This week on Above the Break, we’re looking at the voting results for WNBA All-Star starters — snubs, surprises, interesting combinations and more.
Welcome back to Above The Break, FanSided’s weekly look around the WNBA.
Usually, this column takes a look at three different things that have been happening around the league, but this week I’m pivoting a little bit because the WNBA released the All-Star starters plus the breakdown of the vote and I have a lot of thoughts about that. Let’s take a look at the voting results and address some of the questions I had.
Who’s starting in the WNBA All-Star Game?
Let’s start with the winners of All-Star voting.
The starting forwards are A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, Sylvia Fowles, Nneka Ogwumike, Jonquel Jones and Candace Parker.
The starting guards are Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young, Sabrina Ionescu and Sue Bird.
There are some quibbles here, but it’s a good group of players.
Plum was the only player to sweep the top spot across all of the categories, ranking first in fan, media and player votes. And she deserves it, as she sits second in the W in points per game at 20.2, plus is currently tied with Alyssa Thomas for sixth in the league in assists per game.
Young swept the No. 2 spot in all three categories. Both Aces guards have taken huge leaps in 2022.
On the frontcourt side, their teammate A’ja Wilson led the forwards. She was first in fan and player rank but was second to Breanna Stewart in the media rank.
That media rank is interesting. Stewart leads the WNBA in scoring this season and has unarguably been one of the league’s best players, but A’ja has been the best player on the best team in the league, and she’s made some huge leaps defensively. The fact that Wilson and Stewart have nearly identical 3-point percentages despite Wilson having two career attempts before this season is one of those impressive tidbits that I, personally, would have factored in as a tiebreaker. If I was ranking players for this, I would have had A’ja first of the frontcourt players and Stewart second.
The player’s vote was…interesting
Here’s where things were…weird. Obviously, we as media members don’t know the interpersonal relationships of every player in the WNBA. People probably don’t like other people. It happens. Grudges exist. Whole teams might vote against a player because of their history with that team.
Still, there were some notable rankings in the player vote, including one that essentially cost a player a starting role.
Skylar Diggins-Smith was fourth in the fan vote and third in the media vote. SDS is currently averaging 18.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game, as well as a career-high 1.8 steals per contest. Diggins-Smith should have been a starter, but she was just 14th in the player rank. Of the 10 guards who finished in the top 10 overall, she was the only one to not finish in the top 10 of the player.
[Note: I reached out to the league office about the full player vote, but the league did not respond to the request, so it’s unclear who finished 10th in the player vote.]
Forward had even more disparity between the final results and the player vote.
Candace Parker finished sixth overall, ranking third in fan vote and seventh in media vote. But Parker was 13th in the player rankings.
That shouldn’t really be a surprise though. In 2019, The Athletic polled WNBA players on a variety of things. One of those things was the question of who the league’s most overrated player was. Parker “won” that award with 20.5 percent of the vote. That, coupled with her ranking in the player vote this year, seems to confirm that Parker isn’t the most popular player among others in the WNBA. Why? I don’t know.
Elena Delle Donne fared even worse in the player vote, finishing 20th in it. She was 12th in the media rank and fourth in the fan rank. Some huge differences across the board there, but I would guess it’s a little easier to explain her player rank disparity than it is Parker’s. Delle Donne has missed a lot of time this year for rest purposes, and I would wager that likely has something to do with where she finished there.
As for Tina Charles, she was 11th in player rank and media rank. Not really much to talk about there. Charles has been a fringe top-10 frontcourt player this year.
What would be the most interesting All-Star starting lineup?
Sue Bird and A’ja Wilson are co-captains of one All-Star team, while Sylvia Fowles and Breanna Stewart will co-captain the other team.
This got me thinking about what I’d like to see out of the starting units. I spent some time staring at these names and thinking about how they might fit together and I came up with this as my two proposed starting lineups.
G: Sue Bird
G: Sabrina Ionescu
F: Candace Parker
F: Jonquel Jones
F: A’ja Wilson
G: Kelsey Plum
G: Jackie Young
F: Breanna Stewart
F: Nneka Ogwumike
F: Sylvia Fowles
Did I accidentally make Team Wilson better? Yes, but when Team Stewart already has two of its three forward spots taken by the team captains, it was hard not to.
In both situations, the lack of true wings leads to players who usually play up a position having to slide to the three, with Parker and Stewart starting at those spots. Theoretically, both teams will prioritize grabbing a bigger guard when drafting bench players so that they don’t have to go super big.
I put Plum and Young together on Team Stewart because I really want to see how those two work together without Wilson and with a dominant big like Fowles. Will we get to see what we thought we’d see when Liz Cambage was on the Aces?
I paired Sabrina Ionescu, Sue Bird and Candace Parker all together because I’m fascinated by what an offense with all of them would look like. Lots of really good passers there, with Wilson and Jones being the beneficiaries of those passes. That would be so much fun.