WNBA 2023 schedule revealed: Best opening weekend matchups

Jun 26, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Lynx forward Aerial Powers (3) looks to pass the ball against Chicago Sky guard Julie Allemand (20) during the second half of a WNBA game at Wintrust Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 26, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Lynx forward Aerial Powers (3) looks to pass the ball against Chicago Sky guard Julie Allemand (20) during the second half of a WNBA game at Wintrust Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

The WNBA season tips off on May 19. With every team in action on opening weekend, which games stand out?

 The 2023 WNBA schedule is here. This season starts with a bang, with all 12 teams playing on opening weekend. Even though a lot will change in the 169 days between now and then, there are a handful of opening weekend matchups that are guaranteed to be great.

Here are a few must-see games, ordered chronologically.

New York Liberty @ Washington Mystics, May 19, 7 p.m. ET*

Perhaps the most exciting day one matchup, this game features two teams at very different yet equally important junctures.

The Liberty are coming off of another somewhat disappointing season. After signing Betnijah Laney and trading for Natasha Howard in 2021, the team had high hopes for the roster they had in place around Sabrina Ionescu. Things haven’t gone quite to plan, and they’re coming off their second consecutive sub-.500 season. That said, the Liberty have snuck into the playoffs both years, and stole a game from the Sky last season. Another year with Sandy Brondello could be what this team needs to take the leap they’ve been working towards.

On the other hand, the Mystics are a few years removed from their 2019 title, but still have some key pieces from that team in place. Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins both made WNBA All-Defense last year, and Shakira Austin has already shown the ability to anchor the back line on that end. They still have two-time MVP, Elena Delle Donne, as well, who appears to be healthy again. This game will also be Eric Thibault’s debut as full-time head coach as he replaces his father, Mike, who retired this offseason.

The key matchup in this game will be Ionescu against Cloud and Atkins. Ionescu has shown the ability to go supernova, but at times shrinks against stronger, more physical defenders. The Liberty’s success in this game (and the season at large) starts with her.

Chicago Sky @ Minnesota Lynx, May 19, 8 p.m. ET

A battle of two teams that could look a lot different in 2023, Sky-Lynx will be a must-see. The Sky fell short of their championship goal last season and are looking to be right back in the mix again in 2023. That said, they have a lot of roster questions that are currently lingering. Candace Parker is (likely) returning. They still have 2021 Finals MVP Kahleah Copper. From there, things get a bit hazy. Courtney Vandersloot, Emma Meesseman, Azurá Stevens, and Allie Quigley are all unrestricted free agents. The championship expectation will be around as long as Parker is, but the next contender in Chicago could look drastically different than the 2021 championship team.

Meanwhile, the Lynx will get their first look at how franchise cornerstone Napheesa Collier looks as the focal point of a team without Fowles. The Lynx have their core pieces under contract for 2023, and not much else. Collier, ’22 leading scorer Aerial Powers, and sharpshooter Kayla McBride will be a dynamic trio to watch. Jessica Shepard took a big leap in 2022 and emerged as a strong rotation piece. From there? Question marks. Damiris Dantas, Rachel Banham, and Moriah Jefferson are all unrestricted free agents. Jefferson in particular was vital to the Lynx in 2022. Who will Minnesota have on the bench?

The key matchup in this game will be on the sidelines. James Wade and Cheryl Reeve are both coach-GMs and will have the ability to build their roster to their liking before this game. Who will build and lead the better team?

Las Vegas Aces @ Seattle Storm, May 20, 3 p.m. ET*

The marquee matchup of opening weekend is a rematch of one of last season’s semifinal series. The Aces are coming off their first championship in franchise history, and have essentially their entire rotation returning. A’ja Wilson took home her second MVP and first DPOY in 2022. Chelsea Gray just had one of the greatest playoff runs ever. Jackie Young continues to improve across the board. Oh yeah, and they still have Kelsey Plum. With reigning Coach of the Year Becky Hammon at the helm, the Aces should be a force to be reckoned with once again.

For Seattle, they’re stepping into a new era, like the Lynx. Sue Bird is gone. There’s a chance Breanna Stewart will be, too. Jewell Loyd and Mercedes Russell are the only two players currently under contract, and Ezi Magbegor will likely return in free agency. Every other spot is vacant. Still, the Storm will be a threat this season. Noelle Quinn is a genius of a coach who has continued the streak of greatness Dan Hughes started. Loyd is one of the best shooting guards in the WNBA. Magbegor flashed tremendous improvement and even more potential last season as Seattle’s starter. The few pieces the Storm have in place make them a great destination for free agents in a class with a handful of top talents available.

The key matchup in this game is also on the sidelines. Both Hammon and Quinn have enjoyed tremendous success in their young coaching careers. Both being former players adds a level of intrigue to every matchup between them.

*denotes Commissioner’s Cup game

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