WNBA's top 25 players of 2023: Breanna Stewart, A'ja Wilson and more

What Breanna Stewart brings to the Liberty (2:11)

Rebecca Lobo breaks down Breanna Stewart's decision to move across the country and join the New York Liberty. (2:11)

A'ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart have combined to win three of the past five WNBA MVP awards. So it's no surprise they open at Nos. 1 and 2 in ESPN's 2023 preseason ranking of the top 25 players in the WNBA.

Last season, the Las Vegas Aces' Wilson and Stewart -- who spent her first six seasons with the Seattle Storm and now is with the New York Liberty -- got all but two first-place votes in the MVP race, with Wilson winning the final points tally 478-446.

They are now just a point apart in our preseason voting, with Stewart, the 2018 MVP, getting two first-place votes and Wilson, who also was league MVP in 2020, the other. It's a toss-up between these two forwards, who also anchor the squads regarded as superteams this WNBA season.

Wilson, 26, and Stewart, 28, are among four 20-somethings in our top 10. The other six are age 30 or over, showing that the veterans are still more than holding their own in the WNBA. Brittney Griner was the most challenging player to rank. The Phoenix Mercury center missed all of last season as she was detained in Russia. Griner returned to the United States in December and went back to work quickly to get in shape. While we don't know what level she can reach in 2023, she got the benefit of the doubt based on her career.

Many players received votes and came close to making the list, which we'll revisit each month during the regular season. Players might move up, down, into or out of the rankings. For now, here are the top 25, as voted on by ESPN's Kevin Pelton, Alexa Philippou and M.A. Voepel.

1. Breanna Stewart, New York Liberty

Forward | 6-foot-4
2022 stats:
21.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.9 APG

Of New York's collection of superstars, Stewart shines the brightest. The only debate was between her and Wilson for the top spot, with a split vote favoring Stewart. The last time we saw her on a WNBA court, Stewart tied a playoff record with 42 points in a Game 4 semifinal loss to Wilson's Aces. With more talent around her, Stewart won't need to dominate games like that to add a third ring to her trophy case. However, Stewart's ability to slide to small forward in bigger lineups and play the 4 when the Liberty favor floor spacing will be critical to making things work. -- Pelton

2. A'ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces

Forward | 6-foot-4
2022 stats:
19.5 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 1.9 BPG

Wilson already has two WNBA MVP awards (2020, 2022) and now will be going for her second league championship. Her 50.1 field goal percentage for the 2022 regular season was the best of her WNBA career. And after making just one 3-pointer over her first four years, she had 31 last season. As befits a player at her level, Wilson's stats were even better during the Aces' 10 playoff games (20.3 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 2.4 BPG) as she added a WNBA title to her many accolades. -- Voepel

3. Jonquel Jones, New York Liberty

Forward | 6-foot-6
2022 stats:
14.6 PPG, 8.6 RPG

Jones emerged as a superstar over the past two seasons in Connecticut, and now heads to a system where she is likely to thrive even more. Playing alongside some of the game's best passers (and good shooters) in Sabrina Ionescu and Courtney Vandersloot, as well as sharing the frontcourt with another unicorn big in Stewart, should open up the floor for Jones in ways she never experienced in Uncasville. The dynamic and chemistry between Jones and Stewart, two of the past four players to take home WNBA MVP, will undoubtedly be fascinating to watch. -- Philippou

4. Kelsey Plum, Las Vegas Aces

Guard | 5-foot-8
2022 stats:
20.2 PPG, 5.1 APG, 42% 3FG

The third-place finisher in MVP voting, Plum has firmly established herself as a top-five player, finishing fourth on all of our ballots. Very much in her prime at age 28, the next challenge for Plum is exhibiting the same level of efficiency in the playoffs as the regular season. She made just 29% of her 3s in the postseason but bounced back from 1-of-9 overall shooting in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals to average 17.3 PPG and 5.3 APG the rest of the way as the Aces won the title. -- Pelton

5. Candace Parker, Las Vegas Aces

Forward/center | 6-foot-4
2022 stats:
13.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 4.5 APG

Mission accomplished for Parker, who won a WNBA title and put up nearly identical numbers in 2021 and 2022 with the Chicago Sky. Sure, she would have liked two championships with the Sky, but it was a successful chapter of her career. Having turned 37 in April, Parker might now be in her final season. She again has a good chance at a championship, bringing the consistent production of a future Hall of Famer to the defending champions. -- Voepel

6. Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks

Forward | 6-foot-2
2022 stats:
18.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG

Despite turmoil and turnover with the Sparks the past few seasons, Ogwumike -- who turns 33 in July -- remains a constant. Now with a new coach (Curt Miller) and general manager (Karen Bryant), Los Angeles looks to enter a period of more stability and hopes to return to the playoffs after a two-year absence. Ogwumike had her highest scoring average since 2017 last season, and the third best of her 11-season career. -- Voepel

7. Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics

Forward/guard | 6-foot-5
2022 stats:
17.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.3 APG

