The WNBA announced it will hold an All-Star Game in 2021, which hasn’t happened in a Summer Olympic year since 2000. The game will be held in Las Vegas, where it was hosted in 2019, on July 14. The event is exciting news for a fanbase that is just getting to see players in person again after the 2020 bubble was strictly televised. It’s big for the players, too, as every four years they were unable to add an All-Star accolade to their resumes regardless of play.
The league is putting a twist on how the game will function this time around. All-Stars chosen from Team USA will play against the rest of the field in a sort-of warm-up match before the group heads to Tokyo. As of June 15, Team USA’s Olympic roster has not been chosen, though the pool can be seen here.
Voting for the All-Star Game began at 2 p.m. ET on June 15, and fans count for 50 percent of the selection for the event. Votes will count twice on June 20 and June 27, and entries will close on June 27 at 11:59 pm. ET.
One of the best parts of the All-Star Game is getting to see new players earn that honor of being an All-Star, and this season there are plenty of players making cases for a first selection. Here are five worthy choices to consider sending to Vegas for their first All-Star experience.
1. Betnijah Laney, New York Liberty
If Laney isn’t an All-Star this year, we’re going to have a problem. The Liberty’s best player is playing even sharper than her breakout Most Improved Player of the Year-winning 2020 season, scoring 21.6 points per game on 48.7 percent shooting from the field and 38.1 percent from 3-point range with 5.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds. She’s scored 20 or more points in nine games this season… and she’s only played in 10 games.
Betnijah Laney dropped 20 PTS in the first half (7/11, 4/5 3PT) 👀⁰⁰What a start to her Liberty debut
— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) May 15, 2021
Laney isn’t just the Liberty’s star, she’s one of the league’s stars. It’s incredible to think she was cut by the Indiana Fever last year before the start of the season. Laney deserves a trip to the desert.
2. Arike Ogunbowale, Dallas Wings
It’s wild to think that Ogunbowale has yet to play in an All-Star Game despite winning the WNBA’s scoring championship last season, but the bubble had no mid-season honors for the league’s best players. Now’s the time to right that wrong. Ogunbowale is averaging 20.9 points per game on a shaky 38.6 percent shooting, but is sinking 35.9 percent of her 3-point looks while contributing 3.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
An All-Star Game isn’t right without the league’s most clutch player, who is already responsible for an 8-0 run in the final two minutes of a Wings’ 1-point win against the reigning champion Seattle Storm.
— Dallas Wings (@DallasWings) June 7, 2021
3. Marina Mabrey, Dallas Wings
The fourth-best offense in the league is led by Ogunbowale and her backcourt teammate, Mabrey. The two shared the floor at Notre Dame, and are now wrecking opponents in the big leagues. Few thought the 2019 No. 19 pick would make this big of an impact at the next level, but the sharpshooter is now the favorite to win the 2021 Most Improved Player of the Year award. Through 11 games, Mabrey is scoring 16.9 points on 46.1 percent shooting from the field and 39.2 percent shooting from 3-point range. She’s taking a ton of looks from distance too, firing 6.7 per night, while securing 5.7 boards, dishing 3.2 assists, and grabbing 1.5 steals.
If the stats aren’t enough, let Mabrey’s range be the reason why you want to see Dallas’s second-leading scorer at All-Star.
— 𝗥𝗲𝘆-𝗥𝗲𝘆 🤞🏾✌🏾 (@TheNoLookPass) May 30, 2021
4. Ariel Atkins, Washington Mystics
Atkins is one of the most under-the-radar two-way stars in the league. She was key in the Mystics 2019 championship win, and now the 5’8 wing is scoring a career-high 18 points on 45.5 percent shooting from the field and 45.5 percent shooting from 3-point range while often being tasked to guard the opponents’ best guards.
If my words aren’t enough, let her teammate Natasha Cloud explain:
— Kareem Copeland (@kareemcopeland) June 11, 2021
5. Courtney Williams, Atlanta Dream
In her second year since leaving the Connecticut Sun, Williams has found her shooting stroke. The six-year veteran is scoring a career-high 17.5 points per night largely due to her increased 3-point rate. She’s nearly doubled her attempts (6.6) and is making 44.2 percent of them while averaging 6.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists.
More than that, Williams has been there in the clutch. This game-winner against the Liberty is only a glimpse at the fun she could bring to All-Star weekend.