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Aces’ first WNBA title doesn’t figure to be their last

Aces point guard and WNBA Finals MVP Chelsea Gray knew exactly what her immediate future entailed after Sunday’s victory over the Connecticut Sun. She was going to take pictures with her team and celebrate the Aces’ first championship.

She wasn’t going to think about next year. At least, not yet.

“Right now, we’re just going to enjoy this moment and talk about that maybe tomorrow,” Gray said.

Added 2022 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson: “Or next season.”

The Aces may not want to look too far ahead, but the team is in a remarkably stable position. Almost all the team’s contributors are signed through at least next year, and a large part of the Aces’ core will be here through the 2024 season.

They defeated the Connecticut Sun 3-1 in the best-of-five WNBA Finals, after eliminating the Seattle Storm 3-1 in the semifinals and sweeping the Phoenix Mercury 2-0 in the opening round.

For most of the playoffs, Hammon relied on a seven-player rotation. Six of them are already under contract for next season. Wilson and reserve guard Riquna Williams both signed two-year extensions during the offseason.

In addition, All-WNBA first-team guard Kelsey Plum, 2022 WNBA Most Improved Player Jackie Young, Gray — who also won the Commissioner’s Cup Final MVP — and 2022 All-Star Dearica Hamby all agreed to new contracts during the season, tying them to the Aces through the 2024 season.

“To do it with this group, knowing we have commitment for next season is special,” Gray said. “We’re doing it for each other, and it’s created a bond.”

The Aces have three impending free agents: guard Sydney Colson, forward Theresa Plaisance and center Kiah Stokes, who started the final four regular-season games and throughout the playoffs. The Aces only lost two games with Stokes in the starting lineup.

While the Aces are in a strong position, its rivals may be getting weaker. Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart is an unrestricted free agent.

The Chicago Sky are in a similarly precarious position. All-WNBA first-team forward Candace Parker will be 37 years old next season and may retire. All-Stars Courtney Vandersloot and Emma Meesseman are unrestricted free agents.

That leaves the Sun as the most stable WNBA semifinalist remaining. They still have an MVP-caliber player in center Jonquel Jones, but Alyssa Thomas and DeWanna Bonner will both be a year older. Starting guards Natisha Hiedeman, Courtney Williams and 2022 Sixth Player of the Year Brionna Jones are also set to hit free agency.

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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