What is the WNBA Commissioner's Cup?  Here's what you need to know about the game, with a $500K prize pool, being put on by the Chicago Sky.

After hosting this year’s WNBA All-Star Game at Wintrust Arena, the Chicago Sky will once again host the second Commissioner’s Cup championship. Here’s what you need to know about it.

The Commissioner’s Cup was added to the WNBA schedule last year as a way for players to earn additional money during the season. The winning team splits $500,000 among the players.

The matchup is determined by which two teams have the most wins in Commissioner’s Cup play in each conference. This year, the Sky and Las Vegas Aces each went 9-1 in CC play.

The Commissioner’s Cup championship will be played on July 26 at 7:30 pm at Wintrust Arena.

Because the Aces and Sky have the same record in the Commissioner’s Cup, home field advantage was determined by head-to-head regular season record and then overall regular season play. The Sky was a half-game ahead of the Aces heading into the All-Star break.

Amazon Prime will stream the event.

When these two teams start, it could very well be a preview of this season’s WNBA Finals.

The Sky have won 12 of their last 14 games and have the best net rating in the league. Opponents have been unable to stop their movement offense that ranks third in points per game since June 10. Candace Parker has been playing like an MVP candidate, averaging 19 points, 9.8 rebounds and 5.6 assists over a five-game stretch before going scoreless. in the Sky win 80-68 Thursday over the Los Angeles Sparks.

Las Vegas has looked vulnerable on defense at times this season, but still has one of the best starting units in the league. A’ja Wilson is the top seed to win her second MVP award, while Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young are playing at the All-WNBA level.

The biggest hole the Aces needed to fill was their lack of depth. As of June 11, Las Vegas was the only team to average single-digit bench points per game. After adding Iliana Rupert, getting Riquna Williams back into the rotation and bringing out Theresa Plaisance, the Aces are in better shape as the postseason approaches.

The rise of these two franchises occurred almost at the same time. The San Antonio Stars moved to Las Vegas in 2018 to become the Aces, who recruited Wilson as the face of the franchise. The same year, the Sky selected the 2019 All-Star Diamond DeShields. The teams met in the second round of the 2019 playoffs and the Aces won on a half-court shot by Dearica Hamby with 4.8 seconds remaining.

The Aces also had the upper hand in 2020, but the Sky now have bragging rights as the reigning champions. However, Las Vegas received a lot of attention early in the 2022 season after starting 9-2. The teams played earlier in the year when Sky coach and general manager James Wade left at his post-game news conference after Sky lost 83-76.

“The best team,” Wade said on May 28. “The best team in the league. Keep that narrative going all year long. I listen to all of you. They are the best team in the league. Stay with it (expletive). I will not forget it.

The Sky evened the season series on June 21 by completing the biggest comeback in WNBA history, rallying from a 28-point deficit in the second quarter.

There is one tier at the top of the WNBA right now, and it only has these two teams. There should be a playoff atmosphere at the Wintrust Arena when the Commissioner’s Cup championship rolls around.

The Sky have been heralded as having an “everyone eats” offense, but they have won games by holding off opponents. That’s where Enter Rebekah Gardner. She very well could end up on an all-defensive WNBA team despite coming off the bench.

According to league on/off data, the Sky have a defensive rating of 85.2 in the fourth quarter when Gardner is on the floor. He has been tasked with defending some of the best shooting guards in the league, including Plum. If Gardner can contain the Aces shooting guard, an All-Star starter this year, the Sky’s frontcourt has the size and versatility to match Wilson and Hamby.

If the Aces are going to win the Commissioner’s Cup, they can’t rely on their starters alone. Its five starters had played a league-high 419 minutes together before Friday (for context: the second-most was the Seattle Storm with 277 minutes). That’s where Williams comes in.

After missing most of June with a foot injury, Williams has slowly started to look like herself in 2021. If she can provide some fire off the bench, Plum and Chelsea Gray won’t have much to play in this game. Against the Sky on June 21, the title duo from the back zone looked exhausted trying to stave off Sky’s comeback efforts. The Aces need just 20 minutes from Williams to avoid the same problem they faced less than a month ago in Las Vegas.

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