2023 WNBA Fantasy Preview: Western Conference Stars and Sleepers

2023 WNBA Fantasy Preview: Western Conference Stars and Sleepers

One of the most tumultuous offseasons in WNBA history is behind us, and training camp has begun around the league. The second season of Fantasy Women's Basketball on ESPN is now open, and there are several offseason moves to be aware of when drafting. 

Dallas Wings Season Preview

2022 Season Recap

The Wings were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for a second consecutive season in 2022, but they finished the year at .500 for the first time since converting from the Tulsa Shock to the Dallas Wings in 2016. The club was led by guard Allisha Gray, who averaged a team-high 32.9 minutes per game in her sixth season with the Wings, but she was traded to Atlanta during the offseason. Dallas finished fourth in the league in points per game and had the second-fewest turnovers of any team, but the team finished in the bottom half of the WNBA in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.

Key Acquisitions/Departures

Acquisitions

Departures

Fantasy Stars

Arike Ogunbowale: Although the Wings lost several key contributors during the offseason, they'll retain one of their most consistent options in Ogunbowale, who has had steady stat lines since entering the league in 2019. She missed time late last year due to an abdominal injury, she had one of the best seasons of her career, averaging 19.7 points, 3.6 assists and 3.3 rebounds while putting up a league-high 17.0 field-goal attempts and a career-high 7.9 three-point attempts per game. While the Wings made some offseason acquisitions to make up for their key departures, Ogunbowale should be a focal point for the team again in 2023.

Natasha Howard: Howard has played for four teams over her first nine years in the WNBA, and she'll suit up for a fifth club in 2023 after being traded from New York to Dallas during the offseason. She's averaged double-digit points in four of the past five seasons while also averaging 7.2 rebounds per game across that span. The 31-year-old won't have to compete for a role with a superteam like the Liberty, so it seems likely that the trade will bolster her fantasy value to begin the 2023 campaign.

Fantasy Sleepers

Diamond DeShields: DeShields spent the first four seasons of her career in Chicago but joined the Mercury in 2022 and will play for another team this year after she was dealt from Phoenix to Dallas. Her production has never reached the levels she had in her first two professional seasons when she averaged 15.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 29.4 minutes per game. Despite her overall decline, she's shown steady improvement in points and rebounds over the past three years. Although the Wings also have Natasha Howard and Satou Sabally, it wouldn't be surprising to see DeShields take on a starting role in 2023, and she should provide fantasy value if her statistical improvements continue with her new team.

Deep Sleeper

Veronica Burton: Burton was a minimal fantasy contributor for most of the 2022 campaign, but she stepped up late in the year with Arike Ogunbowale hampered by her injury. Burton started nine of the final 10 games last season, averaging 5.9 points, 3.7 assists and 2.2 rebounds in 24.2 minutes per game. While she wasn't especially flashy in any particular category, she had well-rounded production that gave her some fantasy upside. The 22-year-old started the Wings' two preseason games, and it seems likely that she'll have a starting role once the regular season gets underway.

Dallas Wings Fantasy WNBA Outlook

The Wings were one of the most active teams in the league during the offseason. It's discouraging to see the team trade several of its top contributors from 2022, but Dallas also made several additions via trade and the draft that should allow the club to remain competitive this year. With Top 5 picks Maddy Siegrist and Lou Lopez Senechal waiting in the wings ahead of the regular season, the club's rotation could certainly shift as the year progresses, but the team has multiple contributors who could have fantasy-relevant roles.

Las Vegas Aces Season Preview

2022 Season Recap

The Aces were among the best teams in the league during coach Bill Laimbeer's final three years with the club, as they advanced at least to the semifinals every year from 2019 to 2021. Laimbeer retired following the 2021 campaign, and the team made a flashy hire by bringing in Becky Hammon as its head coach. Hammon had years of experience as an assistant under Gregg Popovich in the NBA, and she became the first rookie coach to win a title during her first year as the Aces' head coach in 2022. The Aces were a model of efficiency, leading the WNBA in points per game while also committing the fewest turnovers of any team in the league.

Key Acquisitions/Departures

Acquisitions

Departures

Fantasy Stars

A'ja Wilson: Wilson won the second MVP award of her career in 2022 by averaging 19.5 points and 9.4 rebounds in 30.0 minutes per game, and she was one of the most reliable fantasy contributors in the league. There's no reason to think that will change in 2023, and she'll rightfully be one of the first players selected in fantasy drafts this year. Although the Aces acquired Candace Parker during the offseason, Wilson is already established as the leader of the superteam in Las Vegas and should remain an elite fantasy option this year.

