The WNBA season is just around the corner and, while things will be a little bit different this time around, it’s a campaign which could prove to be one of the most enthralling yet.
By
Nick Houghton

23 Jul 2020 - 11:40 AM  UPDATED 23 Jul 2020 - 11:41 AM

WATCH 27 WNBA, NBA games in seven weeks - starting Sunday, July 26 - LIVE, FREE and in HD on SBS VICELAND and live streamed via SBS on Demand. 

There has a been a huge shake-up of the WNBA format as the league has taken the 2020 season into a bubble due to the COVID-19 crisis.

While a new collective bargaining agreement had allowed for a 36-game regular season, along with a mid-season Cup tournament, it has since been reduced to 22 games per team with no fans allowed into Florida's IMG Academy.

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How to watch WNBA LIVE on SBS
The WNBA is set to take centre court on Australian screens this season - with a host of games LIVE, FREE and in HD on SBS VICELAND and SBS On Demand.

Ahead of the season start, we take a look at five reasons why the 2020 WNBA season is one not to be missed.

STARS TO WATCH

The WNBA is not short on star talent this season and here are three players you should watch out for. 

Las Vegas Aces superstar in the making, A’Ja Wilson will have the responsibility of carrying most of the burden with Liz Cambage sitting out this season due to health concerns.

Wilson has the potential to be the biggest star in the league and without the need to share the limelight with Cambage, she could be about to deliver her biggest season yet.

Another player to keep an eye out for is Seattle Storm’s Breanna Stewart, who returns to action after an Achilles injury sidelined her for 12 months.

Stewart, the 2018 WNBA MVP, has a point to prove and is the league’s best player when in form.

Finally, one player you can’t miss is Diamond DeShields of the Chicago Sky.

The rising star has the potential to be the league's most dynamic player with her slick finishing skills and ability to find the basket. 

THE WNBA BUBBLE 

Just like the NBA, the WNBA season will be played in a bubble as the coronavirus crisis continues to grip the United States and the world.

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All 12 teams will be based at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida - with a condensed 22 round season to take place inside the venue.

Superstar guard Sue Bird recently told ESPN: “The bubble is part summer camp, mixed in with the Olympic village, playing overseas and in a tournament with a little bit of college life thrown in.” 

It is sure to create plenty of interesting storylines - with the shortened schedule and intense environment providing new challenges never faced before.

How players adapt to life in the ‘Wubble’, as it’s been affectionately named by players, will go a long way to deciding who takes out the title. 

THE IONESCU SHOW

Everyone in the world of basketball can’t wait to see record-breaking Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu take to the court this season. 

The brilliant point guard was drafted first overall by New York Liberty and has been likened to NBA top pick Zion Williamson in terms of the impact she could have during her rookie campaign.

Ionescu was incredible during her college career at Oregon, becoming the first player - male or female - to score 2000 points, make 1000 assists and grab 1000 rebounds.

The 5’11 guard has enjoyed some of the biggest names in the game backing her skills, including Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry, as well as the late Kobe Bryant - who worked with Ionescu during the season, and was considered a close friend.

If Ionescu can live up to her massive potential, then WNBA fans could be witnessing a player who could very easily go on to become one of the all-time greats of the game. 

AUSSIES IN ACTION

Four Australian players are expected to take the court in the WNBA this season, when the comeptition tips-off at the IMG Academy this weekend.

While superstar Liz Cambage of the Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty's Rebecca Allen have decided to sit out the season on health grounds, the Aussie contingent will still be players to keep an eye on.

Leilani Mitchell re-joined the reigning WNBA champions - the Washington Mystics - this season, after a successful two-year stint with the Phoenix Mercury. 

The American-born Australian, who now calls Newcastle home, had the best WNBA season of her career in 2019 to claim the league’s Most Improved Player award for the second time. 

The 35-year-old point guard will have big shoes to fill during her second stint with the Mystics, as she replaces all-star guard Kristi Toliver who has joined Los Angeles for the upcoming season. 

Mitchell’s long-range game is one of her strong points, shooting 39.6 per cent from behind the arc. 

With one eye on a place in the Opals team for the rescheduled 2021 Tokyo Olympics, Mitchell will be one Aussie to watch out for this season.

The Seattle Storm continue their affinity for Australian talent this season with Sami Whitcomb and Eziyoda Magbegor on the roster.

It will be a unique rookie season for Magbegor, who will be out to force her way into the Storm rotation.

The 20-year-old joins the WNBA for the first time after being drafted 12th overall by Seattle in 2019.

She sat out last season to play in Australia’s WNBL competition with the Melbourne Boomers, but is now ready to show what she can do stateside.

Magbegor, a 6’4 centre, has been likened to former Australian and Seattle Storm great Lauren Jackson - while also being coronated as the future of the Opals by Phoenix and Australia head coach Sandy Bondello.

