For the second year in a row,A'ja Wilsonof the Las Vegas Aces and Breanna Stewart of the New York Liberty were the leading vote-getters for the WNBA All-Star Game and will be the captains. They'll pick their squads on Saturday's All-Star Team Selection Special (1 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App).
We took shots at picking the teams before the contest, which will be played in Las Vegas on July 15 (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App). We didn't try to put ourselves too much inside the minds of Wilson and Stewart. It was more a case of, "If we could pick the teams for them, here's what we would do."
We flipped a coin -- specifically a 1981 quarter Voepel found on the counter in the first sighting of loose change -- to decide who got to pick first, and therefore would be Team Wilson, the overall top vote-getter. Philippou won.
We follow the WNBA rules of Team Wilson (Philippou) going first in picking from the other eight starters, then Team Stewart (Voepel) picking first among the 12 reserves.
We took health into consideration, meaning starter Satou Sabally (illness) of the Dallas Wings and reserve Elena Delle Donne (ankle) of the Washington Mystics might be selected later than expected. Hopefully, both will be in good shape for the game.
Wilson and Stewart might go totally different directions than we did, but that's the fun of it. Team Wilson will be coached by the Aces' Becky Hammon. She also guided Team Wilson last year and jokingly teased her star recently, saying she "didn't ask me one damn question" before picking her 2022 squad. TheConnecticut Sun's Stephanie White will guide Team Stewart.
Wilson has a precedent for not picking teammates with her first All-Star pick, so why not start this by selecting the league's top scorer? If anyone is primed to light it up in an All-Star Game setting, it's Loyd, who's known for her high scoring and understanding of the moment. Plus, guards have a great track record in recent years of going off in All-Star Games, so perhaps Loyd could be the next player to take home MVP.
2. Team Stewart (Voepel): Chelsea Gray, Las Vegas Aces
The first dagger by Stewie: Grabbing the Aces player who was WNBA Finals MVP last year. Stealing Gray from Wilson just makes sense: Who better to choose as floor general at Michelob Ultra Arena than the player who is in that role there all season? Gray is averaging 14.5 PPG and 6.4 APG (the latter would be a career high). Plus, she's nicknamed "Point Gawd" for a reason; her passing seems to be getting more exciting in her ninth year in the league.
3. Team Wilson (Philippou): Jackie Young, Las Vegas Aces
Last year, Wilson and Kelsey Plum (as part of Team Wilson) had fun trapping Young (on Team Stewart) whenever they had a chance. Not this year. While I had Team Wilson draft a non-Aces player first overall, Wilson won't let a teammate firmly in the All-WNBA (and MVP) conversation like Young drop any lower.
Griner joked to reporters recently that she hoped her numbers would be better this All-Star Game than last year. The media froze, to which Griner chuckled and said she thought the joke would land better. Leave it to BG to try to be lighthearted about the fact she was an honorary All-Star last year while still being detained in Russia. BG was on everyone's mind then -- all players switched to No. 42 in the ASG's second half to honor her in Chicago -- and this year she will receive a warm, emotional ovation from fans. That's good mojo for Team Stewart, along with the fact that BG is playing great, averaging 19.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG and 2.1 BPG.
Gamecocks, unite! Boston has already proved to be one of the best bigs in the WNBA as a rookie. She leads the league in field goal percentage and already had some fun showdowns versus Wilson this season. So why not have them join forces in the frontcourt the one time of year when it's possible?
6. Team Stewart (Voepel): Arike Ogunbowale, Dallas Wings
All-Star Games are about offense. With league scoring leader Loyd on Team Wilson, No. 2 scorer Stewart (23.5 PPG) picks another guaranteed bucket-getter. Ogunbowale was ASG MVP in 2021, when the contest matched the U.S. national team against league All-Stars, who were led to victory by Ogunbowale's 26 points. That game was also in Las Vegas, so Ogunbowale (21.5 PPG) might add a second MVP award.
7. Team Wilson (Philippou): Satou Sabally, Dallas Wings
Few players in the league have been as impressive this season as Sabally, who, finally healthy for the most part, is having a career year and could be a lock for the Most Improved Player. Assuming she overcomes whatever illness she has endured lately, I like the versatility position-wise and skill set she brings to this roster.
Ogwumike's scoring (19.8) and rebounding (9.2) averages are almost identical to her 2016 MVP season. She turned 33 this month, but seems to be playing as well as ever. The Sparks are 7-11 and have lost four in a row, which has to be frustrating for her. But whether they turn things around before the ASG, Ogwumike can be counted on for her upbeat leadership for Team Stewart.
