The top 25 players of the 2023 WNBA playoffs

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

The Las Vegas Aces' A'ja Wilson and theNew York Liberty's Breanna Stewart have been the top players in the WNBA, and the world, for some time, and they are once again duking it out for MVP honors, which will be announced by the league Sept. 26.

No matter who is named -- and despite Stewart edging Wilson by one vote for The Associated Press Player of the Year honors -- the No. 1 spot in our ranking of the top 25 players in the 2023 WNBA playoffs is set, with Wilson's spectacular second half of the 2023 campaign catapulting her over the Liberty star.

The Aces stumbled a bit after Candace Parker's season-ending injury, but Wilson has been sensational in her absence. Before the All-Star break, Wilson was averaging 19.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. After the break? A league-best 26.2 PPG, to go along with 9.7 RPG and 2.3 BPG. She has been efficient all year long, behind a career-best 55.7% shooting rate.

Some of Wilson's individual game performances have been staggering too. Last month, she tied the WNBA single-game scoring record with 53, after a 40-piece 11 days prior.

She also remains one of the league's best defenders, as the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. And she finished the 2023 regular season with 22 double-doubles, behind only the Connecticut Sun's Alyssa Thomas(28).

If Wilson takes home the MVP trophy, which she also won last year, she would become the fourth WNBA player to win the award three times. She'll have done so before she turns 28.

But the South Carolinagreat currently has bigger aspirations: leading her Aces to back-to-back WNBA titles, something that hasn't been done in the WNBA since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002.

ESPN's Michael Voepel, Alexa Philippou and Kevin Pelton debated and discussed the rest of the top 25 rankings, which only features players competing in the postseason. The Aces' Parker was not included, as all indications point to her being done for the year.

1. A'ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces

Forward | 6-foot-4

2023 stats:
22.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 2.2 BPG

Midseason rank: 2

The two-time MVP could get the honor for a third time after posting career-best averages in points, rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage (55.7). She did it despite being fourth on the Aces in minutes played (30.7). "She's better than she was last year," Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon said. "She is vibrant. She comes with the same energy every day." -- Voepel

2. Breanna Stewart, New York Liberty

Forward | 6-foot-4

2023 stats:
23.0 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 3.8 APG

Midseason rank: 1

It's testament to how well Wilson played that Stewart could put up career highs in both PPG and APG and drop a spot to second. Despite joining the star-studded Liberty, Stewart's offensive highs were higher than ever before. She scored at least 40 points four times after doing so only once in six seasons with the Seattle Storm -- her final game for the team, a loss to Wilson and the Aces in last year's playoffs. If the current playoff bracket holds, we'll get a chance to see the two MVPs square off in their third playoff meeting in four years, having split the first two. -- Pelton

3. Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun

Forward | 6-foot-2

2023 stats:
15.5 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 7.9 APG

Midseason rank: 3

Thomas' career season -- six triple-doubles, 28 double-doubles, nearly finished as the first player to lead the league in assists and rebounds in a season -- catapulted the Sun to the top quarter of the standings. After the season-ending injury to Brionna Jones, she has taken on more responsibility and has only seemed to thrive. Thomas is a front-runner for MVP, but there's one thing she truly has her sights set on: winning her, and Connecticut's, first WNBA title. After two Finals runs in four years, can she finally get the Sun over the hump? -- Philippou

4. Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx

Forward | 6-foot-1

2023 stats:
21.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.6 SPG

Midseason rank: 6

Collier has officially taken the reins as the Lynx's franchise player since Sylvia Fowles' retirement last season and has excelled in that role, propelling the team back to the postseason after a one-year hiatus. After missing the majority of 2022 because of pregnancy/maternity leave, she has also established herself as an MVP contender, with her motor and ability to impact the game in so many ways making her one of the league's most promising young stars. A big postseason from her would only further cement that. -- Philippou

5. Jackie Young, Las Vegas Aces

Guard | 6-foot-0

2023 stats:
17.6 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.8 APG

Midseason rank: 4

Young had her highest scoring average in her five WNBA seasons, and her amazing progress as a 3-point shooter continued. She made 22 3-pointers combined her first three seasons, 50 last year and 89 this year. Her effective field goal percentage (which adjusts for the greater value of 3-pointers) was a career-best 61.7, which led the WNBA. -- Voepel

6. Chelsea Gray, Las Vegas Aces

Guard | 5-foot-11

2023 stats:
15.3 PPG, 7.3 APG, 4.0 RPG

Midseason rank: 5

Although Gray inevitably couldn't keep up the heater she was on in last year's playoffs -- when she made 65.5% of her 2-point attempts and shot 54% from 3-point range -- 2023 was still the best offensive season of her standout career. She posted career highs in both PPG and APG, ranking third in the WNBA in the latter category. Her 1.8 3-pointers per game were also the most Gray has ever averaged, part of perhaps the league's most complete offensive game. -- Pelton

