There will be no WNBA All-Star Game this season, one of the few things that’s gone according to plan this year. Originally, the game had been scrapped because of the Summer Olympics, historically a time when the league does not play the midseason classic. But, of course, there are no Olympics … and still no All-Star Game.
There are, however, players who deserve to be named All-Stars, so we’re here to give you our 2020 All-Star teams.
The rules: 11 players in the Eastern Conference, 11 in the Western Conference. The starting five need to adhere to the format of two guards, two forwards and a center. Reserves can be the next six most deserving players.
C A’ja Wilson
F Breanna Stewart
F Candace Parker
G Alysha Clark
G Jewell Loyd
Angel McCoughtry, Napheesa Collier, Diana Taurasi, Arike Ogunbowale, Nneka Ogwumike, Dearica Hamby
Sami Whitcomb, Brittney Sykes, Crystal Dangerfield, Sylvia Fowles
C Cheyenne Parker
F Alyssa Thomas
F DeWanna Bonner
G Betnijah Laney
G Courtney Vandersloot
Brionna Jones, Kelsey Mitchell, Myisha Hines-Allen, Julie Allemand, Ariel Atkins, Layshia Clarendon
Allie Quigley, Kahleah Copper, Elizabeth Williams, Monique Billings
Whew, that was hard! OK, let’s get to the arguments for each player, starting in the West.
Breanna Stewart has been, by a pretty clear measure, the most valuable player in the league as a whole so far. She’s registered 2.9 win shares entering Tuesday night’s games, best in the WNBA, and has essentially put up the exact statline she did back in 2018, when she won MVP honors and led the Seattle Storm to a championship. That her torn Achilles tendon cost her a season, but didn’t affect her game in any other way, is a marvel.
A’ja Wilson, after a dip in production in 2019 playing next to Liz Cambage, has picked up right where she left off in 2018, the signature star for a Las Vegas team that is absolutely a threat to Seattle’s march to the WNBA title. She’s improved her defensive rebounding numbers in 2020, from 21.6 percent in 2018 to 27.2 percent this season, but in general, Wilson continues to be the elite player she’s been since the moment she entered the league.
Candace Parker isn’t quite putting up the flashy numbers of Wilson and Stewart, but she is every bit as important to her team and is a critical reason the Los Angeles Sparks are 10-3 and in contention for the top seed. This is usual for Parker, whose stat profile expands and contracts around what her team needs — she’s managed to lead the WNBA in defensive rebounding percentage, block percentage (twice) and assist percentage in different Los Angeles campaigns. This year, her defense is front and center, with a top-three mark in both defensive rating and defensive win shares.
Speaking of defense, Alysha Clark has long enjoyed a justified reputation for her talent at that end of the floor. But let’s not miss the true two-way star she’s become. Her 2.2 win shares entering Tuesday night’s games ranks third in the league, and she’s top-10 in the league in both offensive and defensive win shares, hitting 44.2 percent of her 3-point shots and 60 percent of her two-pointers. Somehow, Clark’s never earned an All-Star nod, even as a reserve, but we’re changing that (virtually, of course).
And at the risk of overloading the starting five with Storm folks, Jewell Loyd, has to be here as well. A critical part of that 2018 title-winning team, Loyd is somehow even better now, continuing to trade midrange shots for more threes and making 42 percent of them. Loyd’s on track for the best defensive rating of her career so far, and her assist percentage has even ticked up, despite playing next to a pair of primary ballhandlers in Sue Bird and Jordin Canada.
The West’s reserves are chock full of worthy candidates. Angel McCoughtry has been nearly as effective as Wilson for the Aces, fifth in the WNBA in win shares. That ranks slightly ahead of Napheesa Collier, who has helped Minnesota remain in contention despite Sylvia Fowles missing half of the Lynx’s games so far. Diana Taurasi is producing at similar rates to her 2018 All-Star campaign, while Arike Ogunbowale is attacking as much as she did in her All-Rookie campaign last season even as she’s become dramatically more efficient from two-point range (47.7 percent this season, 40.4 percent last season). Nneka Ogwumike is having her most efficient season from the field since her 2016 MVP campaign, and ranks 10th overall in win shares, just ahead of Dearica Hamby, the runaway leader for Sixth Woman of the Year honors at this point.
Just off the team: Sami Whitcomb has become a complete player. Brittney Sykes is a defensive catalyst for the Sparks and dramatically improved her efficiency from two. Crystal Dangerfield is a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate, and Sylvia Fowles has played like an MVP (but for only seven games, due to her calf injury).
In the East, the starting honors begin with Courtney Vandersloot, currently a close second behind Stewart in win shares. She leads the league in assist percentage for the second year in a row, while shooting 50-40-90 going into Tuesday night’s games. She must be in the MVP conversation.
Joining her in the starting lineup is her Chicago Sky teammate Cheyenne Parker, who is every bit the elite rebounder and finisher around the rim she’s always been, but has become a great perimeter shooter as well — 38.9 percent from beyond the arc — and even edged her assist percentage up near double digits. She’s the best big in the Eastern Conference.
A pair of Connecticut Sun teammates with very different stat profiles are also worthy of starts. Alyssa Thomas, after a slow start, is ahead of her 2019 pace in a number of vital areas: She currently has a 25.5 assist percentage, is hitting more than half her shots (usually in circus-performer fashion, flung purposefully around the rim) and rebounding at a rate that ranks top-four in the league on both the offensive and defensive ends. And DeWanna Bonner, asked to carry the largest part of the offensive load by Sun coach Curt Miller, is posting a career-best defensive rebounding percentage (24.7) and steal percentage (3.2) — the latter of which leads the league — en route to 1.8 total win shares, eighth-best in the league.
The final starter, Betnijah Laney, has only improved since we featured her as a breakout star. Her 35-point outburst against the reigning champion Washington Mystics punctuates her ongoing six-game hot streak in which she’s scored an average of 18.2 points per game on 50 percent shooting. The scouting reports have adjusted. It hasn’t mattered.
The reserves are impressive as well. Brionna Jones quietly stepped in for Jonquel Jones as a starting center for the Sun and is shooting 57.3 percent from the field while tied for ninth in the league in steals per game. Kelsey Mitchell and Julie Allemand, the Indiana Fever backcourt, have done it all — Allemand is fourth in the league in assist percentage and third in true shooting percentage and Mitchell took a massive leap forward in efficiency despite taking more shots per game, on average, than in previous seasons. Together, they are as effective as almost any regular pairing for the Fever, a surprise (though not to coach Marianne Stanley) playoff contender. Myisha Hines-Allen continues to provide one of the most complete seasons in the league this season for Washington, while teammate Ariel Atkins is hitting 46.8 percent of her threes and taking on the toughest perimeter defensive assignments for the Mystics. And pressed into duty as the primary ballhandler and scorer, New York’s Layshia Clarendon has been a relentless rim-attacker, hitting 34.4 percent of her threes and finding ways to get her young teammates involved as she’s racked up a 34.5 assist percentage.
Just off the bench: Allie Quigley is having a typical Allie Quigley season. (We figure she’d win the virtual 3-point contest.) Her Chicago teammate Kahleah Copper has assumed the Diamond DeShields shooting guard role and handled it well. Elizabeth Williams is Atlanta’s defensive rock and is posting the best true shooting percentage of her career, while Monique Billings, who has scored in double figures in four of her past five games, is the league’s leader in rebounding percentage.