Stewart, Wilson and the best 25 players in the WNBA

With the second half of the 2023 WNBA season underway, it's time to update ESPN's ranking of the top 25 players in the league.

The list's top five features three players from the league-leading Las Vegas Aces: A'ja Wilson, Jackie Young and Chelsea Gray, with Kelsey Plum not far behind at No. 7. At the midway point, the 19-2 Aces -- who led the way with five players in the top 25 -- remain favorites to win their second consecutive league title. Speaking of repeats, the New York Liberty's Breanna Stewart is back as the No. 1 player behind two first-place votes; Wilson earned the other. The Connecticut Sun 's Alyssa Thomas was the unanimous No. 3 player for ESPN's panel of voters: M.A. Voepel, Kevin Pelton and Alexa Philippou.

Four players -- Satou Sabally, rookie Aliyah Boston, Brittney Sykes and Cheyenne Parker -- enter the rankings after not being included in the preseason, while Ariel Atkins, Kelsey Mitchell, Diana Taurasi and the injured Brionna Jones fell out. Stay tuned for an updated top 25 player ranking later in the season.

1. Breanna Stewart, New York Liberty

Forward | 6-foot-4
Preseason rank: 1
2023 stats:
23.1 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 4.1 APG

The 2018 MVP is averaging career highs in points, rebounds and assists per game this season, which wasn't the expectation when she teamed with fellow former MVP Jonquel Jones and All-WNBA picks Sabrina Ionescu and Courtney Vandersloot in New York. Among that constellation of stars, Stewart has shined brightest, starting with a career-best 45 points on 15-of-21 shooting in her home debut at Barclays Center. She also produced a 43-point outing earlier this month against Phoenix. Stewart is the heavy favorite to capture MVP at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. -- Pelton

2. A'ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces

Forward | 6-foot-4
Preseason rank: 2
2023 stats:
19.7 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.1 BPG

In her sixth season, Wilson remains consistent. She is going for her third WNBA MVP award, which would put her in select company. Her blocked shots average and field goal percentage (53.2) are both the best of her WNBA career. She has just four 3-pointers, compared to 31 last season, but with the other long-range threats on her team, it isn't an issue. -- Voepel

3. Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun

Forward | 6-foot-2
Preseason rank: 8
2023 stats:
14.9 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 8.0 APG

With the offseason trades of Jonquel Jones and Jasmine Thomas and the recent loss of Brionna Jones to a season-ending Achilles injury, the burden on Thomas grew substantially. But Thomas has answered the challenge, with a career-high 14 double-doubles and three triple-doubles before the All-Star break. Then there's her tremendous trademark defense, making her a surefire MVP candidate. -- Philippou

4. Jackie Young, Las Vegas Aces

Guard | 6-foot-0
Preseason rank: 18
2023 stats:
19.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.8 APG

Young made the biggest jump in our preseason rankings, moving up 14 spots. She is one of the best success stories in the WNBA this season with her 3-point shooting. After a combined 22 3s in her first three seasons, she has as many through 21 games this season -- 50 -- as she had in 34 contests last season. She also is leading the WNBA in 3-point percentage at 48.5. -- Voepel

5. Chelsea Gray, Las Vegas Aces

Guard | 5-foot-11
Preseason rank: 10
2023 stats:
14.8 PPG, 6.5 APG, 1.4 SPG

Gray's excellence can sometimes get overlooked since she's surrounded by a trio of 19-point scorers in Wilson, Young and Plum. Her 6.5 dimes per game (which would be a career high) rank third in the league, and her fantastic facilitating stands out in arguably the best offense in league history from a statistical standpoint. Gray's efficiency this summer has been otherworldly, too, as she's on track for a 50-40-90 season (currently shooting 51.8% from the field, 45.5% on 3-pointers and 95.2% at the free throw line). -- Philippou

6. Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx

Forward | 6-foot-1
Preseason rank: 13
2023 stats:
21.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.6 APG

In her first full season back after giving birth to a daughter in May 2022, Collier has taken a step toward superstardom. She's top five in scoring on great efficiency (48.8% in field goal percentage) and top 10 in rebounding. Despite a losing record and trying to find an identity without the retired Sylvia Fowles (and other members of its 2010s dynasty), the Lynx are banking on Collier to lead them into a new era. -- Philippou

7. Kelsey Plum, Las Vegas Aces

Guard | 5-foot-8
Preseason rank: 4
2023 stats:
19.1 PPG, 4.1 APG, 38% 3FG

Last year's All-Star MVP, Plum wasn't among the three Aces voted to start this year's game. Still, don't overstate Plum's step back from her 2022 All-WNBA first-team campaign. She's actually scoring more efficiently, hitting a career-high 59% of 2-point attempts to offset a slight decline from 42% beyond the arc. After starting slowly, Plum had a career-high 40 points earlier this month and added 30 more in the All-Star Game. -- Pelton