7. Satou Sabally, Dallas Wings

Forward | 6-foot-4

2023 stats:
18.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 4.4 APG

Midseason rank: 11

Finally healthy and having fun on the court again, Sabally has shown this season why she was taken No. 2 overall in the 2020 draft. The German unicorn -- a Most Improved Player and MVP contender -- has been the Wings' most complete player, helping them finish as the No. 4 seed and be the only team to defeat the Aces, Liberty and Sun this season. Her 14 double-doubles rank fourth among players who'll appear in the postseason, and she also recorded the Wings' first triple-double in July. Sabally can help the franchise advance past the first round for the first time in 14 years, when it was located in Detroit as the Shock. -- Philippou

8. Sabrina Ionescu, New York Liberty

Guard | 5-foot-11

2023 stats:
17.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 5.4 APG

Midseason rank: 13

Like the Liberty as a team, it took a while for Ionescu to click in a different role than she'd played in 2022, when the ball was in her hands far more frequently. Through July 5, Ionescu was averaging just 15.4 PPG and 4.9 APG, knocking her out of the top 10 of our midseason rankings. Since then, she has emerged as the clear second-best player on New York's superteam, averaging 18.4 PPG and 5.6 APG. She's been on a season-long 3-point hot streak, making a single-season record 128 at a 45% clip and setting a record in winning the 3-point contest. -- Pelton

9. Kelsey Plum, Las Vegas Aces

Guard | 5-foot-8

2023 stats:
18.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 4.5 APG

Midseason rank: 7

Plum ranked sixth the league in 3-point field goals (95) and fifth in effective field goal percentage (56.6). She also had her career-best overall field goal percentage (47.5). She led the Aces in average minutes played (32.4) and had one of the league's 40-point games this season. As dynamic a scorer as Plum can be, Hammon has been very happy with her progress as a playmaker over the past two seasons too. -- Voepel

10. Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics

Forward/guard | 6-foot-5

2023 stats:
16.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.1 APG

Midseason rank: 12

Ankle and hip issues limited Delle Donne to 23 games this season, eight of those since the All-Star break in mid-July. She has had some very good performances when healthy. Delle Donne, who turned 34 earlier this month, has worked hard to overcome the physical ailments she has dealt with since her last MVP season in 2019. At her best, she is still a very difficult player to stop offensively. -- Voepel

11. Jonquel Jones, New York Liberty

Forward | 6-foot-6

2023 stats:
11.3 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.3 BPG

Midseason rank: 23

Jones returning to her dominant ways put the Liberty's title aspirations back on track. Her performance in the Commissioner's Cup championship game, where she won MVP behind a 16-point, 15-board outing, demonstrated just how critical her defense, rebounding and paint presence are to New York. If the 2021 MVP can stay out of foul trouble and keep up that activity on both ends, New York should be back in the WNBA Finals for the first time since 2002. -- Philippou

12. Arike Ogunbowale, Dallas Wings

Guard | 5-foot-8

2023 stats:
21.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 4.5 APG

Midseason rank: 15

Ogunbowale was a rock for the Wings this season, playing all 40 games and leading the WNBA in average minutes (37.2). She ranked second in the league in 3-pointers (117) and fifth in scoring, but she also registered a career high in assists average. That showed she took advantage of Dallas' improved post play in helping the Wings to their first winning record in eight seasons in Dallas. -- Voepel

13. Courtney Vandersloot, New York Liberty

Guard | 5-foot-8

2023 stats:
10.5 PPG, 8.1 APG, 3.5 RPG

Midseason rank: 18

Vandersloot doesn't tend to be super flashy on the court, but then at the end of the game you check the box score and see, more often than not, that she has 10-plus assists. Her role as the conductor of New York's offense -- which boasts the top assist percentage in the league so far this season at 75% -- can at times be subtle, but cannot be overstated. Another WNBA title would only add to her legacy, which now includes a seventh Peak Performer Award for finishing with the best assists-per-game mark in a season. -- Philippou

14. DeWanna Bonner, Connecticut Sun

Forward | 6-foot-4

2023 stats:
17.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.2 APG

Midseason rank: 17

Bonner experienced the first significant injury of her pro career this offseason when she tore what's casually referred to as the ACL of the wrist. It has not fully healed, but the five-time All-Star still managed to have a career season in which she's put together back-to-back 30-point games, and even a 40-piece performance. Consistency in the playoffs will be a necessity if she wants to get the Sun back to the Finals for the third time in five seasons. -- Philippou

15. Allisha Gray, Atlanta Dream

Guard | 6-foot-0

2023 stats:
17.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.1 APG

Midseason rank: 19

The Dream traded with Dallas to obtain Gray in January and signed her to a contract extension in March, believing she was a key building block for the franchise's future. So far, so good for the former Rookie of the Year. Gray had career highs in scoring, assists and field goal percentage (46.5) in leading Atlanta back to the playoffs for the first time since 2018. -- Voepel