There's a scenario in which Delle Donne never rebounds from the back issues miring her the past few seasons. Luckily for basketball fans, that's not a world we're living in. After sitting out certain road games last season, Delle Donne has said she's not planning to miss any contests this year and has never felt stronger. For the Mystics to contend for a championship, the two-time MVP and 2019 champion will need to have her healthiest and most productive season in some time. -- Philippou

8. Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun

Forward | 6-foot-2
2022 stats:
13.4 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 6.1 APG

The last time we saw Thomas, she recorded back-to-back triple-doubles in the 2022 WNBA Finals, epitomizing the myriad ways she impacts the game, even though the Sun eventually fell short of winning the championship. Good luck telling Thomas the window has closed, though. It will be fascinating to see how new Sun coach Stephanie White utilizes Thomas on both ends, especially considering the departure of point guard Jasmine Thomas and the addition of a strong scorer in Tiffany Hayes. -- Philippou

9. Courtney Vandersloot, New York Liberty

Guard | 5-foot-8
2022 stats:
11.8 PPG, 6.5 APG, 3.9 RPG

The face of the Sky for 12 seasons, Vandersloot left as a free agent to try to help bring the Liberty their first title, just as she did for Chicago in 2021. In 2022, her assist average dropped by 2.1 from 2021, and for the first time since 2017, she didn't lead the league in that category. But at age 34, Vandersloot is still on the short list of elite point guards and will be in the same backcourt as Sabrina Ionescu. -- Voepel

10. Chelsea Gray, Las Vegas Aces

Guard | 5-foot-11
2021 stats:
13.7 PPG, 6.1 APG, 3.2 RPG

Memo to WNBA coaches: Don't leave Gray off this year's All-Star team. After an unspectacular first half (12.4 PPG and 6.0 APG on 29% 3-point shooting) caused the snub, Gray scorched the rest of the way, posting 50-40-90 shooting splits in the second half before averaging 21.7 PPG and 7.0 APG on unthinkable 61% shooting (including 54% from 3) in the playoffs. Gray's level of postseason shot-making probably isn't sustainable for a full season -- she's never shot better than 51% in a WNBA campaign -- but anything close makes her a top-10 player and surefire All-Star. -- Pelton

11. Sabrina Ionescu, New York Liberty

Guard | 5-foot-11
2022 stats:
17.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 6.3 APG

An All-Star for the first time, Ionescu was also second-team All-WNBA and finished in the top 10 in scoring and assists. The 2020 No. 1 pick came into her own in her second full season in the league (having missed most of 2020 with an ankle injury.) Now at 25, she has three new teammates who are among the league's best ever (Stewart, Jones, Vandersloot) and also has the kind of skills that take great advantage of the talent around her. -- Voepel

12. Brionna Jones, Connecticut Sun

Forward | 6-foot-3
2022 stats:
13.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG

Jones is another player whose role will shift with the offseason changes to the Sun. Her evolution from a bench presence as recently as 2019 to a two-time All-Star making north of $200,000 has been one of the league's best stories of development and capitalizing off opportunity. Now, Jones and her longtime Sun and overseas teammate Alyssa Thomas will hold down the frontcourt as Connecticut looks to contend again for a franchise-first title. -- Philippou

13. Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx

Forward | 6-foot-1
2021 stats:
16.2 PPG, 3.2 APG, 44.1% FG

Collier stood out as one of the most talented players in the league when we last saw a full season from her (2021), including averaging a team-high 6.6 rebounds and 2.6 combined steals and blocks. The year prior, her second in the pros, she came in fifth in MVP voting. She did manage to return to the floor for the final week of the 2022 regular season after giving birth to her daughter earlier that summer, but with a productive offseason under her belt, she takes over as the new face of the Lynx franchise, tasked with helping Minnesota return to its championship standard. -- Philippou

14. Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm

Guard | 5-foot-10
2022 stats:
16.3 PPG, 3.4 APG, 2.3 3PM
July rank: 14

With Stewart's departure and Sue Bird's retirement, Loyd is the lone top-25 player left in Seattle. (Ezi Magbegor just missed the list.) As a result, expectations are modest for the Storm, ranked 11th in ESPN's preseason Power Rankings. An All-WNBA first-team season like Loyd enjoyed in 2021, when she averaged a career-high 17.9 PPG, would go a long way toward keeping Seattle competitive despite the departed stars. -- Pelton

15. Arike Ogunbowale, Dallas Wings

Guard | 5-foot-8
2022 stats:
19.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.6 APG

Having ranked 10th on our preseason list a year ago, Ogunbowale enters 2023 with something to prove. That starts with showing her importance to Dallas' success as a team. The Wings, 14-16 with Ogunbowale in the lineup last season, went 5-3 without her, including an impressive win at Connecticut in the opening round of the playoffs. Still, Dallas needs Ogunbowale's shot creation to reach its ceiling, particularly after losing fellow perimeter starters Allisha Gray and Marina Mabrey this offseason. -- Pelton

16. Kahleah Copper, Chicago Sky

Guard/forward | 6-foot-1
2022 stats:
15.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.3 APG

