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Four teams, eight former No. 1 picks and the 25 best players in the semifinals

Aug 25, 2022

  • M.A. Voepel

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    ESPN.com

      M.A. Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, along with other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and contains been with ESPN since 1996.
  • Alexa Philippou

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    ESPN

    • Covers women’s college basketball and the WNBA
    • Previously covered UConn and the WNBA Connecticut Sun for the Hartford Courant
    • Stanford graduate and Baltimore native with further experience at the Dallas Morning News, Seattle Times and Cincinnati Enquirer

The 2022 WNBA semifinals are set after chalk dominated the opening round of the playoffs: The No. 1 seed NEVADA Aces will need on the No. 4 seed Seattle Storm, and the No. 2 seed Chicago Sky will face off contrary to the No. 3 seed Connecticut Sun.

The Aces-Storm matchup — Game 1 is Sunday (4 p.m. ET, ESPN) in NEVADA — was already hyped as a Finals-worthy showdown. (Actually, NEVADA and Seattle squared off for the title in the bubble in 2020 on the Storm’s solution to winning their fourth championship.) For the very first time in WNBA or NBA history, seven No. 1 draft picks will need the court in a playoff game: the Aces’ Kelsey Plum, A’ja Wilson and Jackie Young combined with the Storm’s Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart. Wilson and Stewart, MVPs in 2020 and 2018, respectively, are believed front-runners because of this season’s award aswell.

The Sky-Sun series, which features 2008 No. 1 draft pick Candace Parker, marks a rematch of the 2021 semifinals, where, after going .500 in the standard season, then-No. 6 seed Chicago stunned top-seeded Connecticut in four games on the path to the Sky’s first title. They got even deeper in the offseason, particularly with the signing of Emma Meesseman, permitting them to start three Finals MVPs (including Parker and Kahleah Copper) come early july.

Even though sunlight have earned their fourth straight visit to the semis, this is actually the first-time they achieved it behind their Big Three of Jonquel Jones, DeWanna Bonner and (a completely healthy) Alyssa Thomas, not forgetting a surging Brionna Jones.

With just four teams left standing, we’ve updated our ranking of the very best 25 players in the WNBA playoffs, predicated on postseason performance. Our list features nine new faces and stars making some noise following a largely dominant group of first-round games by the semifinalists: The common margin of victory through 10 first-round games was a resounding 18.2 points.

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Chelsea Gray goes 7-for-8 from downtown as she puts up 27 points to lead the Aces to an enormous blowout contrary to the Mercury.

1. Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm

Forward | 6-foot-4

2022 playoff stats:
22.0 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 6.0 APG

First-round rank: 2

Stewart averaging a double-double in a sweep of a good Washington Mystics team — plus look at her assist numbers — lifts her to the very best spot. But she and Las Vegas’ A’ja Wilson are essentially interchangeable when it comes to immense value with their teams. — Voepel

2. A’ja Wilson, NEVADA Aces

Forward | 6-foot-4

2022 playoff stats:
12.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.0 BPG

First-round rank: 1

Wilson had an atypical playoff opener with eight points, but just the threat she presents is huge. Game 2 was Wilson as usual, making 7 of 9 shots from the field. Her nine assists combined in both games sticks out, too, within the Aces’ overall great ball movement. — Voepel

3. Chelsea Gray, NEVADA Aces

Guard | 5-foot-11

2022 playoff stats:
22.0 PPG, 6.0 APG, 76.9% 3PT

First-round rank: 14

No-one is hotter this WNBA postseason than Gray, who includes a history of playoff success. She’s been burning offensively (10 of 13 from behind the arc) alongside playing lockdown defense. She’s also stayed a fantastic playmaker; everything warrants this big jump from the first rankings. — Voepel

4. Candace Parker, Chicago Sky

Forward/center | 6-foot-4

2022 playoff stats:
14.3 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 5.7 APG

First-round rank: 3

True to create, Parker’s fingerprints were all around the Sky’s first-round series make an impression on the brand new York Liberty, with techniques both obvious and much more subtle; she even came at your fingertips of recording the league’s third postseason triple-double with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists in Chicago’s decisive Game 3 win. — Philippou

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Jonquel Jones makes the Wings purchase a turnover as she gets the steal and score before the finish of the 3rd quarter.

