2022 WNBA Season Preview: Canadians to watch, expansion on the horizon, and more

Now that the Toronto Raptors season is over, you may feel a basketball sized void in your soul — but don’t worry! The WNBA season starts THIS WEEKEND and we are giving you all the deets so you’re ready for tip off.

Following the success of the WNBA’s 25th anniversary celebrations last summer, we are curious what the league has in store this summer. Reigning Champions the Chicago Sky will look to repeat after an incredible finals run, the New York Liberty have added some exciting new pieces, and the Indiana Fever have drafted an incredible rookie class!

Plus, the WNBA All-Star Game will be held in Chicago this summer, making it a quick flight for us up here in Canada to go and enjoy the fun. Despite the fact that Toronto doesn’t have a team (yet!) there is still lots to enjoy as a Canadian WNBA fan!

The question on everyone’s mind is — WHEN IS THE LEAGUE EXPANDING? Based on comments from commissioner Cathy Engelbert it seems like we may be getting a new team sooner rather than later…

As it currently stands, the WNBA has 12 teams and 144 roster spots, which is far too little when you think about the amount of talent in the league. Many fans and even people connected with the league agree that one city should get a WNBA team ASAP — TORONTO.

There is certainly speculation that Toronto is the obvious next choice for WNBA expansion. With the hype from the Raptors’ 2019 championship run still alive, the strong basketball culture, and how much the game has grown in Canada… it seems like a great choice!

Until we do get our Toronto WNBA team, we’ll just have to settle for watching our favourite Canadians on their current teams and continue to be vocal about the support a team would have here.

There are currently three Canadian players in the WNBA, and more on the horizon in NCAA programs. Not sure which team to support while we wait for expansion? Picking a team with a Canadian favourite isn’t a bad choice.

First up is the Minnesota Lynx, who currently have two of the three Canadians in the league on their roster. Add in the fact that Minnesota is basically Canada and it seems like a great choice to throw your support.

Natalie Achonwa, the forward out of Guelph, ON, moved to the Lynx in free agency prior to the 2021 season after many years with the Indiana Fever. A Canadian National Team veteran, Achonwa brings length and defensive energy to the Minnesota roster.

For more on Natalie Achonwa, check out her Homegrown Ballers profile here.

Also on the Minnesota Lynx roster is small forward Bridget Carleton from Chatham, Ontario. Drafted in 2019 by the Connecticut Sun, Carleton played four games with the Sun before being released, later signing a contract with the Lynx.

For those new to the ins and outs of WNBA rosters, with the majority of teams operating on an 11 player roster, it’s common for players to be waived early on in the season. Luckily, Minnesota was able to keep Carleton for the remainder of the 2019 season, and she has been a fixture on the team ever since.

The third Canadian on a WNBA team is Hamilton, Ontario’s Kia Nurse — who you may recognize from the TSN Raptors broadcast. Kia currently plays for the Phoenix Mercury, where she was traded to prior to the 2021 season after being drafted by the New York Liberty in 2018.

Kia is a WNBA All-Star, and was a regular in the Mercury’s starting lineup in the 2021 season. One of her most memorable games being the game-winning buzzer beater shot from half court she made in a game against the Chicago Sky (below).

Currently in recovery after suffering an ACL tear in the 2021 WNBA playoffs, Kia unfortunately won’t be playing on opening weekend. As it stands, she remains on the Phoenix Mercury roster and hopes to return to the court this season.

For more on Kia Nurse, check out our Homegrown Ballers piece here.

Only three Canadians? That’s not enough Canadians, you may be thinking. We agree! Luckily, there is some serious talent coming up in the NCAA college basketball world that will hopefully be seen on WNBA rosters in just a few short years.

This year, every team in the NCAA Women’s Final Four tournament had a Canadian player on the squad. Now National Champion Laeticia Amihere of South Carolina, Aaliyah Edwards of UConn, Merissah Russell of Louisville, and Alyssa Jerome of Stanford.

Plus, even MORE Team Canada representation in the WNBA — Women’s Senior National Team Assistant Coach Noelle Quinn is the Head Coach of the Seattle Storm. Safe to say Canada is making its mark in the WNBA, and there are plenty of teams to cheer for while we wait for the WNBA to expand into Canada.

For more info on teams, check out wnba.com for rosters, schedules, and more!

So fear not, Raptors fans — basketball is not truly gone for the summer. The WNBA season is sure to bring us all the heart stopping & jaw dropping moments we crave as basketball fans!

Make sure to follow along with the action using the #WNBATwitter tag, and catch a game on TSN, Sportsnet, or the WNBA League Pass THIS WEEKEND.

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