10 must-watch WNBA games in 2020

Jan 20, 2020

Mechelle VoepelESPN.com

CloseMechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

In 2020, the New York Liberty will have a new home at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a new coach in Walt Hopkins and possibly a new star in Sabrina Ionescu. The Liberty will have the No. 1 pick in April’s draft, and the Oregon guard is considered the likely choice.

The Washington Mystics, meanwhile, will be trying to repeat as WNBA champion, but will have to see how healthy last year’s MVP, Elena Delle Donne, is.

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And we will see if some big names who missed 2019 for various reasons return in 2020, such as the Seattle Storm’s Breanna Stewart (Achilles tendon) and Sue Bird (knee), the Minnesota Lynx’s Maya Moore (sabbatical), the Atlanta Dream’s Angel McCoughtry (knee) and the Dallas Wings’ Skylar Diggins-Smith (maternity leave).

There’s all that and more to anticipate. And with the league releasing its schedule last week a few days after the announcement of a tentative deal on a new eight-year collective bargaining agreement, we can take a look toward the summer, and what could be some of the most-anticipated days of the 2020 WNBA season.

1. May 15-17: Opening weekend

The season starts with three games on Friday, May 15, and Dallas at Seattle might be the most intriguing. We should get to see how 2018 MVP Stewart is doing, if she’s back, and possibly the league debut of Baylor forward Lauren Cox, if she’s the Wings’ pick at No. 2.

On Saturday, May 16, Ionescu could make her WNBA debut with New York at the Connecticut Sun. Also that day, the Los Angeles Sparks will face the Mystics (ESPN/ESPN App, 4 p.m. ET). Some thought this would be the WNBA Finals matchup last year. The Sparks, last seen imploding against the Sun in the semifinals, will have to show if the turmoil is behind them, as coach Derek Fisher kept his job, but general manager Penny Toler didn’t.

On Sunday, May 17, the Liberty will play their first home game of the season, as New York hosts Los Angeles. And one of the league’s longtime rivalries gets underway for 2020, with Seattle at the Phoenix Mercury.

May 16Sparks at MysticsESPN, 4 p.m.June 2Storm at MysticsESPN2, 8 p.m.June 6Mercury at AcesABC, 3 p.m.June 7Sparks at LynxABC, 3 p.m.June 16Mercury at LibertyESPN2, 8 p.m.June 16Aces at SparksESPN2, 8 p.m.June 23Storm at WingsESPN2, 8 p.m.June 23Mercury at SparksESPN2, 10 p.m.June 27Sky at AcesESPN2, 4 p.m.June 28Sun at MysticsESPN2, 3 p.m.July 2Sun at LibertyESPN2, 8 p.m.Aug. 16Lynx at SunESPN, noonAug. 25Sparks at SkyESPN2, 8 p.m.Aug. 25Lynx at StormESPN2, 10 p.m.Sept. 6Mystics at MercuryABC, 3 p.m.Sept. 13Mercury at StormABC, 3 p.m.Sept. 20Sun at MysticsABC, 3 p.m.2. May 20: Mystics at Fever

Marianne Stanley spent 13 seasons total in Washington as a head coach and as an assistant. She finally got to celebrate a title with the Mystics last year, and then moved on to replace Pokey Chatman as head coach of the Indiana Fever. The Fever will get an early test against her former team.

3. May 31: Lynx at Liberty

The franchises essentially did a coach swap: Hopkins, who had been a Minnesota assistant, took over at New York. Former Liberty head coach Katie Smith then filled the opening on Cheryl Reeve’s staff with the Lynx. Smith played 6½ seasons with Minnesota during her 15-year WNBA career.

4. June 9: Liberty at Mystics

Hopkins wants the Liberty to be a team that takes smarter shots. How much progress will they make in that regard before meeting the defending champs?

5. June 27: Sky at Aces

The Chicago Sky return to the scene of the “crime”: The Sky had a two-point lead and the ball in the hands of point guard Courtney Vandersloot with 7.2 seconds left in a second-round single-elimination playoff game last year in Las Vegas. But the Las Vegas Aces’ Dearica Hamby stole a pass and then made a 3-pointer from just inside the half-court line with 5 seconds left. She didn’t realize she had more time, but the circus shot worked for the Aces, who won 93-92 and moved on to the semifinals, while the stunned Sky went home.

The Aces remain a team whose young core has a lot of promise, and they’ll try to fulfill that this season.

The game is on ESPN2/ESPN App at 4 p.m. ET.

Alyssa Thomas and the Sun took Elena Delle Donne and the Mystics to five games last season in the WNBA Finals. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images6. June 28: Sun at Mystics

Last year’s finalists have their first of three meetings this season. The Sun, runners-up in a thrilling five-game WNBA Finals last year, hope they can take that last step to a title.

The game is on ESPN2/ESPN App at 3 p.m. ET.

7. July 10: Last games before Olympic break

All 12 teams play on this Friday before the Summer Games begin in Tokyo on July 24. Provided both the Liberty and Wings hold onto their draft picks, this will be the first meeting of the Nos. 1 and 2 selections, in a matinee in Brooklyn.

These are also the final games that will count toward the Commissioner’s Cup, the first in-season tournament in WNBA history. The championship is tentatively scheduled to be played Aug. 14, between the top team from each conference. The Cup standings will be determined from 10 games for each team (the first home and road games against conference opponents).

8. Aug. 16: WNBA back in action after Olympic break

Again, all 12 teams will play on this Sunday. The game of the day might be another of the league’s longtime rivalries, as the Sparks face the Mercury in Phoenix.

Connecticut also hosts Minnesota on ESPN/ESPN App at noon ET.

9. Sept. 13: Sky at Liberty

If Ionescu is with New York, this could be her third game of the season against Vandersloot. Both were coached in college by Kelly Graves. Vandersloot (out of Gonzaga) led the WNBA in assists last season (9.1 per game), and Ionescu currently leads Division I (8.6 per game).

Seattle also hosts Phoenix on ABC at 3 p.m. ET.

10. Sept 20: Final day of the regular season

All teams are in action, and some playoff positions still may be on the line. The 2019 finalists, the Mystics and the Sun, meet in Washington on ABC (3 p.m. ET).

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