5. Jonquel Jones, Connecticut Sun

Forward | 6-foot-6

2022 playoff stats:
16.7 PPG, 9.0 RPG

First-round rank: 5

Jones’ early foul trouble Wednesday put sunlight in a bind within their decisive Game 3 battle at Dallas, but her dominant return in the next half demonstrated precisely how critical she actually is for the Sun’s success continue. Her capability to stay on the ground, and how successfully sunlight will get her touches inside, is a key for Connecticut to upset Chicago. — Philippou

6. Kelsey Plum, NEVADA Aces

Guard | 5-foot-8

2022 playoff stats:
22.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.5 APG

First-round rank: 4

Las Vegas’ guards were spectacular in the series opener, especially making use of their WNBA-record 23 3-pointers in Game 2. Plum led the Aces in scoring in the standard season and is tied for the lead in the playoffs. She drops a few spots only because teammate Gray jumped up. — Voepel

7. Kahleah Copper, Chicago Sky

Guard/forward | 6-foot-1

2022 playoff stats:
18.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.7 SPG

First-round rank: 17

Copper showed our pre-playoff ranking was, indeed, too low for the reigning Finals MVP, bursting in to the postseason with a set of 20-point performances. While her quick first rung on the ladder and capability to attack the rim get the majority of the attention, her defense on Sabrina Ionescu was massive in swinging the series in Chicago’s favor. — Philippou

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After Sabrina Ionescu scores with under ten seconds remaining, the Liberty do not get back and Candace Parker finds Azura Stevens for the simple bucket before halftime.

8. Courtney Vandersloot, Chicago Sky

Guard | 5-foot-8

2022 playoff stats:
14.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 8.0 APG

First-round rank: 7

When Vandersloot reaches her best — facilitating the Chicago offense and overtaking as needed once the team requires a basket — the Sky are so much tougher to beat. Up to now this postseason, Vandersloot has continued to show why she’s considered by many to function as best point guard in the league, compiling a set of point-assist double-doubles and nearly coming through with a point-rebound one in another game. — Philippou

9. Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun

Forward | 6-foot-2

2022 playoff stats:
11.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 4.7 APG

First-round rank: 9

Thomas was relatively contained by the Wings’ stingy defense in the initial round, especially after she came near recording a triple-double in Game 1, however the Sun will require her in top form on both ends — including by making smarter decisions with the ball — to flip the script versus the Sky. — Philippou

10. Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm

Guard | 5-foot-10

2022 playoff stats:
17.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.0 APG

First-round rank: 13

Loyd has improved a little on her behalf regular-season scoring average and had a solid close-out game contrary to the Mystics, making five 3-pointers on the path to 19 points. Her playoff experience is showing. — Voepel

11. Jackie Young, NEVADA Aces

Guard | 6-foot-0

2022 playoff stats:
15.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 71.4% 3PT

First-round rank: 11

Young always appears to do everything quietly, however the effect is quite loud. She made 5 of 7 from behind the arc in the initial round, alongside being her usual versatile self defensively. — Voepel

12. DeWanna Bonner, Connecticut Sun

Forward | 6-foot-4

2022 playoff stats:
14.0 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.7 APG

First-round rank: 19

Bonner may be the only player on the Sun’s roster who has won a WNBA title, and that experience showed Wednesday night, as she overran the game defensively and offensively to greatly help Connecticut overcome an underwhelming begin to tie the score before halftime and distance themself comfortably following the break. — Philippou

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Sue Bird passes to Gabby Williams, who gets both points.

13. Sue Bird, Seattle Storm

Guard | 5-foot-9

2022 playoff stats:
14.0 PPG, 6.0 APG, 2.5 RPG

First-round rank: 18

Bird is playing the ultimate games of her career, and the near future Hall of Famer is taking advantage of them. Her scoring average has jumped from her 7.8 PPG in the standard season, with her assists remaining steady as ever. — Voepel

14. Azur Stevens, Chicago Sky

Forward/center | 6-foot-6

2022 playoff stats:
14.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.7 SPG

First-round rank: NR

Following a breakout performance in the postseason this past year, it’s no shock that Stevens would come through again for the Sky in 2022; her 12 points — including a transition basket at the buzzer ahead of halftime that swung the momentum back Chicago’s favor — and getting eight rebounds was particularly impactful in assisting the Sky keep a big lead on the Liberty the majority of Game 3. — Philippou

15. Tina Charles, Seattle Storm

Center | 6-foot-4

2022 playoff stats:
10.5 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.5 APG

First-round rank: 20

Charles’ numbers are down a little from the standard season, but that reflects the entire elevation of the Storm as a team in the playoffs. The threat Charles poses makes the entirety of Seattle’s inside game a lot more daunting. — Voepel

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Allie Quigley showcases the number as she gets the steal and rather than moving in for the layup, she knocks down the 3-pointer.

