WNBA

Wilson, Thomas Headline WNBA Opening Night 2024

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The WNBA’s historic 28th season kicked off on Tuesday night with four games on the slate.

While many were eager to watch college phenomenon Caitlin Clark make her WNBA debut, there were other superstars who shined as well. Eight of the league’s twelve teams took to the floor opening night— let’s take a look at who the top performers were.

6. Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury

At 41 years old, Taurasi is still getting it done.

The first pick in the 2004 WNBA Draft dropped 23 points on 7-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc to help Phoenix compete with the two-time defending champions, the Las Vegas Aces. While Phoenix fell short (89-80), Taurasi’s shooting performance was nothing short of extraordinary. She also grabbed three rebounds and limited herself to just two turnovers.

It was a vintage “white mamba” outing, as the late great Kobe Bryant called her. With 6-foot-9 Brittney Griner out indefinitely due to a toe injury, Phoenix’s small-ball lineup showed promise. Taurasi will have to continue to carry a heavy load if Phoenix wants to be a playoff contender.

https://twitter.com/phoenixmercury/status/1790608386595475476?s=46&t=gPIrE2lhZpUgve6sp_XhUg

5. Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx

Collier got in foul trouble early and had to sit out for a large portion of the first half, but she came back with a vengeance in the second.

The 27-year-old finished the game with 20 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. She helped Minnesota defeat a highly-touted Seattle squad that boasts names like Jewell Loyd, Skylar Diggins-Smith, and Nneka Ogwumike. Collier was an All-WNBA First-Team honoree last season and finished fourth in MVP voting. Her 2024 campaign is off to a strong start.

4. Alanna Smith, Minnesota Lynx

Behind Courtney Williams, former Chicago Sky standout Alanna Smith was Minnesota’s top signee in free agency.

A contender for last year’s Most Improved Player award, Smith might just win the title this season if she’s able to consistently show out like she did against the Storm. The Australian native dominated both ends of the floor, notching 22 points, eight rebounds, two assists, four blocks and a steal. Smith has a knack for getting the ball in the basket and is a much-welcomed addition to this year’s Lynx team.

3. Jonquel Jones, New York Liberty

To put it mildly, Jones, the 2021 WNBA MVP, had a sluggish start to her inaugural campaign with the New York Liberty in 2023.

This year, she seems to be off to the races. The Bahamas native led New York to a 85-80 victory over the Washington Mystics, putting up 25 points, eight rebounds, two assists and a block on 10-of-17 shooting, including 4-of-8 shooting from deep. At 6-foot-6, Jones’s versatility makes her somewhat of a unicorn and a tough assignment for defenders. It’s looking like Jones might finally re-establish herself in the MVP conversation.

2. Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun

It was a tough call deciding who deserved the number one spot on this list.

Thomas, who finished second in MVP voting last year behind Breanna Stewart, dominated every aspect of the game in the Sun’s 92-71 victory over the Indiana Fever. The so-called “triple-double queen” lived up to her nickname Tuesday night, racking up yet another one— the 12th of her career. She finished the game with 13 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists and three steals.

The Sun had a relatively well-balanced attack with four of the five starters scoring in double digits, although Thomas lead the charge. “AT” comes into this season with a chip on her shoulder after narrowly losing the MVP vote.

We’ll have to wait and see just how far that chip drives her and this Sun team.

1. A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces

Just when you thought Thomas’s performance couldn’t be topped, Wilson capped off Tuesday night’s slate of games with a monster showing.

As Vegas tries to manage this early part of the season without point guard Chelsea Gray who is working her way back from injury, Wilson showed she is more than capable of holding down the fort. Her 30 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and two blocks carried the Aces over a Phoenix team who gave them a late-game scare.

Wilson, a two-time MVP, looks to win her third this year while also leading Vegas to a three-peat.

Honorable Mentions

  • Betnijah Laney-Hamilton, New York Liberty
    • 20 PTS, 4 REB, 2 AST, 9-13 FG
  • DeWanna Bonner, Connecticut Sun
    • 20 PTS, 6 REB, 1 STL, 8-14 FG
  • Brittney Sykes, Washington Mystics
    • 14 PTS, 10 REB, 7 AST, 2 STL, 7-17 FG
  • Nneka Ogwumike, Seattle Storm
    • 20 PTS, 9 REB, 2 STL, 10-18 FG

All Stats are curtesy of the WNBA.

About Ethan Arcata

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