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The Las Vegas Aces’ Blueprint for A WNBA Dynasty

  • Kelsey Plum, A’ja Wilson, and Jackie Young were drafted first overall three years in a row.
  • Owner Mark Davis invested in the franchise via head coach Becky Hammon and a state-of-the-art practice facility.
The Las Vegas Aces celebrate after defeating the New York Liberty to win the 2023 WNBA Finals at Barclays Center.
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Kelsey Plum said it best in the aftermath of the Las Vegas Aces’ 70-69 win over the New York Liberty in Game 4 of the 2023 WNBA Finals to secure the team’s second league title in as many seasons.

“You can’t build a superteam in a couple months,” the two-time All-Star told ESPN’s Holly Rowe immediately after the final buzzer. “It takes years.”

Plum was drafted first overall by the Aces, then the San Antonio Stars, in 2017. WNBA Finals MVP A’ja Wilson was the first overall pick in 2018, with guard Jackie Young — who played a crucial role Wednesday with several key Las Vegas injuries — going first in 2019.

The team added key veterans Chelsea Gray and Kiah Stokes, the aforementioned injured players, in 2021. 

The only big signing for the Aces ahead of the 2023 season was seven-time All-Star Candace Parker — and she has not played since July.

It stands in stark contrast to the team-building process for the Liberty, who became instant contenders after acquiring perennial All-Stars Courtney Vandersloot, Jonquel Jones, and Breanna Stewart — who was, ironically, the first overall pick in 2016 — ahead of the season.

Las Vegas is the first repeat WNBA champion since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2002 and just the third franchise to repeat overall since the Houston Comets rattled off straight titles in the first four seasons of the league from 1997 through 2000. 

“As I said last year when we won, it’s great to see your vision become reality, and now it’s times two,” owner Mark Davis, who bought the team in 2021, told KTNV after the win.

Part of realizing that vision involved signing head coach Becky Hammon to a $1 million per season contract ahead of the 2022 campaign; it was the largest WNBA head coaching deal ever until the Phoenix Mercury signed Nate Tibbetts this week.

Davis also invested in the franchise via a state-of-the-art practice facility, which broke ground shortly after he purchased the team in 2021 and opened in May.

The Aces are already the favorites to three-peat in 2024, opening at the top of FanDuel’s WNBA Championship board with +140 odds.

If that comes to pass, they’ll do so with a minority owner who knows a thing or two about dynasties: Tom Brady bought into the team in May, with his purchase finalized just over two weeks before Vegas claimed the time.

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