The 2023 WNBA All-Star Game is now less than a month away, with Las Vegas set to play host for the annual event for the third time in five years. All-Star Friday Night, which will feature the Skills Challenge and 3-Point Contest, is set for July 14, with the main event of the All-Star Game to follow on Saturday, July 15.
Fan voting for the game has been open since June 7 and will conclude on Wednesday. Those tallies account for 50 percent of the final vote that determines the 10 starters, while media and player ballots account for 25 percent each. The starters, including the two captains (the two players who receive the most fan votes), will be revealed on June 25.
The deadline for media ballots was Tuesday afternoon, and for the first time, I was honored to receive an official vote from the league. Below are my selections for the 10 All-Star starters, along with explanations and my toughest omissions. This was an arduous process, especially for some of the final spots. There were more deserving candidates than openings, and you can make valid arguments for a number of the players I was forced to leave off.
Now, without further ado, my picks:
Las Vegas Aces
Las Vegas Aces
Jackie Young was the first name on my ballot. She made her first All-Star Game last season, during her Most Improved Player campaign, and has somehow gotten even better. Her 20.8 points per game are a career-high by a wide margin and good for fifth in the league. Even more impressive is she's doing it with an efficiency that is extremely rare -- 59.9/46/8/82.7 shooting splits -- especially for a guard. Only four other players have ever averaged 20-plus points on at least 55% shooting for a full season: Seimone Augustus, Liz Cambage, Sylvia Fowles and Brittney Griner.
The next lock for me was Jewell Loyd. Everyone knew she would have to take on a bigger load this season after the departures of Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, and she's handled it admirably. Loyd recently poured in a career-high 39 points in a win over the Wings, and is leading the league in scoring at 25.4 points per game. Diana Taurasi in 2006 is the only time a player has averaged 25 points for a season. Loyd is chasing history, and very well could get there with how she shoots the 3 and gets to the free throw line.
After Young and Loyd, it became a bit more difficult, but Allisha Gray deserves a spot. She's having a career season during her first summer with the Dream, averaging 18.7 points -- ninth in the league -- 5.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists, while shooting 49.2% from the field. Her versatility on both sides of the ball has been vital for the Dream, who sit in fifth place at 5-5 despite an exceptionally difficult schedule and are on pace to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2018.
The final spot was, of course, the most difficult. Ultimately, I decided on Chelsea Gray. She doesn't score as much as some of the other candidates, her efficiency, elite playmaking and contributions to the best team in the league gave her the nod. Gray has not missed a free throw this season and is on pace to invent the 50-50-100 club; even if that's unlikely to continue, the fact that she's there after more than a quarter of the season is absurd. Furthermore, she's third in the league in assists at 6.6 per game and has a stunning 29.3 assist rate; that is, she assists on nearly one-third of the Aces' baskets when she's on the floor.
Notable omissions: Arike Ogunbowale, Marina Mabrey, Kelsey Mitchell, Sabrina Ionescu
Los Angeles Sparks
New York Liberty
Las Vegas Aces
Breanna Stewart was the first name on my ballot, not just for the frontcourt, but overall. She has been the best player in the league this season and has the new-look Liberty off to a 7-3 start in her first summer with the club. After winning the scoring title last season, she's increased her scoring to 23.9 points per game, to go along with 10 rebounds, four assists, 1.7 steals and 2.1 blocks; all of those marks are career-highs. She's doing all of that efficiently as well, shooting 50.3% from the field and 41.1% from downtown. No one in league history has ever averaged 20/10/4 for a season, never mind what she's doing defensively. Just an incredible season so far from Stewart.
Another obvious choice is the reigning MVP A'ja Wilson. She has been so consistently excellent for so long now that it can be easy to take what she's doing for granted, but we have to avoid falling into that trap. Wilson is 10th in scoring (18.5 points per game), seventh in field goal percentage (53.1), seventh in rebounding (9.1) and third in blocks (2.2); the only other player in the top 10 in all four categories is Stewart. She's one of the most reliable offensive players in the league and a devastating defensive anchor for the best team in the league.
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The third name I quickly wrote down was Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut's do-it-all dynamo. She has ensured the Sun have not missed a beat despite losing former MVP Jonquel Jones during the offseason; they sit in second place behind only the Aces at the quarter-way mark. Thomas is putting up numbers we've never seen from a player over the course of a full season: 15 points, 10.2 rebounds, 7.7 assists per game, the latter two of which rank third and second in the league, respectively. She is a physical force who makes opponents feel her on both sides of the ball, and is at the center of everything the Sun do.
Another lock in my opinion is Nneka Ogwumike. The former MVP somehow didn't start in an All-Star Game until last season, and now she should increase that tally to two. This is the best we've seen her since that MVP campaign in 2016, which is perhaps not so surprising given her intriguing quotes during training camp about how the organizational improvements have allowed her to finally focus solely on basketball. Ogwumike's 19.6 points are just shy of a career-high, while her 9.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists are the best marks of her career. The last time anyone averaged at least 19/9/3 for a season was, fittingly, Ogwumike in 2016.
Next up is Satou Sabally, who is finally healthy and enjoying a breakout campaign. I picked her for Most Improved Player in my pre-season award predictions, and she's well on her way to nabbing that honor thanks to her versatility on both sides of the ball. Her 20.9 points (fourth in the league), 11 rebounds (first), 3.1 assists and 1.5 steals are all career-highs by a sizeable margin, and she's second in the league in double-doubles with eight. Sabally has always been incredibly talented, and it's exciting to watch everything come together for her this season.
The final spot for the frontcourt was even more difficult to decide than the final spot for the backcourt. After much hemming and hawing, I went with Napheesa Collier. After missing the majority of last season on maternity leave, Collier is back to her All-WNBA best with efficient, high-volume scoring, strong rebounding and versatile defense with a dash of playmaking when the Lynx, who often operate without a true point guard, need it. Her 20.5 points per game are a career-high and good for sixth in the league.
Notable omissions: Aliyah Boston, Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, Brionna Jones