After an interesting and entertaining opening weekend, the 2023 WNBA season is officially underway. Brittney Griner made her return to the court for the first time in 579 days, the defending champion Aces picked up right where they left off and Breanna Stewart set a new career-high in her second game with the Liberty.
Here is a closer look at some of the highlights from the first few days of action:
Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner missed the entire 2022 season while detained in Russia on drug charges and wasn't freed until December. Just five months later, she made her return after 579 days away from the game. On opening night, she got a visit from Vice President Kamala Harris, and on Sunday ahead of her first home game in Phoenix. While the Mercury were unsuccessful in both games, Griner looked tremendous; her 27-point, 10-rebound, four-block performance against the Sky was a reminder of how dominant she can be on both ends.
Parker makes Aces look unfair
Candace Parker signing with the Las Vegas Aces in free agency this winter was one of the biggest moves in the history of the league, and we saw why in the team's first game. Parker finished with 12 points, four rebounds, five assists and three blocks in the Aces' dominant 41-point win over the Seattle Storm. It was just one game against a potential lottery team, but .
Stewart makes history
Breanna Stewart and the New York Liberty looked all out of sorts in the first game of this new superteam era, but Sunday's outing was a reminder of why they're one of the favorites to win it all. Stewart was unstoppable as she poured in career-high 45 points on 15-of-21 from the field and grabbed 12 rebounds in just 30 minutes of action in the Liberty's win over the Fever. In addition to her own personal record, she also set a new franchise mark for points in a game.
Now, on to this week's Power Rankings:
1. Las Vegas Aces (1-0) -- Last week No. 1
The Aces looked every bit like the defending champions in their season-opening destruction of the Storm. Granted, the Storm look to be a lottery team, but the Aces picked up right where they left off and their starting lineup is borderline unfair now that they have Candace Parker. The veteran forward upgrades their versatility on both sides of the ball and proved to be a perfect fit in her debut with the club.
2. New York Liberty (1-1) -- Last week No. 2
Nothing like playing the Fever to help you sort things out. After a frustrating first game for this new Liberty superteam, in which they looked out of sync and missed countless open shots in a loss to the Mystics, they bounced back and destroyed the Fever to get their first win on the board. Breanna Stewart's 45 points against Indiana were a franchise record and career-high for the former MVP and reigning scoring champ.
3. Connecticut Sun (2-0) -- Last week No. 4
No Jonquel Jones, no problem for the Sun so far. You would have no idea they lost an MVP in the offseason with how they've started the season. They took care of the Fever on opening night, then bounced back from an early double-digit deficit to beat the Mystics on Sunday in a showdown of the leading contenders for "best of the rest" status. Alyssa Thomas is going to put up some ridiculous numbers this season if these two games are any indication.
4. Washington Mystics (1-1) -- Last week No. 3
The excitement of the Mystics' opening night embarrassment of the new-look Liberty was tempered by their defeat to the Sun over the weekend. Elena Delle Donne appears to be back to her usual self, and the defense is going to be incredible, especially with Brittney Sykes in the fold. However, the concerns about their lack of 3-point shooting are not going away after a 9-of-44 start from behind the arc.
5. Chicago Sky (2-0) -- Last week No. 7
Heading into the season, there appeared to be a drop off after the top four teams, and no one was totally sure which team would step into the void. So far, it has been the Sky, who are off to a perfect start with wins over the Lynx and Mercury. After a staggering amount of offseason departures, the Sky decided to re-tool and compete for a playoff spot instead of rebuilding, and they're on their way.
6. Dallas Wings (1-0) -- Last week No. 5
New Wings head coach Latricia Trammell was brought in to fix the team's defense, and in a season-opening win they held the Dream to 35.4% shooting and forced 19 turnovers. They will face tougher tests on that side of the ball, but there are some promising initial signs. Unfortunately, it hasn't all been good news in Dallas: Diamond DeShields and No. 5 pick Lou Lopez Senechal are both set for extended spells on the sideline, and Teaira McCowan left Saturday's opener with a knee injury as well.
7. Los Angeles Sparks (1-0) -- Last week No. 9
How unique was the Sparks' opening night win over the Mercury? It was just the 10th time in WNBA history that a team has won by at least 20 points despite shooting under 40% from the field, per Stathead. It's probably best not to make any snap judgments off such a strange result. Rookie guard Zia Cooke's debut is worth noting, though: she finished with 14 points, two rebounds and two assists off the bench.
8. Phoenix Mercury (0-2) -- Last week No. 6
The Mercury lost both of their games on opening weekend, but the results were secondary to seeing Brittney Griner back on the court for the first time in 579 days. Despite returning from Russian detention less than five months ago, Griner looks every bit her old self; she has 45 points, 16 rebounds and eight blocks in two games, and has made 16 of her 22 shot attempts. If she keeps playing like this, the Mercury will get on track soon.
9. Atlanta Dream (0-1) -- Last week No. 10
Atlanta's first game was a frustrating one; they shot 35.4% from the field and turned the ball over 19 times, yet still had a chance to win after cutting the deficit to three in the final minute. Allisha Gray had a tough start in her debut with the team, but her offensive creation and perimeter defense during their second-half comeback showed why the team was so eager to acquire her in the offseason.
10. Minnesota Lynx (0-1) -- Last week No. 8
The Lynx were a mess on opening night. They shot 33.3% from the field, scored three points in the second quarter and turned the ball over 20 times in a double-digit defeat to the Sky. There's a lot of talent on this team and it's hard to imagine they'll look that out of sync on a regular basis, but the early returns suggest they desperately need a true point guard on the roster.
11. Seattle Storm (0-1) -- Last week No. 11
Game one was a disaster for the Storm, whose 41-point loss to the Aces was the biggest defeat in franchise history and a stark reminder of the impossibility of replacing Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird. The Storm won't have to play the Aces every night, but this game made it clear they are no longer a contender and possibly not even a playoff team. Jewell Loyd will have her hands full trying to carry this offense.
12. Indiana Fever (0-2) -- Last week No. 12
The schedule-makers did the Fever no favors by forcing them to open up against the Sun and the Liberty, and it's no surprise they're off to an 0-2 start. Record aside, there were some positive signs, biggest among them that No. 1 pick Aliyah Boston does not look a step out of place. In her first two games she has 30 points, 13 rebounds, two steals and three blocks on 11-of-17 shooting from the field.