16. Rhyne Howard, Atlanta Dream

Guard | 6-foot-2

2023 stats:
17.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.5 APG

Midseason rank: 16

Howard's initial omission from the All-Star reserves seemed to spark her strongest stretch of the season. She dropped a career-high 43 points the day after the list was announced, then 32 the week after -- her only two times topping 30 points all season. In Year 2 in the WNBA, Howard took solid steps forward, improving her shooting percentages both inside and outside the arc. The No. 1 pick of the 2022 draft also helped lead Atlanta to its first playoff appearance since 2018. -- Pelton

17. Kahleah Copper, Chicago Sky

Guard/forward | 6-foot-1

2023 stats:
18.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.0 APG

Midseason rank: 21

Copper truly became the face of the Sky this year, and she earned a contract extension, providing the leadership needed in a season that included a coaching change, as James Wade left for the NBA. Most preseason predictions had the Sky missing the playoffs after the departures of Courtney Vandersloot and Candace Parker, but Chicago got the final spot with Copper having a career-best scoring year. -- Voepel

18. Brittney Sykes, Washington Mystics

Guard | 5-foot-9

2023 stats:
15.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.1 SPG

Midseason rank: 22

The only Washington player to start all 40 games, Sykes was the team's rock during an injury-plagued season. Signed to play a complementary role on offense while providing her usual stellar defense, she instead posted the highest averages of her career across the board. Sykes' development as a shooter was particularly important. She knocked down 3s at a 35% clip while also attempting more of them (4.0 per game) than ever before. -- Pelton

19. Natasha Howard, Dallas Wings

Forward | 6-foot-2

2023 stats:
16.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.6 APG

Midseason rank: 20

Howard came to Dallas from New York as part of a five-team trade in January, and it's worked out well for her and the Wings. She has combined with Satou Sabally and Teaira McCowan to make Dallas the top rebounding team in the league. Her 33.1 minutes per game are a career high, and her experience as a two-time WNBA champion (with Seattle) also helps Dallas. -- Voepel

20. Cheyenne Parker, Atlanta Dream

Center | 6-foot-4

2023 stats:
15.0 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.8 APG

Midseason rank: 25

It's been a great year for Parker, who made her first All-Star Game appearance and had career-high averages in points, rebounds and minutes played (26.7). She was Atlanta's only regular starter who appeared in all 40 games (starting 38) and helped the Dream navigate a challenging last month of the regular season to earn their first playoff berth in since 2018. -- Voepel

21. Teaira McCowan, Dallas Wings

Center | 6-foot-7

2023 stats:
11.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 1.2 BPG

Midseason rank: NR

In her fifth season in the WNBA and second in Dallas, the native Texan seems at home with the Wings. She missed much of June playing in EuroBasket with Turkey. But she was strong down the stretch in August and September, with seven double-doubles in her last 10 games. McCowan also has been a good fit in first-year Wings coach Latricia Trammell's defense. -- Voepel

22. Tiffany Hayes, Connecticut Sun

Guard | 5-foot-10

2023 stats:
12.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.6 APG

Midseason rank: NR

The Sun are at their best when their guards are rolling, and Hayes is key. In her first year in Uncasville, after spending her entire career in Atlanta, the 2017 All-Star isn't a major focal point of the offense like she often was for the Dream, but she brings experience to a group that brought in several younger players in the offseason. -- Philippou

23. Kayla McBride, Minnesota Lynx

Guard | 5-foot-11

2023 stats:
14.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.2 APG

Midseason rank:NR

McBride's strong finish to the season was a key reason the Lynx were able to return to the playoffs after a year in the lottery. Beginning with a season-high 26 points in Minnesota's upset of New York on July 28, she averaged 17.4 PPG over the final 16 games of the regular season. We haven't seen that kind of production from McBride since her early days with the San Antonio Stars and the Aces. That performance netted McBride a multiyear extension with the Lynx last week. -- Pelton

24. Betnijah Laney, New York Liberty

Forward | 6-foot-0

2023 stats:
12.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.4 APG

Midseason rank:NR

The Liberty's superstars tend to get most of the focus, but Laney is such a critical player on that team, as evidenced by the Liberty prioritizing her contract extension before she hit free agency in 2024. The 2020 Most Improved Player and 2021 All-Star has stepped up at times for New York this season offensively, but it's her defense and toughness that set her apart and are her calling card on this team. -- Philippou

25. Natasha Cloud, Washington Mystics

Guard | 5-foot-10

2023 stats:
12.7 PPG, 6.2 APG, 90% FT%

Midseason rank:NR

One of the WNBA's top distributors, Cloud was forced to look for her own offense more as starters Delle Donne, Ariel Atkins and Shakira Austin missed extended stretches. Her scoring average was a career high and jumped to 14.6 PPG in July when the injuries were at their worst. With Washington getting healthy, expect Cloud to shift back toward playmaking in the playoffs. She handed out 8.3 APG over the team's last seven games, including a career-high 15 on Sept. 8 -- Pelton

Also receiving votes: Ariel Atkins, Washington Mystics; Marina Mabrey, Chicago Sky; Alanna Smith, Chicago Sky; Courtney Williams, Chicago Sky

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