The Aces have two generational talents in A'ja Wilson and Liz Cambage, but if they can't get more consistency from the rest of their starting five, they might struggle to separate themselves from the rest of the WNBA's contenders.
It's starting to become clear that the Las Vegas Aces need more than their two frontcourt stars to win games. A'ja Wilson and Liz Cambage are rare talents who are capable of setting the league on fire, as evidenced by the pair going for 42 of the Aces' 72 points Thursday in a 95-72 loss to the Washington Mystics.
Wilson could seemingly do no wrong, dropping 28 points on 11 of 14 shooting to go along with five rebounds and a block while Cambage put up a respectable stat line of 14 points, six rebounds and a block. So what went wrong in a game that Las Vegas had chances of making competitive at halftime? Well, Wilson and Cambage were the only Aces to score in double figures, with the starting backcourt putting up a paltry 11 points, including a scoreless night from Kelsey Plum.
Plum can be streaky at times but had been playing better in the past couple games after a slow start to the season, but Vegas needs her to be more consistent if it has aspirations of going deep into the playoffs. Her shooting and ability to stretch the floor are pivotal, even on a team with plenty of dangerous three-point shooters.
Jackie Young, the latest No. 1 pick to join the Aces, seems to still be finding her footing in the WNBA but her talent is clear, it's just up to the team to get the best out of her athleticism and ease her transition. And Kayla McBride is a proven bucket who hadn't been held to under 10 points this season until Thursday's game.
All three players are more than capable of providing support to a team that more or less revolves around its two bigs. But when you have games like Thursday, where the Mystics establish who's in charge early on and never let up, you see the cracks in the armor of a team that GMs picked to be the likely WNBA champion before the season started.
That's not to take anything away from the Mystics, who came into the Mandalay Bay Events Center and absolutely took it to the best defense in the W. Thursday's box score makes for an eye-popping read, with Washington shooting nearly as well from the field (52.9%) as it did from three (50%). The Mystics made 10 threes, with four of them coming from Elena Delle Donne, who got loose on the Aces.
The 2015 WNBA MVP roasted nearly every defender that Vegas put on her, scorching the opposition to the tune of 29 points (on 61.1% shooting), 11 rebounds, two assists and three blocks. Ariel Atkins, Tianna Hawkins and Kristi Toliver got in on the offensive fun too, scoring 19, 15 and 13 points, respectively.
The Mystics also did a great job of bottling up the Aces' offense, crowding Wilson and forcing her into six turnovers and getting a hand on nearly every pass that wasn't exactly on the money.
It's been a strange start to the season for nearly every team. Major injuries to a good deal of the league's stars have led to some awful starts—looking at y'all, Atlanta and Phoenix—and some surprising teams near the top of the standings. The W is missing last year's MVP, the Connecticut Sun traded away who many believed to be their best player and now sit atop the league after handing the keys to Jonquel Jones and the Seattle Storm have figured out how to stick around .500 with Natasha Howard leading the way.
The chase for this year's championship is wide open and the Aces still have plenty of time to prove that this is the season when they put it all together. But if they want to bring postseason basketball to Vegas, they'll need more from their backcourt and to alleviate some of the pressure on Cambage and Wilson. Having two generational talents is great, but if most of the players in the starting lineup aren't clicking, Vegas could find it hard to separate itself from the other contenders as the season goes on.