This is part of a 12-team series of fantasy women's basketball previews leading up to the 2022 WNBA season. For more information on ESPN's newest fantasy game, check out how to play fantasy women's basketball.
Head coach: Becky Hammon (first season)
2021 record: 24-8
2021 offensive efficiency: (107.1, first in WNBA)
2021 defensive efficiency: (96.0, second)
2021 pace: (99, first)
About the Aces
After losing to the Seattle Storm in the WNBA Finals in 2020, the Aces still had a bitter taste in their mouths. A team full of offensive playmakers, including Kelsey Plum, Liz Cambage, Chelsea Gray and Riquna Williams, helped Las Vegas get off to a fast start in 2021. The Aces had seven players who averaged more than 10 points per game, which was the first time this occurred in league history. This made them hard to defend, thus translating to the statistical excellence above.
After tying their franchise record for wins in a season, the Aces earned the No. 2 playoff seed and a double bye. At the time, what seemed like a blessing might have been a curse. The Aces faced off against the Phoenix Mercury, the No. 5 seed. Ultimately, the Aces lost the series to Phoenix, leading to an offseason of important changes.
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In 2022, the Aces will have a new head coach as Becky Hammon replaces Bill Laimbeer. Despite stepping down, Laimbeer might take another position within the organization, as he has helped the Aces to three WNBA semifinal appearances and a WNBA Finals berth during the past four seasons. Hammon's contract will make her the highest-paid coach in the league. She played eight seasons with the franchise while it was located in San Antonio and remains the franchise's all-time leader in assists, 3-pointers made, games played and steals.
Hammon will aim to turn the team into a champion, but she won't have veterans Cambage and Angel McCoughtry. The biggest loss is Cambage, who signed with the Los Angeles Sparks. As a four-time All-Star, Cambage finished 19th in the league in scoring, 10th in rebounding, sixth in field goal percentage and fourth in blocked shots last season. Meanwhile, McCoughtry -- now with Minnesota -- ranks 16th in the league in career made field goals, 13th in field goal attempts, third in made free throws, fourth in free throw attempts, eighth in steals and 15th in points.
Las Vegas acquired the Nos. 8 and 13 picks from the Minnesota Lynx earlier this month, giving the Aces five picks in the draft. Mya Hollingshed, Kierstan Bell, Khayla Pointer, Aisha Sheppard and Faustine Aifuwa were selected by the team. Hollingshed, in my opinion, is the most notable selection. At the University of Colorado, she became the 32nd member of the 1,000-point club last season. Hollingshed, the No. 8 overall pick in April, also averaged career highs in minutes (33) and assists (1.7) last season.
In 2021, the Aces led the league in scoring for the second consecutive season with 89.3 points per game. Since moving from San Antonio, the team has averaged at least 80 points per game in each of its four seasons in Las Vegas. The Aces also ranked first in rebounds (38.7) and points per game in the paint (41.2).
Hammon's ultimate goal seems to be getting maximize efficiency from a team already blessed with this type of talent. The thought of the Aces becoming even more dynamic offensively should give opponents nightmares.
Top fantasy options
A'ja Wilson, F (35.3 projected FP/G): The 2020 league MVP came up big for the Aces again last season, averaging 18.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 32 minutes per game. She scored 10 or more points in 30 of 32 games, and scored 20 or more 14 times. Wilson signed a two-year contract with Las Vegas to continue her career with Hammon, and the Aces are aiming to play fast and share the ball. Additionally, Las Vegas plans to use more pick-and-rolls and shoot more 3s. While Wilson attempted just one three in 2021, she made 87.6% of her free throws.
Chelsea Gray, G (23.8 FP/G): Despite a slight decrease in production, Gray had a successful season in her first one in Las Vegas. She averaged 11 PPG, 2.9 RPG and 1.2 SPG in 29 MPG. Gray's 6.0 APG ranked second in franchise history. Her 189 assists were three off the single-season franchise record of 192 held by Hammon (2011). Fantasy managers can expect a high floor from Gray in 2022 -- and a high ceiling as Hammon looks to implement changes.
Kelsey Plum, G (23.8 FP/G): Plum was named the WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year last season. In 25.6 minutes per game, she averaged 14.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG, and 3.6 APG. With an increased shot volume from 8.6 per game in 2019 to 11.3 in 2021, Plum upped her scoring efforts. She missed the 2020 season because of a left Achilles tendon injury. Plum should still exceed these per-game averages whether she is starting or coming off the bench.
Jackie Young, G (23.2 FP/G): Young averaged a career-high 12.2 PPG along with 4.1 RPG, 1.1 SPG and 3.2 APG in 32 MPG while shooting 50.5% from the field. The 2021 season saw her finish 18th in assists, 11th in field goal percentage, 21st in free throw percentage and 23rd in steals. Young's ability to contribute in multiple statistical categories makes her a viable fantasy option.
Dearica Hamby, F (21.7 FP/G): Hamby has played very well off the bench over the past two seasons. In 2021, she averaged 11.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.7 APG and 1.1 SPG while shooting 54.5% from the field. In addition to Hamby's ability to provide fantasy managers with a full statistical line and her role on one of the most productive offenses in the league, I expect her to outperform her projections.