WNBL23 Preview: Players to watch, strongest team, game of the round

The WNBL season is finally upon us and there's lots to be excited about with women's basketball in Australia drawing plenty of attention. Basketball fans are buzzing, riding the wave from the FIBA Women's World Cup, where the Opals won the bronze medal.

With eight of those players suiting up in the league, including the wild return of Lauren Jackson, it is set to be a competitive and high calibre season -- and you catch every game on ESPN!

If you haven't been keeping up in the offseason, keep reading so you can be well informed heading into Round 1.

New coaches

Chris Lucas: Melbourne Boomers - Moved from Adelaide Lightning

Nat Hurst: Adelaide Lightning - Promoted from assistant coach

Kennedy Kereama: Bendigo Spirit - Moved and promoted from assistant coach at UC Caps

Kristen Veal: UC Capitals - Promoted from assistant coach

WNBL debutants to watch

Olivia Nelson-Ododa: Having played at UCONN -- one of the most successful college basketball programs in history -- Nelson-Ododa has just finished up her rookie season in the WNBA for the LA Sparks. The Boomers' new import will fill the hole left by Ezi Magbegor, and although that is a tough act to follow, she is more than qualified to perform for the Boomers on both ends of the floor.

Tiana Mangakahia: In her first WNBL season since 2013/14, Tiana will bring energy, aggression, and determination to the Sydney Flames. Having been a top guard in the college system, participating in a WNBA training camp and playing in Russia, she is ready to take on the WNBL with her NBL1 partner in crime, Shyla Heal, and turn up the heat.

Chloe Bibby: Returning to the WNBL as a more mature and experienced player (compared to her 15-year-old self at the Dandenong Rangers), Bibby will be looking to make a stamp on the league and play a key role for the Lynx. She is a threat both inside and out and has the green light from coach Petrik.

Five players to watch

Lauren Jackson (Southside Flyers): Her return to professional basketball has been a success so far; an NBL1 championship and a bronze medal at the World Cup, who's to say a WNBL Championship isn't next. The WNBL is the middle ground between NBL1 East and International basketball and is a place that LJ should feel comfortable to succeed in, even at 41 years of age.

Steph Talbot (Adelaide Lightning): Coming off an incredible performance at the World Cup, which saw her earn All-Star 5 honours, Steph is prepped for another stellar season of WNBL. Her athleticism and ability to cover all aspects of the floor will make her an exciting watch and a tough opponent.

Marena Whittle (Adelaide Lightning): 3X3 Bronze medallist at the Commonwealth Games and an NBL1 South Champion, Marena is in top form and full of confidence. In another season for the Lightning, expect hustle on both ends of the floor and a more aggressive offensive player.

Keely Froling (Sydney Flames): Having really impressed in the last WNBL season for the Flames, Keely will be looking to maintain and build on that form. Being cut from the Opals World Cup squad will likely boost her determination to succeed this season.

Kristy Wallace (Melbourne Boomers): Voted the best sixth man last season, having a successful stint in the WNBA, and showing her potential at the World Cup, Kristy has made a move to the Boomers and is likely to be in the starting line-up for her new team. Her speed, athleticism, and hustle will prove essential to the Boomers' success.

Strongest team

Southside Flyers: One look at the line up and you'll see how stacked this team is. It has a good combination of youth and experience and the addition of Lauren Jackson; this team means business and has the arsenal to go all the way. Not to jinx them, but it's giving hints of the 20-21 season when they took out the Championship.

Not to be overlooked

Sydney Flames: After what might have seemed like a disappointing finish last season, this team is ready to take big strides in their performance this season. Shyla and Tiana built a strong chemistry in the NBL1, and the team has put the pedal to the metal in the off season. Coach Shane Heal has been open about his focus on development, but with the grit and energy this team has, they have potential to surprise.

Game of the round

Perth Lynx vs. Melbourne Boomers

The season is starting off with a bang, a grand final rematch between the Lynx and the Boomers. Both teams have had roster changes and it is likely to be a very different ball game this time around. Nonetheless, both teams will want to start their season off with a win and there is no doubt there will be an extra element of competitiveness carried over from last season.

The Boomers have had a bit of a shake up since they took home the trophy last season. Chris Lucas has taken over as head coach and the line-up has lost a few key players in Ezi Magbegor and Lindsey Allen but has gained some fresh faces in their absence.

Coming off a strong World Cup campaign, Kristy Wallace will be one to watch as she takes on the starting point guard role, particularly while Tess Madgen is out of action. The addition of Mia Murray and import Olivia Nelson-Ododa will add another dimension to an already well-established team. It will be interesting to see what type of style Chris has adopted for his team and how they adapt without their star in Madgen.

Meanwhile for the Lynx, while they've retained their superstar Sami Whitcomb and the impressive Lauren Scherf, they've lost their two starting imports from last season.

They've acquired some strong new additions in Amy Atwell who brings more WNBA experience and Chloe Bibby coming off a successful college career will help assist them in being a competitive team.

Both imports from last season were big scoring threats so it will be interesting to see who steps up in their absence and how coach Ryan Petrik decides to adjust their offence. One thing is for sure and that is that plenty of WA talent will get to play and develop over the course of the season. The Perth Lynx will be hungry for revenge and will get a chance to redeem themselves on their home court.

Watch the WNBL game of the week every Wednesday night on ESPN