The 2021 WNBA All-Star Game might be the most competitive event in the league’s 25-year history. Typically, the WNBA doesn’t hold All-Star Games during Olympic seasons, but this year, the league will have its 12 All-Stars play against Dawn Staley’s Team USA roster in an exhibition match before the group heads to Tokyo.
It’s a brilliant idea that will put 24 of the best players on the court and give them incentive to actually play. For Team USA, this game is just one of three pre-Olympic opportunities before things get real, and for the All-Stars, it’s a chance to avenge an Olympic roster snub or impress scouts for 2024.
Here’s who’s playing on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET July 14:
With the rosters so stacked, it shouldn’t surprise many if the WNBA All-Stars take down Team USA. And no — if it happens, that does not mean Team USA is in trouble of winning a seventh consecutive gold medal.
Let’s look at a few reasons why an upset could be brewing.
1. Jonquel Jones is the best player in the world right now
Team USA may have the better roster, but Jonquel Jones is the best player in the world. The 6’6 center, who can stretch the floor, blow by defenders, and use her size in the post has dominated both the WNBA and EuroBasket over the last two months. The MVP frontrunner is unstoppable, and if the All-Stars can pull off the win, it’s likely because of Jones’ performance.
2. Team USA doesn’t have experience playing together yet
Team USA hasn’t played a game together yet, and the WNBA season only officially took its midseason break on Monday. They’re going to be learning a lot on the fly. We already saw the men’s USA squad drop two of its first three exhibition games, and it wouldn’t be too shocking if the women’s team doesn’t click right away either.
3. The All-Stars are playing with a purpose, too
There’s a lot of underlying beef in this game. Candace Parker, who was snubbed from the Olympic team in 2016 and been outspoken about the “politics” behind the program’s roster decisions, will compete for the All-Stars. She’ll be teammates with Arike Ogunbowale, last season’s WNBA leading scorer who didn’t make this year’s Olympic roster, and one of Team USA’s biggest threats at winning gold in Australian center Liz Cambage. They’ll want to put on a show.
4. Diana Taurasi is unlikely to play for Team USA
It hasn’t been confirmed yet, but Taurasi is unlikely to play due to a hip injury. She missed the last two regular season games.
“I probably won’t play. My goal is to be ready for the Olympics,” Taurasi said according to ESPN. “Preparation is key. So at this point in my career, I think being ready for Tokyo is what’s best for our team and me. So I’m taking it day by day. I’m getting better, and I’ll be fine once the real games start.”
5. The WNBA All-Stars are stacked with scoring guards
Good luck to anyone trying to stop a backcourt with Ogunbowale and Betnijah Laney launching shots from everywhere. Chelsea Gray, Sue Bird, Skylar Diggins-Smith, and Ariel Atkins will have their hands full against the duo scoring 37.9 points per game combined.
6. The WNBA All-Stars could have the better starting five
We’re waiting to see which five players each side will roll with to start, but it’s very possible the All-Stars could play the most unguardable unit of all. With Ogunbowale at point, DeWanna Bonner and Parker facilitating plays as point-forwards, Jones dominating inside-out basketball, and Cambage in the post, this team straight up does not have a weakness.