WNBA All-Star 2024: Snubs, top questions after roster designation

Standout rookies Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese are headed to Phoenix, as teammates. That’s a big takeaway from Tuesday’s 2024 WNBA All-Star roster announcement.

Clark, the Indiana Fever guard who was the No. 1 pick in April’s draft, and Reese, the Chicago Sky forward who has a WNBA-record 11 consecutive double-doubles, will represent Team WNBA when it faces Team USA in the league’s All-Star Game in Phoenix on July 20 (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

Clark and Reese, both in the running for rookie of the year, have brought plenty of energy to their teams and the WNBA, but have been somewhat reluctant antagonists since the 2023 NCAA finals. Both downplay the other as a major rival, but their fan bases have been very vocal about them. Now, they’ll be on the same side, which has the potential to “break the Internet” on game day.

Clark is one of three Fever players to make the WNBA Team, along with Aliyah Boston and Kelsey Mitchell. The Connecticut Sun also have several players on the WNBA Team: DeWanna Bonner and Brionna Jones.

While American 5-on-5 Olympians will make up Team USA, the WNBA Team also has a 2024 Olympian: Dearica Hamby of the Los Angeles Sparks will compete on Team USA’s 3×3.

When the WNBA team faced Team USA in the 2021 All-Star Game before the Tokyo Olympics, the WNBA stars defeated the Olympians 93-85, led by MVP Arike Ogunbowale. The Dallas Wings point guard is also back for the WNBA team this year.

Did the right players make the roster? Were there any All-Star snubs? What are some of the matchups we’re looking forward to? Michael Voepel, Alexa Philippou and Kevin Pelton break down the All-Star roster.

What was the biggest snub to the WNBA team?

Pelton: Ezi Magbegor. In fact, one could argue that the Seattle Storm center is the most glaring omission from WNBA All-Star Game history. She’s on pace to record more wins above replacement player by my WARP metric than any undrafted player during a year in which the league played an All-Star Game.

What makes this especially strange is that Magbegor was an All-Star a year ago, when the Storm were one of the worst teams in the WNBA. Playing with more talent after the Storm added Skylar Diggins-Smith and Nneka Ogwumike, Magbegor has seen her scoring average dip slightly, but she is averaging career-highs in rebounds (8.8, which ranks seventh in the WNBA) and blocks (2.2, third) per game.

As a mainstay of a top-three defense, Magbegor is a leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. I had her among my six top-line player selections in my official media voting, which also included members of Team USA. It’s baffling that the coaches didn’t pick her among the 12 All-WNBA Team spots.

Felipe: Magbegor also earned my vote for all the reasons Pelton laid out. Other than that, there aren’t many obvious snubs. Fellow Australian Alanna Smith had a strong case to be a frontcourt addition, and then there were a bunch of guards (including Betnijah Laney-Hamilton, Diggins-Smith, DiJonai Carrington, Marina Mabrey, Chennedy Carter) who were also in consideration, but I wouldn’t classify any of her omissions as snubs.

Rhyne Howard (U.S. Olympian 3×3) was also in the conversation for a roster spot before a recent ankle injury sidelined her indefinitely.

Is it a surprise that the Fever have three players on the WNBA team despite where they are in the standings?

Voice: Not really, all things considered. There was little doubt that Clark and Boston were going to win in the fan vote. They finished in the top 10 in voting, as did Hamby and Ogunbowale, along with six Olympians. Boston and Kelsey Mitchell were also All-Stars last season. Since fan votes count for 50 percent, you have to view the WNBA All-Star Game the same way you view other sports. It’s as much about which players fans want to see as it is about who is perceived to play the best. The excitement for the Fever has spread throughout every WNBA city they’ve visited, and that energy will be present at the All-Star Game as well.

And good for Fever. They haven’t been a winning franchise in recent years, let alone a popular one. Right now, there’s an undeniable buzz around them that long-time Fever fans are thrilled to be able to experience again.

Felipe: It’s not necessarily surprising, particularly with a format in which fan voting carries significant weight. (That said, Mitchell was selected from among the league’s head coaches.) Still, in a vacuum it’s a little puzzling that a 13-6 Seattle team, for example, or the Commissioner’s Cup champion Minnesota Lynx, only have one Team WNBA representative each, while the Fever, who are still well below .500, have three.

Who will be the most interesting teammates or opponents in the All-Star Game?

Voice: The most obvious ones are Clark and Reese, whose teams have already met three times during the regular season, along with the two high-profile meetings they had in the NCAA tournament in 2023 and 2024. Both Clark and Reese lead all freshmen in most statistical categories, and having them on the same side will be must-see television.

The Aces (four players) and Mercury (three) make up more than half of Team USA and do not have any players on the WNBA team. However, the WNBA team will have Jones and Bonner who will face Connecticut teammate Alyssa Thomas for Team USA.

WNBA forward Jonquel Jones, who plays in the same Liberty frontcourt as Breanna Stewart, will play against her and New York guard Sabrina Ionescu in the All-Star Game. The Lynx’s top two players, forward Napheesa Collier (Team USA) and guard Kayla McBride (Team WNBA), are also on opposite sides. The same goes for Seattle forward Nneka Ogwumike (Team WNBA) and guard Jewell Loyd (Team USA).

Felipe: It’s also worth noting that Bonner and Thomas, from Connecticut, are dating and will face each other in Phoenix. Both were All-Stars in 2023 (when Thomas proposed to Bonner in Las Vegas) and also in 2019 (before the relationship and before Bonner joined the Sun), but in those cases they were on the same team.

Which team seems to be the favorite?

Voice: In 2021, the atmosphere leaned towards the WNBA team as the players had a bit of a fighting spirit against the Olympians.

But speaking of “vibes,” Ogunbowale said last month that she retired from Olympic swimming because she thought “politics” played a role in team selection.

“If I know I’m not going to be picked, I’m not going to keep going to these (camps) when I know the environment,” Ogunbowale said on the “Nightcap” podcast. “I’m not going to give you my time if I know the environment.”

It’s not an insult to not be chosen for such a difficult team to integrate, but athletes always look for motivation. The WNBA team has it, while the US team does not want to lose another All-Star Game.

As good as the Olympic team is, shouldn’t we be concerned that there are three members of the Mercury, a team that currently has a batting average below .500? We can expect plenty of energy from the WNBA team. Team USA has to match that to win.

Felipe: The Paris roster is better than the one in Tokyo and has plenty of chemistry playing off of each other, whether it’s from previous Olympics or even the 2022 World Cup. Even newcomers like Kahleah Copper and Ionescu are playing some of the best basketball of their careers right now. The WNBA team will make things interesting like it did in 2021, but I find it hard to pick against Team USA this time around.

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