8. Brittney Griner, Phoenix Mercury

Center | 6-foot-9
Preseason rank: 21
2023 stats:
19.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.9 BPG

A year ago, no one knew if Griner would return to the United States, or whether she would ever play basketball again with her detainment in Russia. However, Griner is back to her dominant self as one of the league's top scorers (with an efficient 59.6% field goal percentage), earning a spot as an All-Star Game starter in Las Vegas. Her level of play has been one of the sole bright spots for the struggling Mercury, who are in danger of missing the postseason for the first time since 2012. -- Philippou

9. Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm

Guard | 5-foot-10
Preseason rank: 14
2023 stats:
25.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.7 3FG/GM

With Stewart departing in free agency and Sue Bird retiring, Loyd has stepped up to lead the WNBA in scoring as the sole remaining starter from the Storm's past two title teams. Having boosted her usage rate to a league-high 33%, Loyd hasn't been quite as valuable as her scoring average. She's making a career-low 38.5% of her 2-point attempts and averaging a career-high 3.2 turnovers per game. However, Loyd has compensated with volume 3-point shooting: her 3.7 makes and 9.0 attempts per game would both be WNBA single-season records. -- Pelton

10. Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks

Forward | 6-foot-2
Preseason rank: 6
2022 stats:
19.8 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 2.8 APG

Ogwumike dropped four spots from our preseason rankings because she was passed by players having stronger campaigns. An All-Star for the eighth time, she has been by far the brightest spot for the injury-plagued Sparks, who might end up in the draft lottery. At 33, Ogwumike is having her best season statistically since winning the league's MVP in 2016. -- Voepel

11. Satou Sabally, Dallas Wings

Forward | 6-foot-4
Preseason rank: NR
2023 stats:
17.4 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 3.6 APG

Sabally, the No. 2 overall pick in 2020, has been outstanding in her first fully healthy season. She's posting career highs in every meaningful category and is tied for third in the league with 11 double-doubles. A versatile player, Sabally's emergence to round out Dallas' big three figures to make the Wings a true threat in the playoffs. If she stays healthy, the franchise has many reasons to be optimistic about its future. -- Philippou

12. Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics

Forward/guard | 6-foot-5
Preseason rank: 7
2023 stats:
18.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.6 APG

Injuries have slowed Delle Donne this season. Her back issues seem to be OK, but she has been dealing with a sprained ankle that forced her to miss the All-Star Game. When healthy, she has been the same: one of the league's most difficult to guard offensive players. -- Voepel

13. Sabrina Ionescu, New York Liberty

Guard | 5-foot-11
Preseason rank: 11
2023 stats:
16.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5.1 APG

Before the season, Ionescu told reporters that because of the additions of Jones, Stewart and Vandersloot, she had worked on open shots for the first time this offseason. The practice paid off. Ionescu is coming off a record-setting 3-point All-Star contest championship that saw her make 25 of 27 shots in the finals. For the season, Ionescu is hitting a career-high 44.6% beyond the arc, allowing her to lose only a point off her scoring average while taking 1.5 fewer shots per game. -- Pelton

14. Aliyah Boston, Indiana Fever

Forward| 6-foot-5
Preseason rank: NR
2023 stats:
15.2 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.2 BPG

The Fever believed Boston's game would translate well in the pros, but her rookie season has surpassed expectations. Her defense and ability to crash the glass continue to set her apart, and she's also leading the league in field goal percentage at 60.1%. She became the first WNBA rookie All-Star Game starter since Shoni Schimmel in 2014. Moreover, the former South Carolina Gamecocks superstar has lifted the languishing Fever into the playoff conversation. -- Philippou

15. Arike Ogunbowale, Dallas Wings

Guard | 5-foot-8
Preseason rank: 15
2023 stats:
21.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 4.7 APG

Ogunbowale has helped this Wings team perform as one of the best in her five WNBA seasons. She has been one of the top scorers since entering the league, but two other of her strengths have stood out this season: Ogunbowale is averaging a league-high 37.1 minutes per game, the most of her career, and her assist average is also a career best. -- Voepel

16. Rhyne Howard, Atlanta Dream

Guard | 6-foot-2
Preseason rank: 23
2023 stats:
18.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.7 APG

Howard has sparked the Dream to seven consecutive wins and a winning record. She is averaging 22.4 points per game (on 49.6% shooting and 40.0% from 3) during the streak. Once it was clear injured Elena Delle Donne couldn't participate in the All-Star Game, it was a no-brainer for Cathy Engelbert to name Howard as a replacement. Howard's growth in her second year, alongside the stellar play of new Dream acquisition Allisha Gray and the ever-steady Cheyenne Parker, has Atlanta trending in the right direction amid its recent rebuild. -- Philippou