16. Allie Quigley, Chicago Sky

Guard | 5-foot-10

2022 playoff stats:
13.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.7 APG

First-round rank: NR

Quigley’s back-to-back 3-pointers Tuesday to increase the Sky’s result in 19 midway through the fourth quarter put the series away once and for all, but James Wade in addition has been impressed with how locked in the sharpshooter has been defensively, something to view for because the postseason continues on. — Philippou

17. Brionna Jones, Connecticut Sun

Forward | 6-foot-3

2022 playoff stats:
12.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG

First-round rank: 10

Jones uncharacteristically struggled sometimes after the Wings matched Teaira McCowan with her in Game 2, but her capability to finally progress on the offensive glass in Game 3, with a team-high six offensive boards, allowed sunlight to finally make contact with their identity and advance to another round. — Philippou

18. Gabby Williams, Seattle Storm

Forward | 5-foot-11

2022 playoff stats:
13.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.0 APG

First-round rank: NR

Williams could be a bit up-and-down, but she’s been all up in the playoffs atlanta divorce attorneys way: her scoring, her passing, her defense. If the Storm have this version of Williams all of those other way, it creates them that much harder to beat. — Voepel

19. Rebekah Gardner, Chicago Sky

Guard | 6-foot-1

2022 playoff stats:
6.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.0 APG

First-round rank: NR

Gardner doesn’t will have the flashiest stats, but she’s quickly established herself among the premier defenders in the league, with her defense contrary to the Liberty, and particularly Ionescu, serving as a spark for the typically offense-minded Chicago. — Philippou

20. Emma Meesseman, Chicago Sky

Forward | 6-foot-4

2022 playoff stats:
8.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.3 APG

First-round rank: 12

Meesseman has already established a slow begin to the postseason offensively (her 12 points in Game 3 marked her best scoring output of the initial round), but shows up defensively for Chicago, something that’ll continue being crucial for the Sky’s capability to assert their dominance on that end of the ground. — Philippou

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DiJonai Carrington gets the crowd on its feet as she drains the and-1 to pull sunlight closer late in the fourth quarter.

21. DiJonai Carrington, Connecticut Sun

Guard/forward | 5-foot-11

2022 playoff stats:
9.7 PPG, 4.7 RPB, 2.0 SPG

First-round rank: NR

Bonner credited Carrington’s defense for helping change the tide of Game 3 following the Sun’s slow start; that, plus her capability to push in transition and obtain downhill but nonetheless maintain control, can continue steadily to serve as a spark off the bench for Connecticut. — Philippou

22. Kiah Stokes, NEVADA Aces

Center | 6-foot-3

2022 playoff stats:
7.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.5 BPG

First-round rank: NR

With Dearica Hamby injured, Stokes has stepped right into a bigger role. After averaging 15.4 minutes in the standard season, she’s jumped to 26.5 for both playoff games and is tied with Wilson for the team lead in rebounding. — Voepel

23. Ezi Magbegor, Seattle Storm

Center | 6-foot-4

2022 playoff stats:
7.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.5 BPG

First-round rank: NR

Magbegor had to regulate when fellow center Charles, a more veteran player, joined the Storm in late June. But her capability to do this has helped Seattle be considered a better overall team. — Voepel

24. Natisha Hiedeman, Connecticut Sun

Guard | 5-foot-8

2022 playoff stats:
6.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.0 APG

First-round rank: NR

Hiedeman’s clutch 3-point shooting (3-for-5) kept the score tight in Game 3 even while Dallas arrived of the gates throwing the initial punch, and sunlight will require more of this in the semifinals to help keep their championship hopes alive. — Philippou

25. Riquna Williams, NEVADA Aces

Guard | 5-foot-7

2022 playoff stats:
6.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.0 APG

First-round rank: NR

With as great because the starting guards are playing, the Aces haven’t needed just as much from Williams. But she’s been ready every time they have needed her. — Voepel

Fell out: Ariel Atkins, Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud, Sophie Cunningham, Allisha Gray, Natasha Howard, Sabrina Ionescu, Marina Mabrey, Teaira McCowan

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