10 takeaways from the 2024 WNBA season's first two weeks

ByMichael Voepel and Alexa Philippou ESPN logo
Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Incredible individual performances. Surprising starts. Thrilling finishes. The opening two weeks of the 2024 WNBA season have been jam-packed. But the best part for longtime fans and newcomers to the league is that the bulk of the season lies ahead.

Commissioner's Cup play will begin next month, running from June 1 to 13 under a reconfigured format, followed by the championship game of that in-season tournament on June 25. The league's best then will travel to Phoenix for the WNBA All-Star Game on July 20, which precedes a monthlong break for the Olympics.

Until then, there's plenty of basketball to look forward to, particularly after the fun teaser of competition we've had throughout May. We take stock of what we've seen at the two-week mark and how the early observations could shape the 2024 campaign.

The demands of this year's schedule are unforgiving

May 14, the day the season opened, feels like eons ago. The slate of games so far has been nonstop; in fact, Memorial Day marked the first day without any contests.

This is the second year during which each team will play 40 games, but with the league needing to accommodate for the Paris Olympics in July and August, the 2024 campaign must squeeze those games into a narrower window.

The Las Vegas Aces, Chicago Sky and Atlanta Dream have only played four games so far (Las Vegas hasn't even gone on the road yet), while the Indiana Fever started the season with seven games in 12 days. And those franchises that haven't had a rough scheduling stretch yet are more than likely to have one this summer.

Teams also are playing more back-to-backs in different cities; Indiana, for example, took the court in Los Angeles on Friday, then in Las Vegas on Saturday. The league's move to full-time charters for the regular season should help players recover amid such an aggressive itinerary. But injuries are a storyline to keep an eye on as the campaign progresses. -- Alexa Philippou

The season is wide open -- for now

Talk of superteams dominated last summer, concluding in a star-studded WNBA Finals between Las Vegas and theNew York Liberty. The 2024 season seems much more open. Las Vegas has looked mortal, dropping a home game in a rarity to the Phoenix Mercury and struggling on the defensive end. But the Aces could rediscover their dominant ways once point guard Chelsea Gray returns from a left foot injury. New York, meanwhile, just suffered consecutive losses -- something it didn't experience during the 2023 regular season -- and it has had issues on both ends of the floor.

Behind All-WNBA talent Alyssa Thomas and Napheesa Collier, the undefeated Connecticut Sun and one-loss Minnesota Lynxhave surged to make claims as contenders. They sport the league's top two net ratings heading into Tuesday's games (plus-11.6 for the Lynx, plus-9.4 for the Sun). After big offseason moves, Phoenix is revitalized and thriving under new coach Nate Tibbetts' system, with Kahleah Copper leading the charge. And the Seattle Storm might be starting to find their stride with free agency newcomers Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith. -- Philippou

MVP race starts with familiar face, but there are multiple contenders

New York's Breanna Stewart won a tight race for MVP last season against Connecticut's Thomas and Las Vegas' A'ja Wilsonafter all three made great cases. Wilson then took over in the playoffs and won WNBA Finals MVP.

Wilson looks like the early MVP leader this season. She ranks third in the league in scoring average and second in rebounding average, and she is tied for fourth in blocked shots per game. But Minnesota's Collier, who is fourth in scoring, third in rebounding and first in steals, is also right there at the top of the race.

Phoenix's Copper, the 2021 WNBA Finals MVP, leads the league in scoring at 29.2 points per game. Thomas continues to be a triple threat in scoring, rebounds and assists. And Stewart is also in the mix, even though the Liberty have had a bumpy start. -- Michael Voepel

The rookies are legit

No rookie has been without her ups and downs, but the impact of the 2024 draft class is already apparent on the court.

No. 1 pick Caitlin Clark joined Candace Parker and Sabrina Ionescu as the only players in WNBA history to average 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists through seven career games. Coming off theLos Angeles Sparks' performance Sunday against the Dallas Wings, No. 2 pick Cameron Brink sits alongside Parker and DeLisha Milton-Jones as the only rookies in Sparks history with 20 points and 3 blocks in a game. And No. 7 pick Angel Reese became the first player in Sky history with 10 points and 5 rebounds in each of her first four games.

Lottery pick Rickea Jackson has had some big contributions for the Sparks off the bench, while Las Vegas' Kate Martin, Dallas' Sevgi Uzun and the Washington Mystics' Aaliyah Edwards and Julie Vanloo also have carved out meaningful roles for their teams. (Note: Uzun, 26, and Vanloo, 31, are older players from Turkey and Belgium, respectively, who went undrafted and are making their WNBA debuts.)

The first-year players are still getting acclimated to the WNBA, but they'll likely be even more effective by the time August and September arrive. --Philippou

These veterans have plenty of game left

And by veterans, we mean those players who are 35 and older. Phoenix's Diana Taurasi (who will be 42 in June), Connecticut's DeWanna Bonner (who will turn 37 in August) and Atlanta's Tina Charles (35) have earned their stripes and are playing like they want to send a message.

Taurasi, the league's oldest player, is off to a strong start in her 20th WNBA season. She ranks second on the Mercury in scoring (19.0 PPG) and has hit a league-high 19 3-pointers. Expected to make her sixth Olympic team this summer, Taurasi seems to be healthy and thriving under Tibbetts.

Bonner, in her 15th WNBA season, keeps doing her thing. Her 20.6 PPG average is tied with her career high for a season, which came in 2012 with Phoenix.

