The 2023 WNBA regular season is fast approaching, and later this month CBS Sports will release its annual list of the Top 25 players in the league. But while those stars deservedly receive the majority of media attention, they are not the only ones who matter. As the preseason process continues, here's a look at five underrated players to keep an eye on this season. 

1. AD Durr, Atlanta Dream

Durr was the No. 2 overall pick by the New York Liberty in the 2019 WNBA Draft, but their career was put on hold due to a serious case of COVID-19, which had long-lasting effects. On the advice of doctors, Durr sat out the entire 2020 and 2021 seasons, and there were questions about whether they would ever return to the league. 

Though Durr was cleared to play last season, they saw limited minutes over the first few weeks and did not seem to have a long-term future in New York. It wasn't until a mid-season trade to the Atlanta Dream that Durr was finally able to get some consistent playing time and show flashes of the talent that made them a lottery pick just a few years ago.

In 15 games with the Dream, largely in a bench role, Durr averaged 10.7 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists, while shooting 45.8 percent from 3-point land. Unfortunately, their season was cut short due to hip surgery, but they should be ready to go for this new campaign, and everything is lined up for a breakout season for Durr in Atlanta. 

2. Rebekah Gardner, Chicago Sky

Gardner arrived in the WNBA last season on an initial training camp deal with the Chicago Sky. Despite a successful collegiate career at UCLA, she went undrafted in 2012 and had spent years plying her trade overseas before James Wade offered her a chance. It didn't take long for the rest of the league to wonder why they hadn't done the same. 

The 31-year-old "rookie" put up 14 points. four rebounds and two steals in her first game, and never looked back. She did a little bit of everything for the Sky off the bench, averaging 8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game on 54.2/35.7/80.0 shooting splits. All while being one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. 

That she flew under the radar of most casual fans was due to a number of factors: she came out of nowhere and had no name recognition; she was a reserve whose best skill was defense; and she played on a Sky team that boasted some of the biggest stars around. The situation in Chicago is much different this summer, which should afford Gardner more opportunity to make a name for herself. 

3. Ezi Magbegor, Seattle Storm

If it wasn't for Tina Charles' arrival in Seattle last season, Magbegor likely wouldn't still qualify as an under-the-radar player. But shortly after the veteran signed with the Storm, Magbegor lost her starting spot. As a result, her playing time and production declined sharply.

When Magbegor was starting early in the season, she was well on her way to a breakout campaign: 11.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.3 blocks per game on 55.9 percent shooting. Even though she was relegated to a much less important role in the second half of the season, she still did enough to earn her first All-Defensive Second Team honor. 

Things will be much different for the Storm and Magbegor this season. Charles is gone, and so too are Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird. The days of contending for a title are over for now, but there's still enough talent on this team to make a playoff run – especially if Magbegor can get back to the level she showed she's capable of early last summer. 

4. Jessica Shepard, Minnesota Lynx

There weren't many bright spots for the Lynx last season, as they finished in ninth place at 14-22 and failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010. One of the few returning players who did stand out was Jessica Shepard, a second-round pick back in 2019 who missed all of 2020 with a torn ACL and played sparingly upon her return in 2021. 

Finally fully healthy and accustomed to the league, Shepard had the best season of her career. She played in all 36 games, starting 22 of them, and averaged 8.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and three assists while shooting 50 percent from the field. When she put up 20 points, 19 rebounds and six assists in a loss to the Aces, she became just the 12th player in WNBA history with at least 20 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in a game. 

She will have a chance to build on her career season this summer, especially now that Sylvia Fowles has retired, which will open up more minutes and opportunity in the frontcourt. Shepard's versatility – she's an underrated playmaker for a big – and relentless effort on the boards should make her a staple in the rotation. 

5. Kayla Thornton, New York Liberty

The New York Liberty had perhaps the best offseason of all time this winter as they added Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot. It would be understandable, then, that most fans probably didn't take much note of Kayla Thornton's arrival. 

After all, she's not a former MVP or the league's active assists leader, and last season she averaged eight points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists for the Dallas Wings – not exactly eye-popping numbers. What she is, though, is the perfect complementary player for a team that has title aspirations. 

Thornton is an experienced, versatile defender, doesn't need the ball and is a decent 3-point shooter. She's not going to put up big numbers, and will often be an afterthought on this extremely talented Liberty team, but she'll do all the little things that will help them win.