A’ja Wilson’s impact on the court is obvious. You see it in the record books, you see it in the box score, you can’t miss it with your own two eyes when watching any Las Vegas Aces game. Alongside all she does in-play, is equally as important is her presence as a leader, a motivator.
The two-time MVP, WNBA Champion, and five-time All-Star had one of the best seasons in league history. She tied the WNBA’s single game scoring record this season by dropping 53 points against the Atlanta Dream. She led the league in defensive rating both throughout the regular season and thus far in the playoffs, securing the Defensive Player of the Year award for the second straight season.
Wilson is the quarterback of the Las Vegas defense. On the offensive end, she’s one of the most efficient and high-volume scorers in the game.
“She’s just a handful,” said Becky Hammon, Las Vegas Aces head coach. “You kind of have to foul [Wilson] when she’s rolling; there’s just no other way to get her under control.”
Even when she does get fouled, though, there is no guarantee she will be stopped.
A’ja Wilson puts it back up for a TOUGH and-1 💪
— WNBA on ClutchPoints (@WNBAcp) September 27, 2023
The entire league has felt the force of Wilson’s momentum and everyone is still figuring out how to stop it. After the Aces eliminated the Chicago Sky in the first round of the playoffs, Sky Head Coach Emre Vatansever tried to find the words when asked how his team could slow down Wilson.
“She’s just a good player, what else can I say? She makes plays, she’s a hell of a player .. everybody knows it and we tried to do our best, our group was out there and competing, whatever the coverage is.”
Wilson is dominating the playoffs, averaging 25.8 points per game (PPG), 11.2 rebounds per game (RPG), and 3.2 blocks per game (BPG). According to Across the Timeline, no other player has averaged 25 PPG, 10 RPG, and three BPG over an entire WNBA postseason in league history.
She has shined in the playoffs throughout her career. She is already in the top-five of career playoff blocks. That’s in *checks notes* only her sixth season in the WNBA. In the playoffs, she has shot 52 percent from the floor throughout her career, averaging 19.3 PPG.
Stats aside, the energy that Wilson provides can’t be replaced. Like Hammon stated; when she’s rolling, there’s not much that can be done to stop it. Whether it be fighting through traffic to score, securing an and-one, or making an effort-play on defense: when Wilson gets fired up, the Aces hit the throttle.
A’JA WILSON WAS HYPED AFTER THIS AND-1 😤 pic.twitter.com/yp2eUcIHV6
— ESPN (@espn) September 27, 2023
Her domination and control of the floor is something that we have yet to see and may not see for, at least, a very long time.
“I get the privilege of seeing [Wilson] every day in practice and in the locker room,” said Aces guard Kelsey Plum after Wilson’s 53-point regular season scoring outburst. “This is one of the greatest players of all time, and she’s just starting to play, which is crazy.”
The Finals highlights Wilson’s matchup against this season’s MVP winner Breanna Stewart. The award was decided by a tiered voting system, where only 13 points separated the top-three candidates. Players were awarded 10 points for a first-place vote, seven points for a second-place vote, five points for a third-place vote, three points for a fourth-place vote and one point for a fifth-place vote. Stewart finished MVP award voting with 446 points, Alyssa Thomas came in second with 439 points, and Wilson finished shortly behind with 433 points. Wilson received one fourth-place vote which held some points from her total for the league’s highest honor. Which, anecdotally, she did not deserve to be next to the fourth-place slot on anyone’s ballot.
With voting drama and the season’s personal awards behind us, Wilson now matches up with Stewart for the ultimate prize.
“They have motors that are top of the top,” Aces forward Alysha Clark, who has played with both Wilson and Stewart, said. “When you have your franchise player, your best player, you want them to have that type of motor.”
Aces-Liberty is the Finals matchup circled on calendars since the offseason. The team’s split the four games played during the regular season. If you are counting the Commissioner’s Cup, where the Aces and Liberty played each other once more for the Cup Championship, New York has the edge after beating the Aces in Las Vegas.
If the regular season has told us anything; it’s that these two teams, and their star players, are ready to battle. Spotlighting Wilson and Stewart, of course, does not paint the full picture. To win a championship, a team will need everything clicking. From its core to the last player on the bench and everything in between.
But, when the Aces need to swing momentum, Wilson will bring it.
Stats as of 10/5. Unless otherwise noted, stats courtesy of WNBA.com