Kelsey Plum: Plum underwent a minor shoulder procedure during the offseason but returned to the court during the preseason and should be good to go for the start of the 2023 campaign. She had a career-best year in 2022, serving exclusively as a starter and averaging 20.2 points, 5.1 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 32.8 minutes per game to establish herself as one of the league's premier fantasy guards. The 2022 WNBA All-Star Game MVP has plenty of upside once again this season.

Fantasy Sleepers

Candace Parker: Parker joined her hometown team in Chicago for the past two seasons, but she signed with Las Vegas during the offseason and should serve as a prominent contributor in the Aces' frontcourt. The 37-year-old is being selected in the middle rounds of some ESPN Fantasy drafts, but even though she'll have to share production with some of the Aces' other elite contributors, she still has plenty of fantasy potential in 2023. Las Vegas was one of the most efficient teams in the league last year, and Parker has remained a stellar contributor in recent years. It's strange to regard a legendary talent like Parker as a fantasy sleeper, but she certainly has the potential to outperform her ADP this year.

Deeper Sleeper

Alysha Clark: Clark signing with the Aces flew somewhat under the radar amid the forming of superteams around the league, but the 35-year-old has been a solid contributor over the last few seasons and has the potential to be an undervalued fantasy option with the Aces. After missing the 2021 campaign, Clark averaged 8.0 points and 4.5 assists in 26.4 minutes per game in 2022, her first season with the Mystics. While Clark will likely come off the bench to begin her time with her new team, she should still be in the mix for a fantasy-relevant role in 2023.

Las Vegas Aces Fantasy WNBA Outlook

The Aces were clearly the most dominant team in the WNBA last season, and the team made aggressive additions during the offseason by adding Candace Parker and Alysha Clark to officially cement themselves as one of the two superteams along with the Liberty. While coach Becky Hammon has drawn some interest from NBA teams in recent weeks, she's on track to reprise her role as the Aces' head coach in 2023 and has a bevy of talent to work with as the team attempts to become the first repeat champions since the Sparks won titles in 2001 and 2002.

Los Angeles Sparks Season Preview

2022 Season Recap

The Sparks continued to struggle in 2022, finishing with a losing record and missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season. While the team ranked second in the league in steals, the Sparks were the worst in rebounding and the third-worst in scoring. Los Angeles agreed to a contract divorce with Liz Cambage at the end of July and experienced plenty of roster turnover during the offseason.

Key Acquisitions/Departures

Acquisitions

Departures

Fantasy Stars

Nneka Ogwumike: Although the Sparks will look different in several areas during the 2023 campaign, one constant will be Ogwumike, who will remain in Los Angeles for a 12th season. the 2016 WNBA MVP was the team's top scorer last year, averaging 18.0 points to go with 6.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 steals in 31.4 minutes per game. While she'll be playing under a new coach in Curt Miller this year, she was a dominant fantasy player in past seasons despite the team's struggles, and Ogwumike should continue to have plenty of fantasy upside in 2023.

Fantasy Sleepers

Azura Stevens: Stevens spent the past three seasons in Chicago, and although she played mainly off the bench in 2022, she still displayed some fantasy upside by averaging 10.6 points and 3.9 rebounds in 21.9 minutes per game. The 27-year-old will likely have an opportunity to take on a larger role for the Sparks in 2023, and it wouldn't be surprising to see her claim a starting job to begin the regular season. Following inconsistent performances off the bench with the Sky, Stevens should be able to establish herself as a more reliable option this year.

Deeper Sleepers

Jordin Canada: While the Sparks underperformed in several areas last season, a bright spot was Canada, who served mainly as a starter during her first year with the team. Despite shooting just 38.4 percent from the floor, she averaged 9.2 points and 5.5 assists in 27.0 minutes per game, marking one of the best years of her career. She re-signed with the Sparks during the offseason, and it wouldn't be surprising to see her maintain a prominent role in 2023 despite the acquisition of Jasmine Thomas.

Jasmine Thomas: Thomas missed most of last season due to an ACL tear and didn't play during the preseason, but she should have a prominent role once she's healthy after she signed with the Sparks during the offseason. The guard spend the past eight seasons in Connecticut and averaged 10.7 points and 4.3 assists in 27.7 minutes per game across that span. She'll have an opportunity to see considerable production with her new team, helping to fill a backcourt role Brittney Sykes had with the club in 2022.

