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The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, June 21, 2023

Happy Basketball Wednesday! I had the honor of casting a media ballot once again for the 2023 WNBA All Star game’s starters. It is not a pleasure, exactly — the decisions call for choosing undeniably great players over other, also undeniably great players. So I take a great deal of pride in the process, but it isn’t easy.

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As always, I waited until the last possible moment to submit my ballot to be sure I’d gotten every bit of data, talked to people around the league, and made my best effort to see my choices reflect the reality of the WNBA.

The caveats, as always: this is ultimately one person’s opinion, the more certain you have the only correct choices, the sillier you are, and if you spend a lot of time angry about this online, you should re-examine your life choices.

I was allowed six frontcourt players, four backcourt players, with those designations made by the league. In this world of positionless basketball, I continue to hope that process will change, and we’ll be voting for ten players, regardless of position, very soon. In the meantime? Here’s my ballot, in alphabetical order by position.

Frontcourt players (6)

Aliyah Boston: A top-five player in the league by virtually any metric, she’s shooting north of 66 percent from the field, she’s defending at an elite level already, and she’s carried the Indiana Fever into solid playoff contention. She’d be somewhere on my MVP ballot right now, too.

Napheesa Collier: With significantly less help than she had before her pregnancy, Collier is almost always the best player on the floor, willing her Lynx team to victories, while somehow improving her efficiency in virtually every metric. If the Lynx reach the playoffs, she needs to be in the MVP conversation, too.

Nneka Ogwumike: She’s scoring and defending the way she always does, but not only is her rebounding percentage currently at a career-high level, she’s almost doubled her assist percentage, all for a team solidly in the playoff mix.

Satou Sabally: No disrespect to Arike Ogunbowale, but Sabally might be the generally acknowledged best player on the Wings by the end of the 2023 season. She’s scoring at all three levels, and you can’t foul her — FT percentage is a Delle Donne-esque 93.3 percent. She’s sixth in the league in rebounding percentage and typically guarding the best opposing big wing. Her emergence and health is as big a story in the WNBA this season as any.

Breanna Stewart: What’s even left to say? She came to a new city, system and teammates, and she’s at 50-40-84 while scoring and rebounding more than she ever has. And it’s tempting to wonder whether this fully reflects what she could do if New York played more close games.

A’ja Wilson: Somehow, A’ja’s a bit more efficient from the field while doing everything else she did in 2022, when she was ::checks notes:: MVP for a team that won the title. So yeah, we’ll keep her here in the starting lineup.

Dear god, I can’t believe I didn’t vote for: Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones, Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne.

Backcourt players (4)

Allisha Gray: I’m mad at Allisha Gray, because she’s been, by far, the best player in the modern era to never make an all star team, and I just don’t think people can ignore what she’s doing as the top option for the Atlanta Dream. I think Atlanta’s a top-six, if not a top-four team in this league, right now, and the dominant reason why is that Dan Padover identified Gray as a number one option on a contending team, and proceeded accordingly.

Chelsea Gray: She’s this unstoppable force when she gets downhill, we all know this, and everyone was laughing when she shot 54 percent from three during last year’s playoffs, because: what are you going to do to stop Chelsea Gray when she does that? And then Gray goes, “Why don’t I shoot north of 50 percent from three for the whole damn season?”

Sabrina Ionescu: She’s third in made threes in the WNBA this season, with a significantly higher percentage taking them than the two players ahead of her, Ogunbowale and Jewell Loyd. Her turnover percentage is below 12. She’s second on the Liberty in rebounding and tied with Stewart in plus/minus. She’s managed to cede some of the spotlight while getting better in the process.

Jackie Young: She’s one made field goal from being off to a 60-40-80 start, and no, that’s not a typo. Even this undersells her offense — she’s at almost 47 percent from three, and she’s doing it while often guarding the best perimeter player on the opposing team. Not that Young or Wilson will care, but the biggest threat to either of them running off a string of MVP award seasons should Vegas finish atop the WNBA in the regular season could be coming from inside their own locker room.

Dear god, I can’t believe I didn’t vote for: Jewell Loyd, Arike Ogunbowale, Kelsey Mitchell.

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Five at The IX: Kalani Brown

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Written by Howard Megdal

Howard is the founder of The Next and editor-in-chief.