BY MATTHEW KELSEY | CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Only one day separates us now from the next episode of the WNBA Draft, and I can’t remember being more excited about a draft board in my life. Well, okay—2013 was pretty special. Though there’s a lot to be said ahead of each team’s 2018 selection, I’m going to focus in on the team picking at the top of the board, the league’s newest and perhaps most exciting team: The Vegas Aces.
“Let’s just grab our popcorn, throw on ESPN2 tomorrow evening, and watch Wilson and company shine in the Vegas team’s first historical moment.”
As I mentioned in my previous essay for the Awesome Sports Project, I think the Aces are primed for a surprisingly good season. Not only are they resetting a franchise that has found the postseason only once in the past five campaigns, but they’ll do so with some star Kelseys (Plum and Bone), a rising Moriah Jefferson and already-steady Kayla McBride, the number one pick in this year’s draft, and Bill Laimbeer as the head coach and president of operations.
The addition of Laimbeer to the mix is particularly significant. Not only is he a famed member of Detroit’s Bad Boys and winner of two NBA titles, but he’s more importantly the coach of three WNBA championship teams, and is a 2x WNBA Coach of the Year, once as recently as 2015. With the addition of Laimbeer to the front office—and not just the pine—comes a renewed promise of success for a franchise that has already relocated twice, and seemed at times destined to join the league’s scrapheap of folded franchises.
Of course, there’s that number one pick tomorrow night. When Lisa Borders announces the number one overall selection in the WNBA Draft, we’re likely to see A’ja Wilson, South Carolina’s standout, take to the podium and pose with an Aces jersey. To give you an impression of how sure this pick is and how dominant Wilson was at South Carolina, I’ll remind you that Wilson swept the major season-ending awards: Wade, AP, USBWA, Wooden, and Naismith. She took all the most significant individual hardware home a year after leading the Gamecocks to the school’s first NCAA title. Who doesn’t expect this champion to burst onto the WNBA scene and propel the Aces to a shimmering first year in the desert?
It might seem outlandish to think a WNBA team will succeed in Sin City, but you only have to look to the Aces’ NHL counterparts to find that newly minted teams can thrive in southern Nevada. The Vegas Golden Knights are taking to the ice as we speak for their first ever NHL playoff game…a mere 6 months after playing their inaugural game. This, of course, was accomplished by an expansion team. But the Vegas Aces already have a foundation underneath them, and are simply making some well-timed and high-caliber adjustments to their roster and office, and I suspect we’re just a few months removed from seeing a second Vegas team make the playoffs.
“Who doesn’t expect this champion to burst onto the WNBA scene and propel the Aces to a shimmering first year in the desert?”
That’s right: the Vegas Aces will be at the postseason table come this September. But before we get that far ahead, let’s just grab our popcorn, throw on ESPN2 tomorrow evening, and watch Wilson and company shine in the Vegas team’s first historical moment.