Six weeks of the best women’s basketball play in the world is finally upon us yet again. So it’s time for you to find out everything you need to know about the 2023 WNBA Playoffs. Today we’ll reveal which teams made the bracket (plus the ‘underdogs’ and specific players most likely to make an impact to keep an eye out for!), the Playoff schedule, how to watch, and much more.
Keep in mind that last year a new WNBA Playoffs format was rolled out. So the postseason structure now includes three rounds of series-play using a best-of 3-5-5 format. This format provides the top eight teams with a consistent start to their playoff runs, and has been well received by players and fans alike, despite possible issues with lack of chartered flights if there are extra games in the first round.
Eight franchises secured playoff contention this year and are gearing up to make the postseason push. These teams include the Las Vegas Aces, New York Liberty, Connecticut Sun, Dallas Wings, Minnesota Lynx, Atlanta Dream, Washington Mystics, and the Chicago Sky. While it’s no surprise to see the two ‘super teams’ (Las Vegas and New York) at the top of the regular season standings, it’s remarkable that Dallas and Atlanta – two teams that have been busy rebuilding the past few years – have cracked the top five. They’re definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut: OK there’s a reason Alyssa is in discussion for MVP candidacy this year, and even has folks on other teams rooting or her. The forward set a WNBA record for most double-doubles in a single season, and leads the W in triple-doubles.
Napheesa Collier, Minnesota: In addition to starting her own league this year (Unrivaled with Breanna Stewart), the three-time WNBA All-Star is in her first full season back since giving birth to her daughter, and boasts the fourth-highest points per game average. When does she sleep? It’s not during playoff games.
A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas: Despite a well rounded core with high caliber players such as Kelsey Plum, Chelsea Gray, and Jackie Young, Vegas seems to rise and fall based on A’ja’s play. A’ja finished second in the W in rebounds this year and posted a record-tying 53-point game. Look for her to bring the heat!
Marina Mabrey, Chicago: While phenom guard Kahleah Copper has delivered a slew of double-double performances, her stability has to be complemented by another player for this team to get the results they want. With an average of 15 points per game, if Marina’s sharp shooting is on fire, this team will do best.
Breanna Stewart, New York: MVP-candidate Breanna Stewart again this year had a historic season delivering a career-high in both scoring and assists. Breanna is a top-notch playmaker and can consistently shoot threes which gives her other teammates, such as All-Star three-point contest winning Sabrina Ionescu, room to score.
Elena Delle Donne, Washington: Brittney Sykes is another super athletic player (who’s delivered eye catching results in clutch moments) to keep an eye on, but Elena Delle Donne (or rather her absence) has consistently been a difference maker for DC. The team first beat the Aces on the night she played and scored 21 points.
Rhyne Howard, Atlanta: A top-five three-point shooter in the league this year, Rhyne is a triple threat scorer who’s averaged 17.5 points per game this year. When she has a big night, her now teammate and pal Allisha Gray is likely to, too. Already back at the start o the season head coach Tanisha Wright told Winsidr, “I think [Howard and Gray have] had really good chemistry so far on the court but even off the court. I think that’s where it started. I think once we acquired Lish, Rhyne made a concerted effort to go out and start building that relationship with Lish. I think because of that, they were both excited to play on the court with one another.”
Satou Sabally, Dallas: While Arike gets tons of defensive attention (and rightully so), Most Improved Player of the Year candidate, Satou, is the key to spreading the floor and this team’s success. Averaging 18 points per game this season, she’s a real threat in the paint and from the three, when she’s on. Dallas has never made it out of the first round — but this could be the year that changes!
Ryan Roucco recently joined JJ Redick for his the podcast The Old Man and The Three, and they dug into all things WNBA Playoffs. They discussed whether the Las Vegas Aces are truly “inevitable”, the phenomenal play of A’ja Wilson and why Candace Parker’s injury is very underrated. The guys also talked about the New York Liberty’s incredible season, then they get into why Alyssa Thomas is a deserving MVP candidate leading the Connecticut Sun to an amazing season. And finally why the Dallas Wings have the best chance to upset one of the favorites to make a deep playoff run.
You can easily explore this year’s WNBA Playoff schedule here. The eight teams with the highest winning percentages over a 36-game schedule regardless of conference qualified for the playoffs and have been seeded based on their records. All eight playoff teams participate in first-round, bracket-style play consisting of four best-of-three series.
In one bracket, first-round play places the No. 1 seed facing the No. 8 seed and the No. 4 seed versus the No. 5 seed in a best-of-three series, with the winners advancing to a best-of-five semifinals series against one another. In the other bracket, the No. 3 seed faces the No. 6 seed and the No. 2 seed meets the No. 7 seed, with the winners moving on to face one another in the other best-of-five semifinals series.
The winners of the semifinals series then meet in the WNBA Finals, which also is a best-of-five series, to determine the WNBA champion. Additional elements regarding the playoff structure are as follows:
“We have been evaluating different playoff formats over the past 12 months, and the new playoff format being announced today will enable fans to engage with all of the league’s best teams and top stars right from the start of the postseason with all eight championship contenders immediately involved in exciting, first-round action,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert back in 2021.
“Following significant discussions with our Competition Committee and a Playoff subcommittee we formed last year, it was clear that while the prior format’s single-elimination games created a win-and-advance level of excitement to the start of the postseason, the new best-of-three series format will provide added opportunities to create and showcase rivalries with all playoff-eligible teams participating.”
