After being swept out of the WNBA Finals, what do the Las Vegas Aces do now?
The 2020 WNBA season is over and the Seattle Storm are champions, completing a three-game sweep of the Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday night.
Now, it’s time to turn our attention to the future. And for Vegas, that future should be pretty bright, right? They have the reigning MVP. They made it to the Finals despite missing so many key pieces. But there are questions that have to be answered still. Let’s examine those questions.
Let’s Talk About the Guard Situation
For much of the season, the Aces started Lindsay Allen at point guard. They relied on Danielle Robinson and Jackie Young as their bench guards.
That worked in the regular season. But when push came to shove in the postseason, the inability for those players to stretch the floor hurt Vegas. All three have a place in this league, but do all three have a place on the same WNBA team?
The Aces need shooting. I know I sound like a broken record, but this team needs at least two more players who can consistently make a three-pointer.
One of those players will be Kelsey Plum, who missed 2020 with an Achilles injury. Plum was the biggest loss for the Aces heading into this season (and yes, I know they didn’t have Liz Cambage). Plum was one of just two Aces to attempt more than three three-pointers per game last year. Without her in the lineup, Vegas lost a huge piece of their offensive attack.
But beyond Plum, this team needs to find a way to add another guard who can score from the perimeter. It doesn’t need to be a point guard — someone who can come in off the bench to play the two and three like Allisha Gray would be a great free agent target — but it needs to be someone who you can rely on to make a shot. The Aces can’t let guard play spoil the chance for A’ja Wilson to win her first title.
The Aces traded for Liz Cambage before the 2019 season, and the combination of Cambage and Wilson wasn’t perfect. The lack of spacing sometimes made things tough on the team, and the team had a net rating of 2.8 when the two shared the floor. That rating was 7.1 with Wilson on and Cambage off, and 8.2 with Cambage on and Wilson off.
That was a concern, and with Cambage hitting unrestricted free agency this offseason, you have to wonder what this front office wants to do. Do you bring Cambage back and run out the team you thought you’d have in 2020? Do you try to move on from her and use that saved cap space to sign a high-profile free agent to play center who better fits with Wilson, like one of the two Sparks bigs — Nneka Ogwumike and Candace Parker — who are hitting free agency?
It’s a tough call. If you let Cambage go, you can’t afford to strike out on the big-time free agents out there, because letting her leave without an All-Star level replacement feels like a mistake. Yes, the fit was awkward, but letting talent go without a clear idea of how you replace that talent isn’t how you win a title.
If Carolyn Swords is Done, How Do You Shore Up the Frontcourt?
I know a lot of people gave Carolyn Swords flak for her shortcomings this year, but she really did provide this team with a reliable option at center.The Aces would have been in quite the predicament if Swords hadn’t temporarily paused her front office career to get back on the floor.
So, what next? Well, it might depend on what the 2021 WNBA season looks like and if the job Swords planned to step into exists again. If 2021 winds up as another bubble season, maybe Bill Laimbeer convinces Swords to stick around, using her as a backup center next year to Cambage or whoever replaces Cambage.
But if 2021 is back to normal — or as close to normal as it can be — and the Aces are playing in Vegas with fans and Swords steps back off the court, what will the team do to avoid having a huge lack of frontcourt depth?
Maybe Emma Cannon comes back. Signed during the 2020 season, Cannon earned herself major minutes in the postseason.While she comes with some of the same defensive liabilities as Swords and isn’t going to be the same level of offensive rebounder, Cannon makes up for that with a more consistent jumper. Beyond that, there’s also the potential return of JiSu Park, who was expected to basically play the role Swords did and whose decision to opt-out of the 2020 season was a primary reason Laimbeer asked Swords to return.
Park’s intriguing because of her youth, but she also shot just 21.6 percent from the field in 25 games in 2019. If Park is expected to play 15 or so minutes per game, will she help the Aces in those minutes?
The other option is to turn to free agency to grab a backup center. Per Her Hoop Stats’s list of upcoming free agents, there are some decent bigs on the market. Could the Aces find the cap space to get Natalie Achonwa or Kia Vaughn? What about a restricted free agent like Reshanda Gray? Or maybe when the Liberty have to make decisions and let some of their young players go, someone like Joyner Holmes, if she becomes available?
Whatever happens, frontcourt depth is a concern. The Aces will need to figure it out.