Los Angeles Sparks Fantasy WNBA Outlook

The Sparks have had a pair of disappointing campaigns over the past two seasons but will have a new-look squad in multiple areas in 2023. The team will be anchored by Nneka Ogwumike, and several other contributors will attempt to mesh, including Jasmine Thomas, Azura Stevens and Jordin Canada. Under new coach Curt Miller, there are some question marks ahead of the 2023 season, but the team has several players with enough talent to provide fantasy upside this year.

Minnesota Lynx Season Preview

2022 Season Recap

The Lynx entered unchartered territory in 2022, finishing with a losing record and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010, coach Cheryl Reeve's first season with the team. Minnesota is officially moving past two of the best players in franchise history, as Sylvia Fowles retired while Maya Moore officially announced her retirement from professional basketball. However, the Lynx got a boost late in the season with Napheesa Collier returning for the final four games of the year after spending most of the season on maternity leave.

Key Acquisitions/Departures

Acquisitions

Departures

Fantasy Stars

Napheesa Collier: Collier isn't necessarily an addition to the Lynx, but she still has the potential to boost a team that largely struggled in 2022. She faced some limitations over a limited sample last year following her pregnancy, but she averaged 15.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.9 combined blocks/steals in 34.0 minutes per game over her first three seasons in the WNBA. The 26-year-old has expressed during the offseason that she feels back to full strength following last year's absence, and she'll have a chance to enter the elite ranks of fantasy players in 2023.

Fantasy Sleepers

Kayla McBride: McBride has been consistent over her first two seasons with the Lynx, and coach Cheryl Reeve said during training camp that the guard is one of two players guaranteed a starting role with the team heading into 2023. McBride tallied double-digit ESPN Fantasy points in 29 of 31 appearances last year, and her well-rounded stat lines gave her plenty of upside. Despite her consistency in 2022, the 30-year-old is being selected in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts, and she certainly has the potential to outperform her ranking this season.

Deeper Sleeper

Jessica Shepard: After struggling to see much run over her first two seasons in the league, Shepard took a step forward in 2022. She started in 22 of her 36 appearances and averaged 8.1 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 26.1 minutes per game. The 26-year-old was limited during training camp due to an oblique injury and didn't play during the preseason this year. While Shepard will need to earn her role with the team once she's healthy, she has the potential to be a fantasy asset if she can replicate her 2022 production.

Minnesota Lynx Fantasy WNBA Outlook

While the Lynx had a disappointing year in 2022 and lost a cornerstone in Sylvia Fowles, there's reason for hope in Minnesota, beginning with the return of Napheesa Collier. The team also added several talented players in the 2023 WNBA Draft, including Rookie of the Year candidate Diamond Miller at No. 2 overall. Minnesota also lost Moriah Jefferson during the offseason, but the team still has plenty of undervalued players who could be solid fantasy contributors this year.

Phoenix Mercury Season Preview

2022 Season Recap

The Mercury faced a shock ahead of the 2022 campaign when Brittney Griner was wrongfully detained in Russia, an absence that reverberated throughout the league throughout the season. Despite playing without Griner, Phoenix performed relatively well during coach Vanessa Nygaard's first season with the team, finishing with a 15-21 record and qualifying for the playoffs for a 10th consecutive season.

Key Acquisitions/Departures

Acquisitions

Departures

Fantasy Stars

Brittney Griner: Basketball fans, rejoice! Griner is back in the United States after being wrongfully detained in Russia last year, and she officially re-signed with the Mercury on a one-year deal during the offseason. The 32-year-old was one of the most dominant players in the league prior to missing the 2022 campaign, as she averaged 20.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.2 blocks in 32.3 minutes per game over her past five seasons. Griner has spent the last few months preparing for the WNBA season, and she scored 10 points in 17 minutes during her lone preseason appearance. Now that Griner is back, she should be an elite fantasy option in 2023.

Fantasy Sleepers

Sophie Cunningham: Cunningham was inconsistent over the first several weeks of the 2022 campaign before missing time due to COVID-19 protocols followed by an elbow injury. However, she reached another level upon her return, averaging 14.3 points and 4.5 rebounds in 32.7 minutes per game over her final 21 appearances of the year. The Mercury traded Diamond DeShields to Dallas during the offseason, which should allow Cunningham to handle an even larger role in 2023. If Cunningham's hot streak carries over into 2023, she has the potential to be a top-tier fantasy contributor this season.

