The WNBA will tip off its 25th season on May 14, 2021, with all 12 teams returning to their home arenas after spending last season in the "Wubble" in Bradenton, Florida.
"As we tip-off this historic season with teams returning to play in their home markets, we celebrate the impact the WNBA has made on generations of young and diverse athletes and on sports and society since 1997," WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said.
2020 proved to be a challenging year for many, with several stars sitting out the season due to a combination of health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing social justice issues and season-ending injuries, but with the new season upon us, several high-profile names will be back balling in 2021 with a list of stars set to return to the floor.
Liz Cambage, Las Vegas Aces
Cambage sat out last season due to health concerns and returns to the Aces, joining a star-studded squad, alongside reigning MVP A'ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum, Chelsea Gray, Angel McCoughtry, and Dearica Hamby.
After returning to the court in Australia's WNBL with the Southside Flyers this past seasoon, she led them to the 2020 title averaging 23.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks over 15 games and looks set for a big season in Las Vegas.
While she will share the offensive responsibilities in the frontcourt with Wilson and Hamby, Cambage is just three years removed from finishing second in MVP voting after dropping a league-record 53 points while playing for the Dallas Wings.
📅 July 17, 2018- WNBA (@WNBA) May 19, 2020
Liz Cambage scored a WNBA single-game record 53 points! 👀
Rewatch this performance and others during the free preview of WNBA League Pass. #WNBARewatch
💻: https://t.co/PQEQ0FRof6 pic.twitter.com/rEVZJBVnb6
Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics
Delle Donne, who suffers Lyme disease, sat out the 2020 season as a health precaution and returns to the Mystics after winning MVP in 2019 and leading them to the WNBA championship.
After undergoing two back surgeries, the six-time All-Star says she's "feeling really good" and expects to be on the court during the opening weekend, as Washington looks to bounce back after a first-round playoff exit.
"We're a brand new team from the 2019 champions that we were," she said, "but I'm so excited about the new pieces we've added."
With Natasha Cloud also returning, the star duo will team up with Tina Charles, who the team acquired via trade last year, with the Mystics among the favourites for the 2021 championship.
Chiney Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks
Ogwumike sat out the 2020 season as a health precaution, taking the opportunity to rest after suffering knee and Achilles injuries earlier in her career.
The two-time All-Star is back on the court, impressing in her first scrimmage against the Aces, earning praise from coach Derek Fisher.
"Chiney deserves a tremendous amount of credit for getting out there and playing and playing pretty good for someone who hadn't played basketball since 2019," Fisher said.
In her first season with the Sparks in 2019, Ogwumike averaged 9.6 points and 5.8 rebounds on 49.4 percent shooting. With Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray no longer with the team, Ogwumike has an opportunity to take on a bigger role in the offence alongside her older sister Nneka.
Kristi Toliver, Los Angeles Sparks
Toliver was last on the court during the 2019 WNBA Finals where she was a key part of the Mystics championship squad, averaging 13 points per game and a career-high six assists. She went on to sign a three-year deal with the Sparks, however, she has yet to play for the team after opting to sit out the 2020 season due to health precautions.
"I'm more excited to play now than ever after a year absence," Toliver said
The 34-year-old makes her return to Los Angeles after playing for the Sparks between 2010 and 2016, winning the title in 2016.
Natasha Cloud, Washington Mystics
Cloud is back after sitting out the 2020 season to fight for social justice reform, committing her future to the Mystics by signing a three-year deal.
She played a key role in helping the Mystics win the 2019 WNBA title, starting in all 34 games and averaging 9.0 points and 5.6 assists, while also earning WNBA All-Defensive Second Team honours. Cloud is likely be the team's starting point guard.
The Mystics have plenty of talent in the backcourt, with Australian Leilani Mitchell giving them a one-two punch
"Just watching her game develop over the last few years has been fun and exciting. She just plays with a lot of energy," Mitchell said of Cloud. "Obviously she's the emotional leader of the team and she's quick to get the ball up the court, so playing with her is exciting. I like to shoot three's so that'll be good to play with her where she can get some shots for me and I think we complement each other well."
Kelsey Plum, Las Vegas Aces
The No. 1 pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft missed the entire 2020 season after suffering a torn Achilles and returns to an Aces squad full of talent.
A key starter in the first three seasons, Plum, a career 38.7 percent 3-point shooter, adds perimeter firepower to an already talented squad, but they do have the luxury of easing her back into the lineup and managing her minutes given their plethora of talent.
On paper, the Aces have one of the best lineups in the league, but even with Plum back in the fold, they know it's not going to be easy.
"I know the media and everybody is expecting us to be this super team because we look really, really good on paper," A'ja Wilson said last week.
"But at the end of the day, we have to bring it within ourselves. That's what makes the super team. You earn that. It doesn't matter what we look like on paper. If we can't produce on the court, then it's nothing."
The fake, the finish.@kelseyplum10 // #ALLIN ♦️♠️ pic.twitter.com/EExAo3O9EX- Las Vegas Aces (@LVAces) May 8, 2021
Bec Allen, New York Liberty
Fresh off winning the 2021 EuroCup Women's Championship and leading Valencia to the Spanish league Grand Final, Bec Allen is primed to hit the ground running this season after opting out of the 2020 campaign due to health precautions.
The Aussie sharp-shooter is set to play a key role for the Liberty this season after connecting on 42.6 percent of her 3-point attempts in 2019.
Alongside Sabrina Ionescu, who missed all but three games last season with an ankle injury, Natasha Howard, and Betnijah Laney, Allen and the Liberty are looking for a big turnaround in 2021 after finishing with a league-worst 2-20 record.
Jonquel Jones, Connecticut Sun
Jones sat out the 2020 season as a health precaution after leading the Sun to the 2019 WNBA Finals.
That season, she started all 34 games, averaging 14.6 points and 9.7 rebounds and a career-high 2.0 blocks, earning All-WNBA Second Team and All-Defensive Team honours in the process. After the Sun narrowly missed out on a trip back to the Finals in 2020, Jones' return gives them a big boost.
She is primed for a big season in Connecticut, especially with star Alyssa Thomas sidelined for the year with a torn Achilles, as she looks to form a one-two punch with DeWanna Bonner.
"To finally see DB and JJ on the court is going to be scary," Thomas said at Sun media. "I mean, this is what we've all been waiting for, to have such length and to stretch the floor like that, like I said, it's going to be a lot of fun. And I can't wait to watch it personally."
Tiffany Hayes, Atlanta Dream
Hayes opted out of the 2020 season and returns to a new look Dream squad with new ownership to boot.
After enjoying a career year in 2018, averaging 17.2 points per game, earning All-WNBA First Team honours, she didn't quite recapture that form the following season, but with a host of new faces on the roster this season, including No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft Aari McDonald, the Dream will be looking for Hayes to take that lead as the team's bonafide star.
Hayes enters the 2021 season in impressive form after dropping 29 points in the EuroLeague Women final for Perfumerias Avenida.
The WNBA season gets underway on May 14.
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