWanna Bonner (F), Tiffany Hayes (G)

Root for them if you like: Home teams and triple-doubles

The Sun have clawed their way to an impressive year despite losing their former best player (Jonquel Jones) and head coach (Curt Miller) to offseason moves, and despite an early season-ending Achilles injury to Brionna Jones. A year removed from making the Finals, Connecticut leads the charge of teams hoping to upset the top two seeds.

Thomas is setting new league records with regularity. The 31-year-old became the first player to clear 20 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds, and five steals in a single game on Sept. 5. She has six triple-doubles this season — more than any other player has in an entire career — and is right in the MVP conversation

Bonner, who is Thomas’s teammate and her fiancée, recently moved into sixth on the WNBA’s all-time scoring leaderboard. She also set the franchise single-game scoring record with 41 points on June 8.

Dallas Wings forward Satou Sabally has spearheaded a young roster hoping to take the next step in the playoffs.LM Otero/Associated Press

4. Dallas Wings (22-18)

Best payer: Satou Sabally, Forward

Head coach: Latricia Trammell (1st season)

Other players to watch: Arike Ogunbowale (G), Natasha Howard (F)

Root for them if you like: Young talent and local connections

A youth movement is starting to blossom in Dallas. Only two Wings players are older than 26 — Howard (31) and Odyssey Sims (30) — yet they closed out the regular season 7-4, including two wins against the Sun and a 1-point loss to the Liberty.


Sabally has taken center stage after posting career-best numbers and making the All-Star game. Ogunbowale actually leads the Wings in scoring (21.2 points per game). Though streaky, she’s capable of an eruption at any time.

Dallas also has former Newton South star Veronica Burton, who they selected seventh overall in the 2022 WNBA Draft. Burton, a 5-foot-9-inch guard, has seen her playing time fluctuate, but typically earns minutes off the bench with her defense and passing.

Rhyne Howard (left) has taken a step forward in her sophomore season as the leader of the fifth-seeded Dream.Matt York/Associated Press

5. Atlanta Dream (19-21)

Best player: Rhyne Howard, Forward

Head Ccoach: Tanisha Wright (2nd season)

Other players to watch: Allisha Gray (G), Cheyenne Parker (F)

Root for them if you like: Rising stars

Howard, the top pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft, barely missed out on an All-Star appearance. She took that snub personally, dropping 43 points on July 2 right after the announcement. Howard averaged 17.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game, and is on her way to being a future face of the league.

The Dream got a big boost by signing Gray, a superb 3-and-D guard, in the offseason. Parker also made her first All-Star appearance this year and adds a boost around the paint on both sides of the ball.

Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier, who played just four games in 2022 after giving birth, has come back as one of the top players in the league this season.Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

6. Minnesota Lynx (19-21)

Best player: Napheesa Collier, Forward

Head coach: Cheryl Reeve (14th season)

Other players to watch: Kayla McBride (G), Diamond Miller (F)

Root for them if you like: Comebacks and rookies

Talk about a turnaround: The Lynx are just the second team to make the playoffs after starting the season 0-6. A five-game win streak between June and July helped right the ship. Collier is at the center of the comeback story. The 26-year-forward, who played just four games in 2022 after giving birth to daughter Mila, returned this season to finish fourth in the league in scoring (21.5 points per game).


Diamond Miller, this year’s second overall draft pick, seems to be finding her place in the W at the right time. The 6-foot-3-inch forward shot 51.5 percent from the field across her last four games. That includes a 24-point outburst against the Chicago Sky in which she made 10 of 11 field goal attempts.

A 2019 champion in Washington, Elena Delle Donne guides a defensive-minded Mystics team as the seventh seed.Nick Wass/Associated Press

7. Washington Mystics (19-21)

Best player: Elena Delle Donne, Forward

Head coach: Eric Thibault (1st season)

Other players to watch: Brittney Sykes (G), Natasha Cloud (G)

Root for them if you like: Defense and veteran leadership

Even with injury derailments, the Mystics boast a top-tier defense. It starts with Sykes. The 29-year-old averaged 15.9 points per game during the regular season, but she really shines on defense, ranking second with 2.1 steals per game. Her hustle and intensity evoke memories of former Celtics guard Marcus Smart.

Delle Donne remains a battle-tested veteran who led the team in scoring (16.7 points per game). Unfortunately for Washington, health has been an issue all season long. The team hopes top young center Shakira Austin will be available after missing chunks of the season with a hip injury.