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Opals forward Eziyoda Magbegor will look to learn as much as she can this season as the Seattle Storm set out for their fourth WNBA championship.

The pressure will be on Magbegor to perform, but expect plenty of excitement from the rising star this season.

Her Australian teammate Sami Whitcomb will most likely play the role of spark plug from the bench for Seattle this season, and will be hoping to beat her team-leading tally of 63 three-pointers from last season.

In Phoenix, Aussie Alanna Smith has a chance to cement her spot as the Mercury’s starting power forward, after usual starter Jessica Breland decided to sit out the season.

Second-year player Smith will be hoping she can bounce back from ankle surgery to challenge teammate Brianna Turner for a place in the starting five.

Smith, a first-round draft pick, will offer Phoenix plenty of options in attack with her long-range shooting helping the Mercury to stretch the floor.

CAN ANYONE STOP SEATTLE STORM?

The Seattle Storm will go into the 2020 season as the favourites to take home the title, but will their superstar team live up to their billing?

The quintet of Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd, Alysha Clark, Breanna Stewart and Natasha Howard makes the Storm the best show in all of basketball this summer. 

If the Storm can integrate their new pieces and old faces effectively, Seattle will be the clear favourite to come away with the WNBA championship for the second time in three years.

Western Conference rivals Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles are missing several key players this campaign and may struggle to match it with the depth of the Storm.

Reigning league champions, the Washington Mystics have lost MVP Elena Delle Donne - who is sitting out of the season on health grounds, while several other key squad members have moved on.

On paper, Seattle are on track for their fourth WNBA title and second in three years, however the game isn’t played on paper and life in the bubble may throw a spanner in the works. 

The Washington Mystics will tip-off the season against the Indiana Fever on July 26, in what is the first game of an exciting slate on SBS - the free-to-air home of basketball.

WNBA, NBA schedule LIVE on SBS VICELAND and SBS On Demand

 

Sunday, July 26

WNBA - Indiana Fever v Washington Mystics

7:00am – 9:00am

 

Monday, July 27

WNBA - Dallas Wings v Atlanta Dream

7:00am – 9:00am

 

Wednesday, July 29

WNBA - Minnesota Lynx v Seattle Storm

12:00pm – 2:00pm

 

Thursday, July 30

WNBA - Dallas Wings v New York Liberty

10:00am - 12:00pm

 

Thursday, July 30

WNBA - Atlanta Dream v Las Vegas Aces

12:00pm – 2:00pm

 

Saturday, August 1

NBA - Sacramento Kings v San Antonio Spurs

10:00am – 12:30pm   

 

Sunday, August 2

NBA - Philadelphia 76ers  v Indiana Pacers

9:00am – 11:30am 

 

Monday, August 3

NBA - Dallas Mavericks  v Phoenix Suns

11:00am - 1:30pm 

 

Tuesday, August 4

NBA - San Antonio Spurs v Philadelphia 76ers  

10:00am – 12:30pm 

 

Thursday, August 6

NBA - Toronto Raptors v Orlando Magic  

10:00am – 12:30pm 

 

Saturday, August 8

NBA - Sacramento Kings v Brooklyn Nets

7:00am – 9:30am 

 

Monday, August 10

NBA - Houston Rockets v Sacramento Kings

10:00am – 12:30pm 

 

Thursday August 13

Indiana Pacers v Houston Rockets

06:00am - 08:30am

 

Thursday, August 13

Miami Heat v Oklahoma City Thunder

10:00am – 12:30pm

 

Saturday, August 15

WNBA - Connecticut Sun v Chicago Sky

9:00am – 11:00am

 

Sunday, August 16

WNBA - New York Liberty v Minnesota Lynx

8:00am – 10:00am

 

Wednesday, August 19

WNBA - Indiana Fever v Connecticut Sun

9:00am - 11:00am

 

Thursday, August 20

WNBA - Atlanta Dream v Washington Mystics

9:00am – 11:00am

 

Friday, August 21

WNBA - Chicago Sky v New York Liberty

9:00am - 11:00am

 

Sunday, August 23

WNBA - Indiana Fever v Chicago Sky

4:00am – 6:00am

 

Thursday, August 27

WNBA - Los Angeles Sparks v Minnesota Lynx

10:00am – 12:00pm

 

Sunday, August 30

WNBA - Dallas Wings v Indiana Fever

2:00am – 4:00am

 

Thursday, September 3

WNBA - Los Angeles Sparks v Dallas Wings

10:00am – 12:00pm

 

Monday, September 7

WNBA - Chicago Sky v Los Angeles Sparks

10:00am – 12:00pm

 

Thursday, September 10

WNBA - Atlanta Dream v Chicago Sky

10:00am - 12:00pm

 

Friday, September 11

WNBA - New York Liberty v Indiana Fever

9:00am – 11:00am

 

Saturday, September 12

WNBA - Seattle Storm v Phoenix Mercury

12:00pm – 2:00pm

 

All times in AEST