Moriah Jefferson: Jefferson's production was somewhat limited during her time with the Wings, but she was waived by Dallas just after the start of the 2022 campaign. She quickly found a new home with the Lynx and thrived, averaging 10.5 points, 4.9 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 26.8 minutes per game with her new team. She'll play alongside legend Diana Taurasi in the Mercury's backcourt after signing with the club during the offseason but could have a chance to retain a starting role with Skylar Diggins-Smith set to miss the start of the year due to her pregnancy. Jefferson displayed some signs of inconsistency last season but has plenty of upside in 2023 following her breakout campaign.

Deeper Sleeper

Shey Peddy: Peddy and Moriah Jefferson will compete for roles in the backcourt in 2023, but Peddy could be eased into action early in the season after rupturing her Achilles late in the 2022 campaign. The 34-year-old had encouraging results prior to her injury, averaging 9.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 28.6 minutes per game, all career-best marks. She's aiming to be ready for the start of the regular season, but after sitting out the team's two preseason matchups, it's safe to wonder what kind of role she'll have early in 2023. However, once Peddy is fully healthy, she could be a solid fantasy option this year.

Phoenix Mercury Fantasy WNBA Outlook

While the Mercury traded Diamond DeShields during the offseason, they added another solid fantasy contributor in Moriah Jefferson and will have Brittney Griner back on the court in 2023. The team has the tools to remain competitive this season in an attempt to extend its streak of playoff appearances, and several of the Mercury's players have been consistent fantasy options over the past few years. Some of their contributors lack the upside that players on other teams possess, but there's plenty of fantasy value to be found in Phoenix.

Seattle Storm Season Preview

2022 Season Recap

The Storm knew last season that Sue Bird was in her last year with the team ahead of retirement, but the team also wound up playing in Breanna Stewart's last season with the club after she chose to sign with the Liberty during the offseason. Seattle made an attempt to be competitive last year, including the acquisition of Tina Charles midway through the regular season. The team tied for the fourth-best record in the league and advanced to the semifinals of the playoffs but fell just short of the WNBA Finals by losing to the Aces in four games.

Key Acquisitions/Departures

Acquisitions

Departures

Fantasy Stars

Jewell Loyd: Although the Storm have had plenty of star power over the past few seasons, Loyd has emerged as a reliable option over her first eight years in the WNBA and will have a chance to step up as a leader for the rebuilding club in 2023. Over the past three seasons, the 29-year-old has averaged 16.6 points, 3.5 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 29.7 minutes while averaging 5.4 three-point attempts per game during that time. Seattle's offense should revolve around her this year, and Loyd should remain among the top fantasy guards despite the team's new look in 2023.

Fantasy Sleepers

Kia Nurse: Nurse was unavailable last season due to a torn ACL, but she signed with the Storm during the offseason and is expected to be fully healthy heading into the 2023 campaign. During her lone season in which she suited up for the Mercury, her production declined slightly, averaging 9.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 26.1 minutes per game. However, she was productive for Team Canada in September and should have a chance to be a focal point for a new-look club this season.

Deeper Sleeper

Mercedes Russell: Russell also missed most of the 2022 season, as she underwent surgery to address a recurrent, atypical headache syndrome in June. She had limited production off the bench over limited action in 2022, but she served mainly as a starter for the Storm in 2019 and 2021 and was productive in each of those seasons. Now that she's been fully cleared for this season, it wouldn't be surprising to see her garner a prominent role for Seattle following the slew of offseason departures. Russell certainly has the potential to be a late-round fantasy stud in her return to the court this year.

Seattle Storm Fantasy WNBA Outlook

The Storm are in the wake of several prominent offseason departures that make them long shots to compete among the WNBA's top teams this year, but the team still has several players who have meaningful fantasy potential heading into 2023. Jewell Loyd's production could reach a new level as a leading player for the team, while there will likely be some players who emerge as options to claim off waivers in fantasy once the regular season gets underway.

The author(s) of this article may play in daily fantasy contests including – but not limited to – games that they have provided recommendations or advice on in this article. In the course of playing in these games using their personal accounts, it's possible that they will use players in their lineups or other strategies that differ from the recommendations they have provided above. The recommendations in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of RotoWire. Jason "The Polish Parlay" Shebilske plays in daily fantasy contests using the following accounts: DraftKings: FavreFanatic, FanDuel: Favre_Fanatic.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason
Jason joined RotoWire in 2019. In 2023, he was named the FSWA Player Notes Writer of the Year. In addition to RotoWire, Jason writes for the Sports Broadcast Journal. In 2024, he was dubbed "The Polish Parlay" for his WNBA hot betting streak.
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