Charles didn't play in the WNBA last year; this is her 13th season and first with the Dream. Like Taurasi, Charles was a No. 1 draft pick, and she has won one MVP award. Charles is averaging 13.3 PPG and 8.0 RPG for an Atlanta squad that values her experience. -- Voepel

Game-changing players making their way back from injury

Injuries, a part of every WNBA season, have already led to some tough absences. Dallas' Satou Sabally (shoulder) isn't expected back until after the Olympic break, while Las Vegas' Gray (foot) has no timetable for her return and Phoenix's Brittney Griner (toe) is out indefinitely.

The Wings also are without Natasha Howard (foot) for another few weeks, while the Sky are hoping to get Isabelle Harrison (knee) and Kamilla Cardoso (shoulder) back soon. Winless Washington has struggled without Brittney Sykes (ankle), while Minnesota's Diamond Miller (knee) was recently sidelined indefinitely.

Players such as Gray, Griner, Sabally and Howard dramatically change the ceiling of championship-minded squads, with their teams facing much slimmer margins of victory without them. All eyes will be on how quickly they can get back to the hardwood and how impactful they can be when they return. -- Philippou

Pair of 31-year-olds among the biggest surprises

As much as Clark's pairing with second-year forwardAliyah Boston in Indiana was highly anticipated, the rookie point guard also has connected with Temi Fagbenle.

The 6-foot-4 center was born in the United States but grew up mostly in the United Kingdom, and she has represented Great Britain in international competition.

Fagbenle, 31, played forHarvardand USC and was a third-round draft pick by the Lynx in 2016. She won a WNBA title as a reserve for the Lynx in 2017 and also played for Minnesota in 2018 and 2019. Since then, she had competed overseas. But Fagbenle opted to return to the WNBA this season, and she is averaging 9.6 PPG and 5.4 RPG. Her experience and energy have helped lift the Fever. She has praised Clark's court vision, while Clark has complimented how well Fagbenle gets downcourt and to the rim.

Guard Julie Vanloo of Belgium, another 31-year-old from overseas, has played well in her first foray in the WNBA. In six games with the Mystics, she is averaging 9.8 PPG and 5.5 APG.

Meanwhile, 25-year-oldChennedy Carter, a familiar name to women's basketball fans in the United States, is getting a chance in Chicago. Carter was the No. 4 pick out of Texas A&M in 2020 by Atlanta, but things didn't work out for Carter with the Dream or with Los Angeles, where she was traded in 2022. And she didn't play in 2023. Now, Carter is averaging 9.8 PPG for the Sky. -- Voepel

New coaches off to solid starts

Chicago's Teresa Weatherspoon and Phoenix's Nate Tibbetts are the two new head coaches in the WNBA this season. Weatherspoon is familiar to WNBA followers; she played in the first eight seasons of the league and was a fan favorite in New York. Tibbetts has extensive coaching experience in the NBA but no previous background in women's basketball. But both seem to be adjusting well in the WNBA.

Tibbetts took over a Phoenix squad that was in the WNBA Finals in 2021 but struggled for a variety of reasons in 2022 and 2023. Last year, coach Vanessa Nygaard was fired during the season and the Mercury missed the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Some fans questioned Tibbetts getting a WNBA head-coaching job with no previous experience coaching women. But from the start, Tibbetts seemed to connect well with the Mercury on and off the court. Phoenix's 3-2 record includes a victory over the Aces in Las Vegas.

Many projected the Sky to be in rebuilding mode and to finish last in the league this year. But it's not how things have started in Chicago. The Sky have been competitive in all four of their games, winning two, and Weatherspoon -- who also spent time as an NBA assistant -- appears to be a good fit to guide the promising rookie Reese. -- Voepel

We might already know next year's lottery teams

It's early, but some teams have fallen to the league's bottom tier, including Washington, the sole winless team left at 0-6. While the Lynx overcame an 0-6 start to make the postseason last year, a similar trajectory is most likely not in store for the Mystics with such a competitive upper echelon in the league this summer. Washington, which was already framing this season as a "fresh start" for the franchise, has two first-round picks for 2025 (including what was initially Atlanta's).

The Sparks and the Fever -- two teams with young centerpieces -- are the only others with just one victory on the season. Los Angeles has made clear it is building for the future, while Indiana has been more bullish, expressing a goal of making the playoffs for the first time since 2016. And while they've shown flashes of that potential, the Fever have a long way to go to get there, on both ends of the floor.

If those three finish at the bottom, that would mean one of the Dream, Sky, Storm, Mercury or Wings -- the current ninth- through fifth-place teams in the standings) -- would also miss the postseason. Who lands that final lottery-bound spot will be fascinating to watch -- but remember New York can swap first-round picks with Phoenix, and Dallas can swap with Chicago. -- Philippou

Enthusiasm has been high from longtime and new WNBA fans

There is no doubt the much-anticipated rookie class has brought in a lot of first-time fans to the WNBA. Longtime fans have found some of the newbies annoying, and vice versa. But social media squabbling and some clueless observations/proclamations aside, the positives outweigh the negatives as the WNBA is receiving more mainstream media coverage and everyday discussion than ever before.

That has shown up in attendance figures too, led by the Sparks' record 19,103 fans for Friday's game against Indiana. The Storm (18,343), Liberty (17,735), Fever (17,274), Aces (10,419), Sky (9,025), Sun (8,910) and Wings (6,251) all have had capacity or near-capacity home crowds. So have the Mystics (4,200) and Dream (3,265), who play in smaller venues.

Television ratings also continue to increase; three of the five most-watched WNBA games to be broadcast on ESPN/ABC have come this season. -- Voepel

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