After falling short in the semifinals last season to the eventual champion Washington Mystics, the Aces were penciled in as one of the favorites to win it all this summer, especially after signing Angel McCoughtry in free agency. Then, the coronavirus pandemic happened. Star center Liz Cambage opted out of the season, and starting point guard Kelsey Plum went down with a torn Achilles tendon.
Down two of their best players, expectations were understandably lowered a bit for Las Vegas. But they still had A'ja Wilson, which meant they still had a chance. It turned out that was all they needed. After a few months inside the IMG Academy bubble, the Aces are the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, and Wilson is the league's MVP.
The voting was not close, as Wilson received 43 out of 47 first-place votes to nearly win the honor unanimously. Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart got three first-place votes, while Chicago Sky point guard Courtney Vandersloot also earned a first-place vote. Stewart finished second in voting overall, Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker was third.
Wilson got the job done on both ends, putting up 20.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and two blocks per game this season, to finish second, sixth and first, respectively in those categories. She also averaged 1.2 steals per game, making her one of just five players in the entire league to record at least a steal and a block per game.
Considering the unique circumstances inside the bubble, and the extra load she had to carry with Cambage and Plum out of the lineup, this was by far the best season of Wilson's career -- even if she's put up similar counting stats in years past. The Aces were plus-12.5 points per 100 possessions with Wilson on the floor, and just plus-3.8 when she sat.
Obviously the Aces have other good players, and McCoughtry and Dearica Hamby each had strong seasons, but Wilson was the one leading the way. Without her efforts on both sides of the ball, the Aces wouldn't have been anywhere near the No. 1 seed and a bye straight to the semifinals.
The No. 1 overall pick in 2018, Wilson has now won Rookie of the Year, MVP and made two All-Star Games -- there wasn't one this summer -- in just three seasons.