Stewie and Pheesa were UConn Huskies teammates for one season (2016) and have played on Team USA together. Collier is just 26 but already has a seasoned veteran mentality. The Lynx, who lost Sylvia Fowles to retirement, got off to a slow start (0-6) but are 8-3 since. Collier was limited to four games last year as she missed most of the season on maternity leave. She's having an outstanding 2023 season (22.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG), and this pick feels like getting a starter from the reserve pool.
10. Team Wilson (Philippou): Kelsey Plum, Las Vegas Aces
Again, why break things up when you've got a good thing going? Since the Point Gawd was taken early by Team Stewart, we'll go for her backcourt mate and the reigning All-Star Game MVP. Plum adds to Team Wilson's undeniable offensive firepower in the backcourt, critical for an All-Star Game roster. Plus, maybe Plum will be extra motivated to have a big night again in hopes that whatever MVP prize the league has produced for the event this summer will overcompensate following last year's trophy embarrassment.
11. Team Stewart (Voepel): Courtney Vandersloot, New York Liberty
Stewie selects her fellow torch-bearing teammate; the two were synonymous with the Storm and Chicago Sky before joining forces in New York as free agents this season. Vandersloot continues to play at a high level, leading the league in assists (8.6) per game. With Gray and Vandersloot, Team Stewart feels good about its distribution experts.
12. Team Wilson (Philippou): Sabrina Ionescu, New York Liberty
Allowing Team Stewart to draft both Gray and Vandersloot -- two of the greatest point guards of all time -- might have been an oversight on my part (and Voepel wasn't interested in a trade after the fact). Ionescu says she thrives playing off the ball, but she can still comfortably assume ballhandling and facilitating duties for the All-Star Game, especially since Team Wilson already has so many high-octane scorers.
13. Team Stewart (Voepel): Kahleah Copper, Chicago Sky
Stewie picked Copper, the 2021 WNBA Finals MVP, for her ASG team last year, and she's a good choice again. With both Candace Parker and Vandersloot leaving Chicago, Copper was determined to help keep the Sky's expectations on the playoffs, and she has done that, averaging 16.4 PPG and 5.0 RPG. Copper can slash to the basket and brings high energy to Team Stewart.
We love versatility. Why not keep it going by drafting Thomas, a triple-double performer who should have been a starter. Thomas' passing for a post player is second to none (she's narrowly behind Vandersloot with 8.2 assists per game), she shines pushing the ball up the floor and she's tied with Stewart for first in the league in rebounds -- strengths Team Wilson will take advantage of.
15. Team Stewart (Voepel): Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
Full disclosure: We know it looks weird to have a two-time WNBA MVP picked this late. The concern is how much Delle Donne might play after hurting her ankle June 30. Considering the long battle with her back, EDD and the Mystics aren't going to take any chances with other ailments. That said, she is one of the WNBA's greatest offensive players. Her numbers look much like those from her 2019 MVP season: 19.5 PPG, while shooting 50% overall from the field, 39% from 3-point range and 96.2% from the line. EDD joined the 50/40/90 club in 2019 and won a WNBA championship.
16. Team Wilson (Philippou): Ezi Magbegor, Seattle Storm
To further shore up our frontcourt strength, let's go with one of the brightest young bigs. The Australia product is having a career year in Seattle alongside Loyd.
17. Team Stewart (Voepel): DeWanna Bonner, Connecticut Sun
Bonner, playing in her 14th WNBA season, had a career-best scoring game earlier this year, with 41 points on June 8 vs. Las Vegas. That was the Aces' only loss this season. Bonner (17.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG) brings her mix of great competitiveness and an easygoing personality to Team Stewart.
Gray and Wilson won a title together at South Carolina and are close friends. And based on the season Gray is having in Atlanta, it would be silly not to pick her for Team Wilson. If anything, she's a steal at this point in the draft.
19. Team Stewart (Voepel): Kelsey Mitchell, Indiana Fever
Did we mention the ASG is about offense? With Mitchell, Team Stewart has another perimeter scoring threat. She is averaging fewer points this season (16.9) than last (18.4), but that's attributed to the Fever's stronger inside game, with Boston and NaLyssa Smith. It's Mitchell's first ASG appearance. Maybe the sixth-year pro will get her first postseason game later this year.
20. Team Wilson (Philippou): Cheyenne Parker, Atlanta Dream
In her ninth season in the W, Parker is a first-time All-Star after putting together a career year in Atlanta. She and Dream teammate Allisha Gray could be another good tandem to pair on the floor together.