Disney platforms will cover every moment of the 2023 WNBA Playoffs Presented by Google, beginning Wednesday, Sept. 13, featuring the two teams from the 2022 WNBA Finals, the defending WNBA champion and No. 1 overall seeded Las Vegas Aces, and the third-seeded Connecticut Sun.
All WNBA playoff games will be broadcast on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2. To watch the 2023 WNBA semifinals online, you can stream every game at ESPN.com or on the ESPN app, or on the ABC live website. You can also see all the games online after they’re over by watching the recordings on WNBA League Pass. See more information on how to watch WNBA games here.
The Sun and the Aces take the court Wednesday night to open the best-of-three-first round series for their respective game 1 matchups. The league’s all-time triple-double leader Alyssa Thomas and the Connecticut Sun host three-time All-Star Napheesa Collier and the Minnesota Lynx (6th seed) at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
At 10 p.m. ET, reigning MVP and Defensive Player of the Year A’ja Wilson leads the Las Vegas Aces on their quest to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001-02, when they host 2021 WNBA Finals MVP Kahleah Copper and the Chicago Sky (8th seed).
The action continues Friday when five-time All-WNBA selection Breanna Stewart and the New York Liberty (2nd seed) begin their quest to win the franchise’s first WNBA Championship, hosting the Washington Mystics (7th seed) at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2. The Liberty, one of the league’s “superteams,” will face a tough first-round opponent in the Mystics – a team that defeated New York on opening day and again on the final day of the regular season.
Then, Arike Ogunbowale a top-five scorer in the WNBA the last five seasons, and the Dallas Wings (4th seed) host the 2022 WNBA Rookie of the Year, Rhyne Howard, and the Atlanta Dream (5th seed) at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Game 2 matchups are scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 17 and Tuesday, Sept. 19, across ESPN, and ABC. If necessary, the series-deciding Game 3s will be played Wednesday, Sept. 20 and Friday, Sept. 22.
The WNBA Playoffs Presented by Google semifinal series begin Sunday, Sept. 24, and the 2023 WNBA Finals presented by YouTube TV tips off Sunday, Oct. 8 on ABC.
In addition to featuring every game of the WNBA Playoffs, presentation across Disney platforms will include WNBA Countdown Presented by Google studio shows, as well as Hoop Streams Presented by Google WNBA digital pregame shows. Hosted by LaChina Robinson, the first Countdown special is a 60-minute edition on Wednesday, Sept. 13, on ESPN2 leading into the Mystics at Liberty game. The Hoop Streams playoffs show will be hosted by Terrika Foster-Brasby and Christine Williamson and stream on the first day of each round (1st round, semifinals, and Finals).
Get your popcorn ready and save your spot on the couch! Here are the nights you now have plans – the updated Playoffs schedule is as follows:
Here’s the WNBA 2023 playoffs bracket. To kick things off, the No. 6 Lynx take on the No. 3 Sun at 8 pm ET on Wednesday September 13, followed by the No. 1 Aces vs. the No. 8 Sky at 10 pm in a doubleheader on ESPN.
Prior to the updated 2022 format, the playoff format was previously updated in 2016, and consisted of four rounds using a 1-1-5-5 format, with two single elimination rounds and the No. 1 and 2 seeds receiving double-byes into the semifinals.
WNBA Playoffs: It begins with the single-elimination playoffs. Each year, the eight teams with the highest winning percentages, regardless of conference, qualify for the playoffs and are seeded based on their record. There are four playoff rounds. And the top two seeds receive a bye to the semifinals (third round), and the third and fourth seeds receive a bye to the second round.
WNBA Semifinals: The semifinals feature a best-of-five format, with the number one overall seed playing the lowest remaining seed and the number two overall seed meeting the remaining team.
WNBA Finals: The winner of the WNBA Finals is determined through a 2–2–1 format. The first, second, and fifth games of the series are played at the arena of the team who earned home court advantage by having the better record during the regular season.
Though not everyone was pleased with the format update reported Khristina Williams for Girls Talk Sports TV. When she asked Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird about the current playoff format back in 2020, Sue shared:
“You know it’s tough…What people do need to understand is that the format was changed for a lot of reasons and one was money. I think teams were losing money in those first couple rounds, because of the turn around…I’m sure there’s a whole bunch of reasons I don’t even know but it was a situation.”
I think when you’ve worked that hard to get a high seed like that, to only have one chance – of course I agree with everybody. If we could have that be a three-game series or something like that that would be great…So I kind of see both sides. I do think the single elimination is exciting. I think it’s great for fans – everybody loves a do-or-die situation. But I can imagine being that 3rd or 4th seed and not being too thrilled.”
“I actually feel that 8 teams making the playoffs is maybe too much. It’s 8 out of 12, that’s like a huge percentage of teams making it. So if there could be a way to change it up and have maybe longer series instead of…I don’t know.”
Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier also voiced her concerns, saying “I do think that format needs to change. It needs to be at least — even if they don’t jump to five (games), make it a three.”
It’s not just players that dislike the current format. It is coaches too, and some of them have ideas on exactly how it could be improved. “We need to go to a 3-5-5 [series] format,” Phoenix Mercury coach Sandy Brondello said, reports Mechelle Voepel for ESPN. “So hopefully that will happen next year.”
It turns out the single-elimination games have not actually helped with ratings either. “So, the single-elimination games have not been overwhelmingly big draws, and the Game 5s in the semifinals — when they do occur — tend to do better,” said Jon Lewis of Sports Media Watch, who also noted that Chicago’s double-overtime win over Connecticut in Game 1 of the Semifinals in 2021 outperformed all single-elimination games since 2016.
Up next, read all about WNBA Finals history here, all the way back to 1997.
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