WNBA observers need only to look at the topsy-turvy standings, the success of the rookie class and the multiple candidates for MVP to say it has been a feel-good season for the league as a whole.
But there are also some specific feel-good stories that stand out, especially with the Wings and Mystics, who face off in Dallas on Thursday (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET).
1. Liz Cambage: Back at last
Admittedly, there hasn't been a feel-good vibe between Cambage and the league's officials this past week. She was ejected in the second quarter of Dallas' victory at Los Angeles last Thursday after successive technical fouls while complaining about a no-call. She got another technical at a crucial juncture late in the Wings' loss at Seattle on Saturday, apparently for how she looked at an official (replays showed Cambage didn't appear to say anything).
But feel-good still applies to Cambage's successful return to the WNBA, especially when you consider all that has happened in her career. At just 19, the 6-foot-8 Australian center didn't want to be drafted by Tulsa in 2011, and pretty much had to force herself to play there that year and in 2013. She didn't come back to the WNBA until this season. With the franchise having moved to Dallas, the Wings having a fellow Aussie (Erin Phillips) on the coaching staff, and Cambage going through her own personal growth, the timing was finally right.
She's averaging 19.9 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks for the Wings, who sit fifth in the standings at 12-9. She'll need to take a few deep breaths and try to avoid more technicals, but she has come a long way, literally and figuratively. Cambage, who'll turn 27 in August, has been through an Achilles' injury and some mental/emotional challenges between 2013 and now. Her performance this season has shown she's a star-level player in this league.
2. LaToya Sanders: Perseverance pays off
She has had a long road, too, but the Mystics are glad she's in D.C. With fellow forward Emma Meesseman skipping this season as she prepares with Belgium for the FIBA World Cup, Sanders has been a much needed presence for Washington.
She was drafted a decade ago out of North Carolina. After playing sparingly for three different franchises (Mercury, Lynx, Sparks) her first three seasons, Sanders didn't return to the WNBA until 2015 with the Mystics. In the meantime, she established herself in Turkey, where she also competed on their national team.
Her 26 games with Washington in 2015 displayed her worth as a veteran backup post. But she was with the Mystics for just four games late in the 2016 season, and didn't play in the WNBA last year.
Sanders missed the start of this season battling anemia. She has since started 13 of 16 games, averaging 8.8 points and 5.9 rebounds, while shooting 62.1 percent from the field.
Sanders, who turns 32 in September, came to the league in 2008 mostly as a defensive standout who had trouble securing minutes. Overseas, she honed her offense and became an all-around player. It took a lot of work, overcoming injuries and illness, and lot of refusal to give up.
3. Chiney Ogwumike: Starring for Sun again
There has never been a question of talent or drive with the Sun forward, who was the overall No. 1 draft pick in 2014, but injuries forced her to miss the 2015 and '17 seasons.
Connecticut matured a lot as a team even without her playing last year, finishing 21-13 and returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2012. But Ogwumike is back strong this season; she leads the Sun in scoring (15.0) and is second in rebounding (7.5).
Connecticut is 12-10 and coming off a dominant 83-64 victory Sunday at defending champion Minnesota. That was an off-game for Ogwumike; she had a season-low two points. But she has mostly been right in the thick of things for Connecticut, which has been through some ups and downs this season -- who hasn't? -- yet appears capable of making a strong run the rest of the way. Consider the Sun have nine of their last 12 games at home, including the final four in a row.
Ogwumike brings not just her on-court skill, but leadership and her trademark effervescence to the Sun. And having also boosted her visibility with her extensive broadcasting work, she has that "it" factor that helps the WNBA.
4. Natasha Howard: A beneficial move
Seattle leads the league at 16-6, and one of the key factors for the Storm is a player who learned a lot as a reserve the past two seasons with Minnesota. The 6-2 forward Howard has transformed into a starter in Seattle, where she's third in scoring (13.5), second in rebounding (6.7) and first in blocked shots (1.9).
Like Ogwumike, Howard was in the 2014 draft, where she was the No. 5 pick by Indiana out of Florida State. She started 15 games with the Fever as a rookie, but saw her playing time decrease her second season. Then Indiana traded her to Minnesota, where she came off the bench for the Lynx teams that finished runner-up in 2016 and champion in 2017.
Then Howard was traded in February to Seattle for a 2018 second-round draft pick and the right to exchange 2019 first-round picks with the Storm. At this point, the deal isn't looking good for the Lynx, while it has been a big lift for Seattle. Howard has blossomed with more playing time (26.7 minutes per game), something she understandably got less of with the veteran Lynx the last two years. (Although, they could sure use the current version of Howard now.)
Howard has formed an especially strong inside duo with Breanna Stewart and brings another element of athleticism to the Storm defense.
5. Aces: Appreciation in Vegas
Unfortunate as it was to see the franchise move -- leaving behind some very disappointed fans -- it has also been really nice to see the rejuvenation of the former San Antonio Stars in Las Vegas as the Aces.
It wasn't the fans' fault that the team left San Antonio; there were loyal backers for the Stars. But changes in upper management of Spurs Sports & Entertainment also changed the support that organization had for its WNBA team. The Stars were essentially left dying on the vine in San Antonio -- with the league's worst record the last three seasons -- but the team been nurtured by its new owner, MGM Resorts International.
From hiring a proven commodity in Bill Laimbeer as coach/general manager to bringing some Vegas pizzazz to everything surrounding the Aces, MGM has shown commitment to doing this the right way.
It has helped, of course, that the Aces got a No. 1 draft pick in South Carolina's A'ja Wilson, who seems a lock for rookie of the year. She leads the Aces in scoring (19.9), rebounding (8.7) and blocked shots (1.8). Meanwhile, guard Kayla McBride is having the best of her five seasons in the WNBA, averaging 19.1 points and 3.0 assists.
At 10-13 and in ninth place, the Aces will have to scramble to try to move into playoff position; the franchise hasn't been in the postseason since 2014. But a lot of solid pieces seem to be in place to pay off down the road.