17. DeWanna Bonner, Connecticut Sun

Forward | 6-foot-4
Preseason rank: 25
2023 stats:
18.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 37% 3FG

In her 15th WNBA season, Bonner -- who turns 36 next month -- is posting her third-highest scoring average, taking on a larger offensive role with the departure of Jonquel Jones and a season-ending Achilles injury for Brionna Jones. One key factor in that: Bonner, who went 5-of-7 beyond the arc in scoring a career-high 41 points in June, is making 3s at the best clip of her career. -- Pelton

18. Courtney Vandersloot, New York Liberty

Guard | 5-foot-8
Preseason rank: 9
2023 stats:
10.8 PPG, 8.6 APG, 1.4 SPG

Sharing the floor with the likes of Stewart, Ionescu and Jones, Vandersloot has shined as a distributor, leading the league with 8.6 assists per game and allowing Ionescu to play off the ball and be her best. Vandersloot's facilitating and ability to knock down shots have helped the Liberty sport the second-best offensive rating in the league (106.8 points per 100 possessions), trailing only Las Vegas. -- Philippou

19. Allisha Gray, Atlanta Dream

Guard | 6-foot-0
Preseason rank: 17
2023 stats:
17.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.3 APG

Obtaining Gray was the Dream's biggest offseason move, and it has worked out well. With fellow All-Stars Cheyenne Parker and Rhyne Howard, Gray has the Dream on a seven-game winning streak. Gray's scoring and assists averages are career highs, as is her field goal percentage (47.8). -- Voepel

20. Natasha Howard, Dallas Wings

Forward | 6-foot-2
Preseason rank: 20
2023 stats:
17.7 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.7 APG

A two-time WNBA champion with Seattle, Howard came to Dallas via a trade in January and has been the veteran post presence the Wings needed. She has formed a big three with guard Arike Ogunbowale and fellow forward Satou Sabally, and is part of why Dallas leads the league in rebounding. Her average of 33.4 minutes per game is a career high. -- Voepel

21. Kahleah Copper, Chicago Sky

Guard/forward | 6-foot-1
Preseason rank: 16
2023 stats:
17.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.9 APG

With the personnel the Sky lost in the offseason, they needed a big performance from Copper this summer. And they are getting it. She was an All-Star for the third time, and her scoring average is a career high. With the recent coaching change for Chicago, Copper's leadership and experience are all the more important. -- Voepel

22. Brittney Sykes, Washington Mystics

Guard | 5-foot-9
Preseason rank: NR
2023 stats:
13.1 PG, 3.5 APG, 2.1 SPG

When the Mystics added Sykes this offseason, they knew they were getting another ace perimeter defender who could help run the point with starter Natasha Cloud. Washington might not have been counting on Sykes boosting her scoring average to its highest since averaging 13.9 PPG as a rookie in Atlanta in 2017. Sykes shooting a career-high 34.5% on 3s has helped make that possible. -- Pelton

23. Jonquel Jones, New York Liberty

Forward | 6-foot-6
Preseason rank: 3
2023 stats:
10.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.3 BPG

Jones' integration into the Liberty has been choppier than expected. Her 7.7 field goal attempts per game are fifth on the team (and would be the lowest in her career since her rookie season), as are her 23.0 minutes per game. Her rebounding numbers have dipped as well. Not helping matters is that Jones is coming off a foot injury dating to the end of the 2022 season and wasn't a full go in training camp. There's still plenty of time for Jones, a former MVP, to rediscover her groove and turn things around. The Liberty need that if they want to be a legit threat to the Aces; the All-Star break is as good a time as any for that switch to flip. -- Philippou

24. Candace Parker, Las Vegas Aces

Forward | 6-foot-4
Preseason rank: 5
2023 stats:
9.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.7 APG

Given all the talent around her, it's easy to overlook Parker, who's scoring fewer than 13 PPG for the first time in her Hall of Fame career. Still, the scoring punch and playmaking Parker provides in what was the weakest spot in the Aces' starting five has been a factor in their historic start. -- Pelton

25. Cheyenne Parker, Atlanta Dream

Center | 6-foot-4
Preseason rank: NR
2023 stats:
14.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.4 BPG

Parker earned her first All-Star appearance in a nine-season career by posting career highs in scoring, rebounding and blocks during the first half of the season. Parker's efficient inside scoring and ability to anchor the Atlanta defense have the Dream in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2018, perhaps with home-court advantage in the first round. -- Pelton

Also receiving votes: Ariel Atkins, Washington Mystics; Ezi Magbegor, Seattle Storm; Kelsey Mitchell, Indiana Fever; NaLyssa Smith, Indiana Fever