Chicago Sky guard Kahleah Copper is tough to stop on drives, and she's also improved substantially as a perimeter shooter.Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

8. Chicago Sky (18-22)

Best player: Kahleah Copper, Guard

Head coach: Emre Vatansever (1st season)

Other players to watch: Marina Mabrey (G), Courtney Williams (G)

Root for them if you like: Underdogs who play with passion

It’s been a tumultuous year for the Sky, who look very different from the 2021 championship roster. James Wade, who had been head coach and general manager since 2018, left on July 1 for an assistant coaching job with the NBA’s Toronto Raptors. Longtime Sky assistant Vatansever assumed the interim role.

But Chicago won five of its last six games to close the regular season. Copper, the Finals MVP in 2021, is averaging significant career bests in points per game (18.7) and 3-point percentage (40.4 percent). She’s the face of the franchise after signing a two-year supermax contract extension worth $490,000 this past week. Copper isn’t afraid to show emotion on the court. She, Mabrey, and Williams form a trio of threatening pull-up scorers — could that help spark a stunning upset?

Five must-watch players

Napheesa Collier, forward, Minnesota Lynx

The 6-foot-1-inch forward has put her recovery from childbirth fully behind her. Collier posted 21.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, earning her third All-Star berth. She’s extremely skilled scoring inside the arc, with a powerful post game and a shifty handle for her size.

Satou Sabally, forward, Dallas Wings

Sabally captured the AP’s Most Improved Player honors and excelled in a featured role for the first time as a pro. Her 18.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.8 steals per game were all massive career-highs. Most notably, the 6-4 lefty has turned her perimeter shooting from a weakness into a strength (36.1 percent on 3s).

Breanna Stewart, forward, New York Liberty

Stewart won two championships and an MVP award with the Seattle Storm, but her first year in New York might be her best yet. The 29-year-old posted 23.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.6 blocks, and 1.5 steals in her dominant regular season. The Liberty thrive off “Stewie’s” versatility, using her as a hub on the perimeter or posting up to spark the offense. Stewart knocks down 3s with ease and also plays stalwart defense.

Alyssa Thomas, forward, Connecticut Sun

Thomas’s six triple-doubles and 15.5 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per game underscore her tremendous importance to the Sun. She doesn’t shoot 3s and plays almost exclusively inside-out, but the attention she draws helps her feed teammates the ball. At 6-2, Thomas is the first WNBA player ever to lead the league in rebounds and assists in the same season.

A’ja Wilson, forward, Las Vegas Aces

The 27-year-old has somehow taken her game to another level in pursuit of her third MVP trophy. Wilson logged per-game career highs in points (22.8), rebounds (9.5), blocks (2.2), and field goal percentage (55.7 percent). She tied the WNBA record with 53 points in a game Aug. 22. A 6-foot-4-inch forward, Wilson is a fearsome rim protector with a unique combination of speed, power, and finesse as a scorer.

The odds-on favorites

Here are the current odds for each team to take home the championship, from FanDuel Sportsbook:

Las Vegas Aces: -145

New York Liberty: +145

Connecticut Sun: +1900

Dallas Wings: +2300

Washington Mystics: +4200

Atlanta Dream: +10000

Minnesota Lynx: +20000

Chicago Sky: +21000

First-round schedule

Wednesday, Sept. 13

Game 1: No. 6 Minnesota Lynx at No. 3 Connecticut Sun, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

Game 1: No. 8 Chicago Sky at No. 1 Las Vegas Aces, 10 p.m. (ESPN)

Friday, Sept. 15

Game 1: No. 7 Washington Mystics at No. 2 New York Liberty, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Game 1: No. 5 Atlanta Dream at No. 4 Dallas Wings, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Sunday, Sept. 17

Game 2: No. 6 Minnesota Lynx at No. 3 Connecticut Sun, 1 p.m. (ESPN)

Game 2: No. 8 Chicago Sky at No. 1 Las Vegas Aces, 3 p.m. (ABC)

Tuesday, Sept. 19

Game 2: No. 7 Washington Mystics at No. 2 New York Liberty, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Game 2: No. 5 Atlanta Dream at No. 4 Dallas Wings, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

Wednesday, Sept. 20

Game 3 (if necessary): No. 1 Las Vegas Aces at No. 8 Chicago Sky, TBD (ESPN)

Game 3 (if necessary): No. 3 Connecticut Sun at No. 6 Minnesota Lynx, TBD (ESPN)

Friday, Sept. 22

Game 3 (if necessary): No. 2 New York Liberty at No. 7 Washington Mystics, TBD (ESPN)

Game 3 (if necessary): No. 4 Dallas Wings at No. 5 Atlanta Dream, TBD (ESPN)