The 22-man roster for the 2022 WNBA All-Star Game is set, as the game’s 12 reserves — chosen by league coaches — were announced on Tuesday.
The two teams — led by captains A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart, and their respective co-captains Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles — will draft their rosters from the pool on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN app). Wilson and Stewart were named captains after receiving the most fan votes. The WNBA named Bird and Fowles, who announced they would retire at the end of the 2022 season, co-captains alongside them.
Joining them will be Skylar Diggins-Smith, Courtney Vandersloot and Jewell Loyd, second-time All-Stars host and first-time Atlanta Dream rookie Rhyne Howard, the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft.
ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel, Alexa Philippou and Kevin Pelton – all of whom were Media All-Star voters – share their thoughts on the biggest snubs, who should have started and more on the 22 players chosen. The 2022 WNBA All-Star Game airs July 10 (1 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN app)
What is the biggest All-Star snub and who would they replace in the current roster?
Mechelle Voepel: Indiana Fever guard Kelsey Mitchell (19.2 PPG) is the only player in the WNBA’s current top eight scorers not on the list. She’s currently fourth in PPG, tied for 12th in APG (4.1) and shooting 40.2 percent from 3-point range. If those numbers held up through the season, they would be the best of his five-year WNBA career.
Mitchell is playing for the final Fever spot, and it’s hard to defend against the other reserve guards for reasons that aren’t whether Mitchell is good enough to be an All-Star. She is. But as Andscape’s Sean Hurd wrote recently, she chose to stay the course in Indiana and try to rebuild the franchise. If it costs her praise now, she hopes the reward will be to finish the job.
Alexa Philippou: I thought Allisha Gray had good reason to earn an All-Star spot. The six-year veteran is having the best season of her career, averaging 14.5 points and 5.6 rebounds to go along with her usual strong defense. His 43.0% on 3 (5.2 tries per game) accuracy is second in the league among players attempting at least three treys per game, only behind Jackie Young.
Plus, advanced stats show her value to the Dallas Wings: she’s tied for fifth in the league with 3.0 win shares by Her Hoop Stats, and Dallas outscores opponents by 14.9 points per 100 possessions with her on the ground (the second highest mark on the team behind Teaira McCowan). Both numbers are slightly better than teammate and reserve All-Star Arike Ogunbowale (2.3, 10.5).
Kevin Pelton: Elena Delle Donne. I voted for Delle Donne among my starters, so I’m shocked that she wasn’t chosen by the coaches. Yes, she hasn’t been one of the league’s 10 most valuable players this season due to the number of games she has missed due to a minor injury and scheduled rest. But when she’s played, Delle Donne has been as good as anyone outside of top MVP candidates (she ranks sixth in my wins above the replacement player metric on a per-game basis). And the last time she was healthy before that, she was the MVP and led the Washington Mystics to a title. As long as she’s healthy, Delle Donne is still an All-Star in my book.
What’s the biggest surprise on the All-Star rosters?
Philippou: I’m always intrigued to see the discrepancies between how fans, media, players and coaches vote. Players were much lower on Diggins-Smith, Candace Parker and Delle Donne than fans and media. Meanwhile, fans were less on Ogunbowale, Mitchell and Jonquel Jones than on media and players. Mitchell, Tina Charles and Delle Donne were all top 10 in votes from all three groups for their respective positions – but none got the nod from the coaches.
For what’s supposed to be a showcase of league talent, is it fair that one of the 12 teams isn’t represented, especially when two teams make up more than a third of the picks – and when that wouldn’t be the case be forced to include a player from this exceptional team (i.e. Mitchell)? This renews the age-old debate over what should constitute an All-Star (especially versus, say, All-WNBA teams). But perhaps the fan vote should factor into the choice of reserves as well as starters.
Pelton: Diana Taurasi can’t do it. Strictly on the merits, it could have gone both ways. I didn’t have them on my All-Star list when we picked them on the HerHoopStats podcast last week. Yet it is Diana Taurasi, the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer. The only time she was eligible for an All-Star Game and not picked was in 2019, when she only played six games due to injury.
Voepel: The league might want to talk to the union about player voting. While there are players who do their due diligence to fill out their ballot, others don’t and may just list their teammates. Players are included in the voting panel because they obviously know whose names are still on the scouting reports and who they’re having the most trouble guarding or scoring against, etc. But not taking the vote seriously negates their expertise. And some don’t vote at all.
That said, there was nothing really surprising about the final list, although it’s somewhat surprising that the coaches didn’t choose Delle Donne or Taurasi – if not both. Because at their best, they are still in the top flight. The fan vote should probably be included in the reserves.
Which reserve should have been a starter?
Pelton: Diggins-Smith. It’s been a disappointing season for the Mercury, but I’m still shocked that Diggins-Smith finished 14th among guards in player voting, placing her as a below average starter. We’re talking about one of the most accomplished point guards in WNBA history, and it’s not like we don’t have proof that she can help her team win: Diggins-Smith has led Phoenix to the Finals just nine months ago.
Voepel: Diggins-Smith. She is well above the 14th best guard in the league and everyone knows it. It really showed that something was wrong with player voting – including voter turnout, if you will.
Philippou: Emma Meesseman was such a big factor in Chicago’s regular-season success this summer, but if you’re looking to start just one Chicago player, I don’t hate that Candace Parker gets the green light ahead of her — all the more that could be Parker’s last season in the WNBA.
I also think The Sun’s Brionna Jones remains criminally underrated in this league, even after winning Most Improved Player last season and looking for a likely lock for sixth woman of the year in 2022. She is No. 2 in win share, according to Her Hoop Stats, second only to Breanna Stewart.
Which first-time All-Star are you most impressed with this season?
Pelton: Kelsey Plum, if only because I expected Sabrina Ionescu to eventually reach this level of play. In Plum’s case, it’s more surprising to reach new heights two years out from injury potentially devastating to the Achilles tendon. For the Aces, Plum’s move from the bench to the starting lineup continued to unlock the scoring ability that made her the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer coming out of Washington as the No. general classification in 2017.
Voepel: We thought 2020 No. 1 pick Ionescu could be an immediate All-Star talent. But after losing most of his rookie year to a serious ankle injury, it now comes into its own. Candace Parker recently mentioned Ionescu, the all-time college triple-double leader for Oregon, as an example of a player who could make triple-doubles in the WNBA seem almost routine. Ionescu has had a triple-double this year and has come close three other times. It is very likely that she will have more before the end of the season.
Philippou: All. But if I only have to mention one, I’ll highlight Rhyne Howard, the team’s only rookie. Although she and the Atlanta Dream have calmed down a bit in recent weeks, her 16.2 points (league top 15) on 37.3% shooting from 3, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 interceptions per contest sum up how bad a 2022 first season No 1 pick has had.