In a battle of the league’s elite athletes, the WNBA All-Star game pits the dominant West against the diverse East on July 25 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
The West roster is primarily comprised of players from the Phoenix Mercury and Minnesota Lynx.
Phoenix and Minnesota are generally the top forces to be reckoned with in the WNBA, as evidenced in the 2014 playoff runs for both teams. It should come as no surprise to hear that both teams lead the charge with the most number of players selected to the All-Star Game with three players apiece, including two starters each.
Brittney Griner and Candice Dupree of the Mercury and Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus of the Lynx are the power forces of their own teams.
Despite a seven-game suspension at the start of the season, Griner is still putting up similar numbers to her rookie season. The six-foot-nine ex-Baylor star leads the league in blocks with four per game and is putting up 14.7 points per game.
Moore is averaging 20.7 points on the year, second only to the Chicago Sky’s Elena Delle Donne. In her past eight games, Moore has put up 20 points or more with a season high of 32 against Tulsa on July 19.
The Tulsa Shock’s Skylar Diggins was originally selected to round out the last spot on the roster for the West’s starting lineup; however, Diggins suffered a torn ACL in the Shock’s June 28 game against Seattle. She’s out for the remainder of the season.
In addition to the absence of Diggins, Augustus will also miss the All-Star Game due to arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this month.
WNBA President Laurel J. Richie named the Shock’s Riquna Williams, San Antonio Stars’ Kayla McBride and Los Angeles Sparks’ Jantel Lavender as injury replacements on July 23.
In addition to the injury replacements, the West has a strong team with their reserves. Elected by the coaches of the WNBA, highlights of the bench include Seattle’s Sue Bird and Phoenix’s DeWanna Bonner.
Bird will be making her ninth appearance in the All-Star Game. The star has taken not just Seattle but the entire WNBA by storm since being drafted back in 2002. Bird leads the league with an average of 5.5 assists this season. Overall, Bird is the first player in the history of the league to chalk up 4,000 points, 2,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds in the length of her career.
Another notable player is Bonner, who’s in her sixth season, but this is only her first All-Star selection. Coming from the era of Mercury players who have scooped up championships in both 2009 and 2014, Bonner is one of the most valued players for the Mercury, but is often overshadowed by fellow teammates Griner and Dupree. A star defensive player, Bonner tallied 49 steals last season and currently has 19 steals this year.
As for the starters for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, there’s more diversity when it comes to team origin.
Delle Donne scooped up the most number of All Star votes out of anyone in the WNBA, a feat she also accomplished back in 2013 as a rookie. She stands out as the East’s strongest player because she leads the WNBA in points with an average of 24.5 per game and sits third in the league for rebounds.
Shoni Schimmel and Angel McCoughtry represent the Atlanta Dream on the starting roster. Schimmel earned the All-Star MVP award last year in her rookie season with the 29 points and eight assists she posted during the game.
The New York Liberty’s Tina Charles and Indiana Fever’s Tamika Catchings round out the East’s starting roster.
Aside from Delle Donne, Catchings will be the other key player for the East team. Catchings is a five-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, most recently in 2012.
The East’s bench is flooded with first-time All-Star selections. The majority of the players like the Connecticut Sun’s Alex Bentley and Kelsey Bone have two years or less of experience; however, Fever guard Marissa Coleman has been in the league for six years and is just now getting her first nod to the All-Star Game, similar to Bonner on the West.
Mercury heead coach Sandy Brondello will coach the West while Chicago Sky head coach Pokey Chatman will lead the East.
Brondello led the Mercury to a 29-5 season record and a championship in 2014 during her first year of coaching in Phoenix.
Chatman isn’t without her own success. She’s credited with turning the Sky franchise around in the five years since she became head coach, including steering the team to their first playoff run in franchise history last season.