As the end of 2021 draws near, WNBA.com is wrapping up this 25th season by recapping each team’s season. Take a look back at notable contributors and season highlights with the 2021 Season In Review. Next up is the Las Vegas Aces.
After being defeated in last year’s WNBA Finals by the Seattle Storm in a sweep, 3-0, the Aces came back this season hungrier than ever. Unlike last year, the Aces were loaded with a full roster and offensive options as Kelsey Plum returned from injury and Liz Cambage returned from opting out in 2020. On top of their returns, they picked up the “Point Gawd” Chelsea Gray and lethal shooter Riquna Williams in free agency. Now with a healthy squad and some new additions, it appeared the Aces had the pieces to go all the way.
In the regular season, the Aces’ ability to share the basketball translated to a balanced Aces offense with seven players averaging in double figures (first in WNBA history). This made them an extremely tough team to defend. On the defensive side, with dynamic forces in the paint like Liz Cambage, Ji-Su Park, and 2020 MVP A’ja Wilson, the Aces finished with the league’s second-ranked defense and defensive efficiency. This led them to finish the regular season 24-8 and earned them the No.2 Playoff seed.
Thanks to the double-bye, Las Vegas opened Playoffs in the Semifinals against the No.5 Phoenix Mercury. The Aces battled the Mercury in the Semifinals, forcing a Game 5. Unfortunately, the Aces lost in a close thriller in Game 5 with Mercury edging them out, 87-84.
While the Aces didn’t get the result they had hoped for they have the pieces for another run with A’ja Wilson still at MVP form and Kelsey Plum’s excellent season off the bench. Head coach Bill Laimbeer will make many decisions this off-season with three members projected as free agents. He will be on the hunt to find the missing puzzle piece to get his team to their first championship.
The 2020 MVP A’ja Wilson came up big for the Aces again leading them in points (18.3) and rebounds (9.3) per game. Her scoring ranked sixth in the league and her rebounding ranked eighth. The 6-4 forward continued to shine in just her fourth season, scoring in double figures in 30 of 32 games. This is on top of her winning her first Olympic gold with the US Women’s National Team. On June 3rd vs. New York Liberty, she scored a season-high 30 points in the Aces’ win.
Kelsey Plum came back stronger than even after sitting out during the 2020 season due to an injury, averaging a career-high 14.8 points. Plum was a significant spark for the Aces off the bench; she recorded eight games of at least 20 points – the most in a single season by a reserve in WNBA history. Despite coming off the bench, the 5-8 guard ranked 15th in scoring and 14th in assists. On June 15th against the New York Liberty, she scored 32 points off the bench, tying a franchise record for points in a game by a reserve. Plum earned the Sixth Player of the Year award for her efforts. Additionally, she won a gold medal with USA 3×3 Women’s National Team.
In her first season with the Aces, she led the team with 5.9 assists per game. The Point Gawd transitioned to the Aces smoothly, efficiently controlling the floor and making clutch buckets when needed. The 5-11 guard finished 4th in assists and ranked 16th in field goal percentage in the WNBA. Gray also won an Olympic gold medal with the US Women’s National Team this summer. On June 27th, Gray came up big for the Aces with clutch shots including the final two shots in an OT win, finishing with 27 points.
Kelsey Plum named Sixth Women of the Year
In her first season back from injury, she averaged a career-high 14.8 points per game and scored at least 30 points in two games off the bench, tying a league record. This is the third consecutive year where an Aces member has received the award.
— WNBA (@WNBA) October 1, 2021
Chelsea Gray’s Game Winner vs. mystics
With five seconds left, Chelsea Gray hits the game-winning jumper to give the Aces the comeback win vs. Washington Mystics, 84-83.
— WNBA (@WNBA) August 16, 2021
Four Players Represent the Aces at the 2021 AT&T All-Star Game
Liz Cambage and Dearica Hamby were named to the 2021 AT&T All-Star roster. This was Hamby’s first nod and Cambage’s fourth All-Star appearance. A’ja Wilson and Chelsea Gray represented Team USA. Team WNBA defeated Team USA, 93-85.