WNBA

Aces Consider Going All-In This Offseason

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Each week over the first three months of the offseason, W Lead will look at what each team is planning for free agency. We will look at pending free agents and then consider who may be a logical target. This series starts in standings order for the teams that missed the postseason and then goes in order of elimination of playoff teams. We have looked at the Connecticut Sun, Minnesota Lynx, Seattle Storm, Dallas Wings, New York Liberty, Washington Mystics, Los Angeles Sparks, Atlanta Dream and Indiana Fever. Today we round out the teams who did not make the Finals with the Las Vegas Aces.

Over the last few seasons, the Las Vegas Aces took a tremendous step forward as an organization. After drafting first overall in 2017, 2018 and 2019, the team finally leaped the WNBA pinnacle. They were the top seed in the league in the bubble season and made it to the Finals. Last season they finished with the second seed and were again a title favorite before the Mercury surprisingly knocked them out in the semifinals. Now, Vegas enters a free agency full of questions.

Pending Free Agents

A’ja Wilson is the only restricted free agent for this team. However, she is the basis of the rest of the decisions. Vegas should offer her the max she deserves the moment they can. The 25-year-old has been an All-Star in every possible season so far, been MVP, and led the league in blocked shots. As one of the league’s top faces, the Aces are her team for as long as she wants them to be.

Vegas traded for Liz Cambage to pair with Wilson. However, Wilson was at her apex during the 2020 bubble season that Cambage sat out. While the team played quite impressively with both playing, fans must note Wilson’s bubble excellence. Cambage will be one of the most talented players on the open market this season (after averaging 14.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.3 assists per game this year), but her time in Vegas may be over.

Similarly, Angel McCoughtry demonstrated that she was more than capable of returning from an injury. In the bubble, the veteran averaged 14.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game. After being one of the most dynamic threats in the postseason, McCoughtry suffered a torn ACL immediately before the season.

Even moving beyond these three stars, the Aces still have more to consider. Riquna Williams was one of the key shooters for the team this season, and she should have no shortage of suitors. Kiah Stokes joined the team midseason and was a good spot starter. JiSu Park has not gotten much of a chance stateside of yet but has looked good overseas during the offseason.

The Plan Ahead

Entering free agency, the Aces will be committed to five players making $654,232, per HerHoopsStats. This leaves them with nearly $724k to spend on six to seven players to fill out their roster. Wilson is likely coming back at the max, cutting that amount by roughly a third. Bringing Riquna Williams back at a similar number that she made last year is a logical choice for one of the worst shooting teams in the league (last in the league in attempts by nearly four per game). Then comes the challenging decisions.

Cambage angered many with her boisterousness and the issues with the Australian national team. Combined with the less than ideal fit next to Wilson, Cambage may be best suited somewhere else. Furthermore, she has made it a yearly question on whether she will return to the league. All these factors make it more likely than not that she will not be wearing an Aces jersey next season.

McCoughtry made it known that she fully intends to continue playing and there have been plenty of rumors connecting her with a return to the Atlanta Dream. She has posted plenty of videos on social media, working alongside Chennedy Carter. However, given the salary constraints, her days in Vegas should be limited.

Parting Thoughts

Who ends up running the team will significantly determine the Aces’ direction. Daniel Padover left to take over as general manager for the Atlanta Dream. While Bill Laimbeer is still head coach, a report surfaced over the holidays that the team made inquiries about the availability and interest of Becky Hammon.

Laimbeer coaches what’s perhaps an outdated style. Still, the tactics yielded impressive results in the regular season, leading to a level of confidence in continuity. However, roster changes would follow if a new coach enters with a modern strategy. The weeks and months ahead will indicate what kind of team the Aces want to put around Wilson.

About Corey Rausch

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