The Las Vegas Aces and Phoenix Mercury are both contenders for the WNBA title. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
STATS & ANALYSIS

2022 WNBA Season: A Boardroom Quick-start Guide

Boardroom has everything you need to know to get ready for the return of the WNBA, from top storylines to championship favorites.

Hoop fans have waited seven months to hear it, and the day has finally arrived. The WNBA is back, and its 2022 campaign has every chance to be the greatest ever.

Five-time Olympic gold medalists and all-time legends Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird are running it back for what could be the very last time. After falling short in the 2021 WNBA Finals, the Phoenix Mercury turned around and got even more talented. The Connecticut Sun appear poised for the best season in their 23-year history.

Unfortunately, the biggest story in the WNBA is the ongoing detention of Phoenix superstar Brittney Griner by Russian authorities following a February arrest. As play begins, the league will acknowledge her by displaying both her initials and the No. 12 she wears on the sideline of each team’s home court.

As players and fans continue to call in full voice for Griner’s release and safe return home, here’s everything you need to know to get ready for the return of the W in 2022.

Sign Up For Our Newsletters

Get on our list for sports business, industry trends, interviews, and more.

When does the 2022 WNBA season start, and how many games will be played?

The 2022 WNBA season begins on Friday, May 6.

One of the key changes this year in the W is a schedule expansion that will see each team play 36 games. The previous standard since 2003 had been 34 games, with last season (32 games) and the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign (22 games) being the only exceptions.

Who won the 2021 WNBA championship?

Despite a 16-16 regular season, the Chicago Sky — featuring hometown legend Candace Parker, no less — outlasted a stacked Phoenix Mercury team in four games to win the 2021 WNBA Finals. That capped an impressive 8-2 postseason run that saw the Sky go undefeated at home.

This year, Chicago will host the 2022 WNBA All-Star Game on July 10.

Who won WNBA MVP and the league’s other top awards in 2021?

WNBA MVP: Connecticut Sun PF/C Jonquel Jones
WNBA Finals MVP: Chicago Sky SG/SF Kahleah Copper
Defensive Player of the Year: Minnesota Lynx C Sylvia Fowles
Rookie of the Year: New York Liberty SF Michaela Onyenwere
Sixth Woman of the Year: Las Vegas Aces PG Kelsey Plum
Most Improved Player: Connecticut Sun PF Brionna Jones

Scoring champion: Washington Mystics C Tina Charles (23.4 points per game)
All-WNBA First Team: Phoenix Mercury PG Skylar Diggins-Smith, Seattle Storm PG/SG Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm PF Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones, Brittney Griner

Who’s the favorite to win the 2022 WNBA championship?

According to FanDuel Sportsbook, the betting favorites to win this year’s title are:

  1. Connecticut Sun: +350
  2. Las Vegas Aces: +360
  3. Chicago Sky: +460
  4. Seattle Storm: +500
  5. Phoenix Mercury: +600
What were the biggest WNBA offseason moves?
  • 2021 scoring champ Tina Charles left the Washington Mystics to sign with league runners-up Phoenix
  • Four-time All-Star Liz Cambage departed the Las Vegas Aces to join the Los Angeles Sparks
  • 2019 All-Star Diamond DeShields left the champion Sky to join the Mercury as part of a three-team sign-and-trade
  • The Sky also lost two-time All-Star center Stefanie Dolson to the New York Liberty in free agency
  • Lockdown defender Briann January departed the Connecticut Sun for a one-year deal with the Seattle Storm
  • Indiana Fever guard Kelsey Mitchell signed the offseason’s biggest contract: three years and $618,000
How much do WNBA players make?

As dictated by the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the WNBPA, the 2022 WNBA salary cap is set at $1,379,2002 per team, with a salary floor of $1,154,340. Additionally:

  • The highest WNBA base salary for 2022 is $228,094 for the season. Three players are set to earn that WNBA max salary: Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm and Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury.
  • The rookie minimum salary is $60,671
  • The WNBA average salary is approximately $120,000

Following the 2020 collective bargaining agreement, players are eligible to make as much as $650,000 when they take home a max salary and cash out on Commissioner’s Cup payouts and team and league marketing dollars.

How many teams are there in the WNBA in 2022?

The 2022 WNBA season will feature 12 teams, a number that’s remained consistent since 2010.

The league launched with eight teams in 1997 and has included as many as 16 teams between 2000 and 2002.

Are any WNBA expansion teams currently in the works?

It’s virtually certain that the league is going to expand beyond its 12 teams.

While cities like Toronto have been increasingly bandied about as expansion targets, keep an eye on an effort based in Oakland that includes four-time WNBA All-Star Alana Beard — particularly now that the NBA’s Warriors have moved across the Bay to San Francisco and the MLB’s A’s can’t seem to escape relocation rumors amid a stadium squabble in Alameda County.

What are the other top storylines to know about entering the 2022 WNBA season?
  • 2022 is the second year of the WNBA Commissioner’s Cup, a competition that made its debut in 2021. Structured within the existing buildout of the regular season — certain scheduled games are designated as Cup games — the event endured some growing pains last year, but offers an innovative blueprint (and a cash prize pool for players) that will continue to grow. The NBA may even borrow a page out of the Cup’s book one day.
  • The rebooted, renewed Indiana Fever are already generating buzz thanks to an excellent WNBA Draft performance. They welcome an exciting rookie class featuring first-rounders NaLyssa Smith, Emily Engstler, Lexie Hull and Queen Egbo, plus South Carolina national champ Destanni Henderson in the second round.
  • A debate is growing to a fever pitch regarding WNBA roster structure; seeing recent lottery picks cut from their teams is not nearly as uncommon as you’d think in the W. The most outrageous example? Crystal Dangerfield, the 2020 Rookie of the Year, was waived by the Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday alongside the team’s 2021 first-round selection, Rennia Davis.
Help me settle a bet… who is the WNBA logo based on?

Loose talk here and there might suggest that the W’s logo is a silhouette of the legendary Sue Bird. There is no legitimate evidence of this being settled fact. Rather, the WNBA publicly maintains that the logo is meant to represent every player who has participated in the league and helped it grow over the years.

Sign Up For Our Newsletters

Get on our list for sports business, industry trends, interviews, and more.

Subscribe

Enter your email below