Copper's 2022 scoring, rebounding and assist averages were the best of her seven-season career, coming the year after she was WNBA Finals MVP. She also made a career-high 36 3s in the regular season. With so many departures, Copper, 28, is the only returning Chicago player who was in the Sky's top five for scoring, rebounding and assists last season. But that should give her even more motivation to prove she can help a new version of the Sky be successful. -- Voepel

17. Allisha Gray, Atlanta Dream

Guard | 6-foot-0
2022 stats:
13.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG

Considered an All-Star snub last summer, Gray was a big part of helping the Wings earn the No. 6 seed for the playoffs despite being without Ogunbowale and Satou Sabally at the end of the regular season. As she settles into her first campaign with Atlanta following an offseason trade and contract extension, big things are expected ahead for the 2017 Rookie of the Year. Her defense and 3-point shooting figure to be a boon for an Atlanta team that will be looking to build around her and Rhyne Howard. -- Philippou

18. Jackie Young, Las Vegas Aces

Guard | 6-foot-0
2022 stats:
15.9 PPG, 3.9 APG

Young didn't take the traditional path of a No. 1 pick, having a relatively quiet first three seasons in the league before coming into her own in 2022, when she won Most Improved Player and was the high-flying Aces' third-best scorer. By adding a 3-point shot to her game in Becky Hammon's pace-and-space offensive system, Young emerged as a true three-level scorer, helping make Vegas' offense dynamic. Even amid Gray's superstar play in the 2022 playoffs and the addition of two-time MVP Candace Parker, it's best not to sleep on Young. -- Philippou

19. Ariel Atkins, Washington Mystics

Guard | 5-foot-8
2022 stats:
14.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.3 APG

Atkins, 26, has been the epitome of steady production for the Mystics during her five-season career. She has thrived in a backcourt with Natasha Cloud, who just missed making this top-25 list. They play so well off each other and are a big reason the Mystics led the WNBA in defensive rating last season. Atkins has been an All-Star the past two seasons, and made the All-Defensive first team last year after being on the second team four times. -- Voepel

20. Natasha Howard, Dallas Wings

Forward | 6-foot-2
2022 stats:
15.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.0 BPG

Healthy after playing just 13 games in 2021, Howard returned to the All-Star Game for the second time. Moving Howard was the big cost for the Liberty of acquiring Jonquel Jones, and with Connecticut looking to rebalance its roster, the Wings stepped in to add an All-Star without giving up a draft pick. Howard must redevelop the pick-and-roll chemistry she enjoyed in New York with Sabrina Ionescu, but her active defense should immediately help Dallas at that end of the court. -- Pelton

21. Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury

Center | 6-foot-9
2021 stats:
14.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG

While we don't have 2022's stats to go on, we have the rest of Griner's nine-season career, during which she averaged 17.7 points and 7.6 rebounds. In 2021, she led the Mercury to the WNBA Finals, averaging 20.5 points and a career-high 9.5 rebounds in the regular season and 21.8 and 8.4 respectively in the playoffs. She has been All-WNBA first team three times, including 2021. While it's not reasonable to expect Griner, 32, to be back to 100% this season, she could make a lot of progress. -- Voepel

22. Kelsey Mitchell, Indiana Fever

Guard | 5-foot-8
2022 stats:
13.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.5 APG

Mitchell finished with career-high averages in points and assists last year, plus her best 3-point percentage (40.9) in her five seasons in the WNBA. She has been in the top eight in scoring average each of the past three years. The Fever have been in rebuilding mode for a long time, but adding post players NaLyssa Smith and Aliyah Boston in the past two drafts could help Mitchell, 27, get her first chance at the WNBA playoffs. -- Voepel

23. Rhyne Howard, Atlanta Dream

Guard | 6-foot-2
2022 stats:
11.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 60% FG

The 2022 No. 1 overall pick established herself as a star in the league from the first week of her rookie year, catapulting the Dream to within striking distance of a playoff spot and earning an All-Star bid in the process. With her first pro season and an overseas stint under her belt, the reigning Rookie of the Year will look to show off new dimensions to her game. One thing that wasn't an issue last summer? Howard set a league record for most 3s during a rookie season. -- Philippou

24. Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury

Guard | 6-foot-0
2022 stats:
12.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 40% 3FG

With Sue Bird's retirement, Taurasi -- who turns 41 in June -- is now the oldest active player in the WNBA and is starting her 19th season. Last year, she had a particularly strong July, including becoming the first WNBA player aged 40 or over to score at least 30 points in a game. A quad strain kept her out at the end of the regular season and the playoffs. But when healthy, she is still a threat. -- Voepel

25. DeWanna Bonner, Connecticut Sun

Forward | 6-foot-4
2022 stats:
13.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.9 APG

Bonner, who turns 36 in August, showed gradual signs of aging in 2022, playing fewer minutes per game (30, her lowest mark since 2014) and seeing her per-36 minute scoring drop from 17.1 to 16.1. Yet Bonner remains one of the league's most reliable contributors. With Bird and Sylvia Fowles retiring, Bonner enters her 14th WNBA season as one of just two active players with at least 400 career games (former teammate Taurasi is the other). The three games she missed at the start of last season were Bonner's first absences since 2015. -- Pelton