Breanna Stewart and Candace Parker have ushered in the WNBA’s superteam era

Breanna Stewart already has a convincing case as the greatest women’s basketball player of all-time. At only 28 years old, Stewart has a resume on pace to match the giants of the sport: she won four national championships in four years at UConn (the Huskies haven’t won it all since she graduated), she won two WNBA championships and two Finals MVPs with the Seattle Storm, she’s led the WNBA in scoring and earned First-Team All-Defense honors, and she has more MVPs and championships during her “offseason” career in EuroLeague.

Candace Parker is one of Stewart’s only true competitors for the GOAT title. Parker won two NCAA national championships at Tennessee, won WNBA MVP as a rookie in 2008 and won it again in 2013, won WNBA championships with the Los Angeles Sparks and Chicago Sky, and has a Defensive Player of the Year trophy on her mantle.

Stewart is in the prime of her legendary career, while Parker, on the brink of her 37th birthday, is at the end of hers. The two superstars are intertwined again this offseason, and it’s possibly setting up for at least one more head-to-head matchup with a championship on the line.

Stewart has left the Storm to sign with the New York Liberty in free agency — where she marks the team’s second major addition of the offseason following their trade for 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones. Parker announced her decision to leave Chicago for the reigning champion Las Vegas Aces a week earlier. The WNBA is now fully in its superteam era, with star-studded powers on each coast that feel destined to meet in the 2023 Finals.

Chicago Sky v Seattle Storm

Photo by Joshua Huston/NBAE via Getty Images

Stewart is the type of player that can fit into any lineup, and her versatility will be the key to making the Liberty a championship contender. At 6’4 with a ridiculous 7’1 wingspan, Stewart has the size of a big and the skill of a guard. She’s a true three-level scorer with elite basketball-IQ who can make an offense hum regardless of her role. Stewie can shine as either the handler or the roller in the pick-and-roll, she can space the floor as a catch-and-shoot threat from deep, and she can leverage the threat of her scoring and passing playing out of the elbows. She’s also a remarkable defender who is stout on the inside and always knows the right rotation to make on the perimeter.

In New York, Stewart joins forces with two other legitimate All-WNBA talents in Jonquel Jones and Sabrina Ionescu. Jones comes over from the Connecticut Sun after leading the team to last season’s WNBA Finals. She is the premier center in the league today, and something like the WNBA’s version of Joel Embiid: Jones is so strong yet so graceful as an interior scorer, but also has the touch to stretch the defense out to three. The 29-year-old Jones has been the focal point of everything the Sun do the last few years, and will now benefit from Stewart’s scoring gravity pulling defenders away from her.

Ionescu is the holdover superstar in New York. A wildly hyped No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, the 5’11 point guard started to live up to the hype last season by making Second-Team All-WNBA. Ionescu led the WNBA in assists while also putting up big scoring numbers by wrecking defenses in the pick-and-roll. With two mega stars now next to her, she’ll need to become a better spot-up threat after hitting 33 percent of her threes last year, and prove she has the adaptability to fit into less heliocentric offensive constructs.

With Betnijah Laney, Michaela Onyenwere, DiDi Richards, and Kayla Thornton, the Liberty have some wings to defend, rebound, and keep the ball moving around the three superstars. There’s also Marine Johannes, one of the league’s most thrilling passers and shooters, who could serve as a super Sixth Woman in this lineup. Johannes is a human highlight reel by herself with over-her-head passes and ridiculous step-back threes becoming the norm. When she’s your fourth best offensive option, you have yourself a superteam.

Las Vegas Aces Victory Parade & Rally

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Liberty will be the WNBA’s second superteam, because one already resides in Las Vegas. The Aces have been loaded with talent for the last few years, but it finally all came together last season for the first professional sports championship in Vegas history. The Aces’ collection of stars was so overwhelming that it almost felt unfair. They’re only going to be better after adding Parker.

Everything starts with A’ja Wilson for the Aces. The 6’5 big is in the prime of her career at 26 years old, and feels like the biggest threat to Stewart’s title of ‘best player alive.’ Wilson is a monster athlete who can dominate both ends of the court. Wilson won MVP and Defensive Player of the Year last season after sliding over to center following the departure of Liz Cambage, where she showcased her quickness defending ball screens and her ability to protect the rim as a shot blocker. She is even better on the offensive end, where she uses his agility and explosiveness in short spaces to become the league’s top play finisher. With Wilson acting as the anchor for both the offense and defense, everyone else on the Aces can slot into their roles.

The backcourt has three studs in Kelsey Plum, Chelsea Gray, and Jackie Young. Plum was an MVP candidate herself last year as an explosive lead guard who can score from all three levels. Plum’s ability to play on or off the ball allows Gray to get into her bag as a shot creator. Gray became a household name on the way to winning Finals MVP last year with some incredible scoring barrages highlighted by her advanced pull-up shooting. Oh yeah, Gray is also one of the best passers in the league and is deadly finding open teammates while operating out of ball screens. It’s easy to forget that Young is also a former No. 1 overall pick (just like Wilson and Plun), and the strides she made as an outside shooter helped her become a first time All-Star last year while winning WNBA Most Improved Player.

With so much firepower around her, Parker can fill in every crack without having to carry a big load. Parker adds so much size (6’4) and intelligence to the lineup, and can still get a bucket in a pinch whenever she needs it. Her ability to space the floor as a spot-up shooter, keep the ball moving as a connective passer, and score in the post will give Vegas an entirely new dimension. She felt like the best player on Chicago’s 2021 run to the WNBA championship, and showed she still had a lot left in the tank in helping get the Sky within one game of back-to-back Finals appearances last year.

Stewart said she went to New York in part to continue growing the game and improve compensation for women in sports. She wants the league to start chartering flights and continue to improve salaries for players.

Superteams always draw interest in basketball. Now the WNBA has two of them.

Stewart’s move to the Liberty feels like LeBron going to the Heat. There’s one holdover star in place in Ionescu, and another MVP-level player teaming up with her in Jones. Meanwhile, Parker’s move to the defending champs feels a bit like Kevin Durant joining the Warriors. The Aces were already overflowing with talent, and now they added one of the greatest players ever to fill their hole at the four.

Anything can happen in the WNBA playoffs, but it sure feels like the championship will come down to the Aces vs. the Liberty. It’s going to be must-see basketball in every way.

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