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Becky Hammon can say "they caught us on a night, really" with that proud smile all she wants. Those nights appear to be more frequent in Vegas where the Aces are on pace for history one-fifth of the way into their 2022 WNBA schedule.
The Las Vegas Aces' 28-point win against the Los Angeles Sparks on Monday was their largest margin of the young season, knocking down multiple franchise records, but it is far from their only dominating performance. This is the offensive juggernaut everyone hoped to see when Hammon made the move from an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs to guiding her own team in the Aces. And as much fun as it has clearly been for the players, it's been for WNBA fans, too.
So far through eight games (seven of them wins), the Aces have reached the century mark twice and swept the three-game series with the '21 runner-up Phoenix Mercury in the process. They've scored 85 points in every game except the 89-76 loss against the Washington Mystics that was mired in valid travel woes. The next two times the Aces fly out to the East Coast, they'll have six-day buffers to make it work instead of the 45 hours between tipoff in Vegas and the District that included flight delays.
It's fair at this point to put them on watch for the best offense in league history. Let us count the ways in an easy-to-read chart:
Points per game
Points per play
Points per scoring attempt
All five starters are safely averaging double-digit points, led by 2019 No. 1 pick Jackie Young and her 19.3 ppg that ranks with Breanna Stewart (19.8), Skylar Diggins-Smith (19.2) and Arike Ogunbowale (19.1) for best in the league as of Thursday morning. Young and Kelsey Plum, the 2017 No. 1 pick, have stepped up into starting roles and shown out. In years past, it has been 2020 MVP A'ja Wilson (the No. 1 pick between them) leading the charge; now she has more consistent production around her.
Young is an early candidate for not only Most Improved Player, but also Most Valuable Player. No one has won both in the same year and Jonquel Jones became the first to win both in a career last season. Her numbers are all significantly up from effective shooting percentage to points, and she leads the league in win shares (2.1) with significant growth in win shares per 48 minutes (.174 in 2021 to .327). The Notre Dame alumna is two 3-pointers away from tying her career high of 14 set as a rookie thanks to Hammon's new offensive system.
Young is near the pace for a 50/40/90 season, which would be the second in league history alongside Elena Delle Donne's 2019 mark and join only a handful of NBA players. Currently she's at 56.4% FG (53-of-94), 50% 3FG (12-of-24) and 87.8% (36-of-41) from the free-throw line.
This group has largely played together as a core for years now and is already retyping record books. The 106 points against the Mercury was a WNBA record for points in a season opener. Their 38-point quarter against the Mercury briefly set the franchise record before they re-set it to 39 against the Sparks. Their 18 3-pointers against the Sparks set a franchise record and tied the league mark set by the 2019 Mystics and 2020 Storm.
Both of those teams went on to win the championship. Are we about to see the Aces do the same?
Data is from Her Hoop Stats, Basketball Reference and the Las Vegas Aces media notes — which are seriously a fun read, no lie.
'This game doesn't matter'
Athletes are often talked about as role models and that's heightened in women's sports. Times like Tuesday night it's warranted. The Washington Mystics once again took the lead and opted for a media blackout following their win over the Atlanta Dream.
— Washington Mystics (@WashMystics) May 25, 2022
We're sharing her words again here:
"This is us using our platform. This game doesn't matter. The 18 lives — and the number is going up by the minute — the 18 lives that were lost today from senseless gun violence in Texas at an elementary school; we're talking about our kids not being safe to go to school. And our government is still not implementing sensible gun laws.
"This isn't about taking people's rights away from bearing arms. This is about putting sensible gun laws in so this doesn't happen again. We cannot continue to make the same mistakes. We cannot continue to allow these things to happen in our country and nothing is being done with it for money, for profit.
"So I'm calling on everyone. Please, put this out, post it, write to your not only local representatives but your federal representatives and tell them you are tired. Tell them we are tired of lives being lost in this country for senseless s***. It is time to implement gun laws and stop caring about profit and money over people and lives."
An 18-year-old gunman opened fire at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, killing 19 students and two adults. It is the deadliest school shooting since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. And it came 10 days after an 18-year-old gunman in military gear and a livestreaming helmet camera shot and killed 10 people while injuring three others at a supermarket in Buffalo.
Others in the WNBA community have similarly spoken out. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve grew emotional talking about her son going to school: "It's not if, it's when is it going to happen." Mercury forward Brianna Turner during postgame media: "We don't process because it's so normalized ... we have a serious issue."
