PHOENIX MERCURY

2024 WNBA season storylines as Mercury open against title favorite Aces

May 14, 2024, 7:41 AM

A'ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces...

A'ja Wilson #22 of the Las Vegas Aces poses for a portrait during the team's media day at Vu Studios on May 03, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Candice Ward/Getty Images)

(Photo by Candice Ward/Getty Images)

A’ja Wilson and the Las Vegas Aces will begin the WNBA season Tuesday night as a heavy favorite to win a third straight title.

The Aces, who were a unanimous choice at No. 1 in the preseason AP WNBA power poll, are plus-100 favorites to win the title again, according to BetMGM. New York, at plus-230, is the only team close to the champs.

Las Vegas opens the 2024 campaign at home against the Phoenix Mercury in a 7 p.m. game airing on ESPN2. It streams on Disney+ and ESPN+.

Wilson, the WNBA Finals MVP, was a unanimous choice as the AP preseason player of the year. She’s been a star on and off the court since being drafted first by Las Vegas in 2018. She wasn’t the only unanimous choice by the national media panel, who also chose Caitlin Clark as the preseason rookie of the year.

Clark will begin her WNBA career at Connecticut on Tuesday night. She leads a star-studded rookie class that also includes Angel Reese that has already lifted the league to new heights.

Here are a few things to look for in the season ahead:

WNBA begins charter flights as standard

Teams will travel on charters instead of commercial flights this season, the league announced last week. The WNBA is still working on implementing the program and it may take a few weeks for every team to be flying charters. Previously, WNBA teams could only charter during the postseason and for regular-season games on back-to-back days requiring air travel.

Only two of the four teams that traveled for the opening night games used charter planes. The Indiana Fever and Minnesota Lynx took charters, while New York bused to Washington and Phoenix had a short commercial flight to Las Vegas.

The league plans to fund charter flights at a cost of about $50 million over the next two years in a move that addresses years of player safety concerns. Travel has been a huge topic of discussion for years.

The Caitlin Clark impact

There’s no doubt Clark has already been a huge boon to the WNBA and its teams, even before playing a game. T icket sales have skyrocketed already, and not just for Indiana games. Three teams have moved their games to bigger arenas to accommodate Fever games. Her No. 22 jersey has already flown off the shelves, and Indiana is the second-most bet team behind Las Vegas to win the title.

Mercury among heavily revamped squads

Once again, there was a lot of movement in free agency with All-Stars Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith joining the Seattle Storm, while Natasha Cloud and Kahleah Copper moved to the Phoenix Mercury. Both sets of players hope to get their new teams back in contention for a championship.

WNBA Olympic break

The league will take nearly a monthlong break for the Paris Olympic Games from July 18-Aug. 14. Dozens of current and former WNBA players will be competing.

The WNBA will have its All-Star Game in Phoenix right before the Olympics start. The midseason showcase will most likely pit the U.S. national team against a group of All-Stars. The All-Stars won the contest in 2021 — the last time the format was implemented.

2024 Phoenix Mercury opening game roster

#11 Rebecca Allen F-G 6-foot-2 (Melbourne/Australia)
#25 Morgan Bertsch F 6-foot-4 (California-Davis/USA)
#0 Natasha Cloud G 5-foot-10 (St. Josephs (Penn.)/USA)
#2 Kahleah Copper G-F 6-foot-1 (Rutgers/USA)
#9 Sophie Cunningham G 6-foot-1 (Missouri/USA)
#20 Liz Dixon F-C 6-foot-5 (Louisville/USA)
#42 Brittney Griner C 6-foot-9 (Baylor/USA)
#21 Mikiah Herbert Harrigan F 6-foot-2 (South Carolina/Anguilla)
#4 Natasha Mack F 6-foot-4 (Oklahoma State/USA)
#1 Sug Sutton G 5-foot-8 (Texas/USA)
#3 Diana Taurasi G 6-foot-0 (Connecticut/USA)

Head coach: Nate Tibbetts (South Dakota)
Associate head coach: Kristi Toliver (Maryland)
Assistant coaches: Michael Joiner (Florida State), Megan Vogel (South Dakota State)
Assistant coaches/player development: Chevy Saunsoci (Creighton), Matt Wilber (Augustana)
Assistant coach/head video coordinator: Ciara Carl (Point Loma Nazarene)
Director, health and performance: Hannah Wengertsman (Boston)

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