Indiana Fever guard Victoria Vivians has seen the largest roster pickup at +15.5% in ESPN leagues. She's averaging 21.8 fantasy points per game, bolstered by 32 against the Sky as she's moved into the starting lineup. A coaching change will surely bring some differences to the minutes lineup, so the Fever's game Friday night against the Sparks will be one to keep an eye on for fantasy players.
Natisha Hiedeman is also up in fantasy leagues for good reason and could prove to be a good bench add. Jasmine Thomas' injury meant Hiedeman stepped in for the Sun in the first game without her. She averaged 8.4 points, 3.6 assists, 2.2 rebounds, 1.8 steals per game off the bench for 25 fantasy points per game. In two games against Dallas this week she had 15 fantasy points and then a season-high 36.
As for who to drop, this writer let go of Chennedy Carter to activate Satou Sabally early in game week. Carter outscored Sabally in both of the next WNBA games, but there are still too many concerns (er, questions?) around the Sparks and head coach Derek Fisher to feel comfortable keeping her on a short bench. New York guard Sami Whitcomb has continued to underperform early and has averaged a light 16.5 FPPG over six games.
Out due to injury: Fever's NaLyssa Smith, Liberty's Betnijah Laney and Lorela Cubaj, and potentially the Mercury duo of Shey Peddy and Sophie Cunningham again.
Highlight of the week
All Skylar Diggins-Smith can do here is smile in appreciation while Carter looks like she's trying to hide a smirk.
— WNBA (@WNBA) May 26, 2022
This might just end up being a "block of the week" section. Not sorry.
Game and beef of the week
We're combining games and beef this week for obvious reasons detailed below. But first we'll start with the national game of the week in Las Vegas Aces at Chicago Sky (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET on ABC).
The Aces (7-1) last played Monday and the Sky (4-2) have had a similar game break after receiving their championship rings on Tuesday night. Chicago's offense averages nearly 10 fewer points than the Aces (93.3-84.0) while their defenses are allowing about the same amount of points with similar opponents on the schedule. Chicago has nearly its full team together now that Finals MVP Kahleah Copper is back from her Spanish League championship and marveling at those rings.
Now, the beef.
The Mercury return to the scene of the door crime when the reigning champion Chicago Sky and runner-up Phoenix Mercury play at Wintrust Arena in Chicago on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
It's the first rematch of the hotly contested finals that included tension between Copper and Mercury guard Sophie Cunningham as well as Diana Taurasi breaking aforementioned door. It is the first trip back to Chicago for Diamond DeShields, who has impressed in her last few starts with Diggins-Smith out. The Mercury (2-5) are on a four-game losing streak going into the weekend but had Diggins-Smith back this week after an illness.
What you may have missed
Sue Bird stopped by The Player's Pod with Kelley O'Hara to talk retirement, expansion and prioritization.
Welcome to the world, Mila Sarah Bazzell! Napheesa Collier and Alex Bazzell shared photos on Thursday.
Natasha Cloud is eyeing a career in politics when basketball is over.
The Fever parted ways with head coach Marianne Stanley the day after a slim five-point loss to the Sky in which they led at half. Assistant Carlos Knox takes over at 2-7.
Sun point guard Jasmine Thomas is out for the rest of the season with an ACL tear. What it means for Connecticut.
Courtney Vandersloot helped Candace Parker finally join her and Sheryl Swoopes in the multiple triple-double club. Parker has eight career games in which she missed a triple-double by a mere one point, rebound, assist, steal or block. No other player has more than two of such games.
The Lynx will retire Seimone Augustus' No. 33 jersey on Sunday when the Los Angeles Sparks, where she's an assistant coach, come to town (7 p.m. ET). They will retire Rebekkah Brunson's No. 32 on July 3 before the Las Vegas Aces game. They are the second and third numbers to go in the rafters, joining Lindsay Whalen's No. 13.
Full Memorial Day weekend TV schedule
Friday: Sparks at Fever (7 p.m. ET, Twitter/Fever Facebook), Liberty at Storm (10 p.m. ET, League Pass)
Saturday: Aces at Sky (3 p.m. ET, ABC), Mystics at Sun (7 p.m. ET, Facebook)
Sunday: Mercury at Dream (noon ET, CBS), Liberty at Storm (6 p.m. ET, League Pass), Sparks at Lynx (7 p.m. ET/Amazon Prime)