February 2, 2024
Las Vegas Aces re-sign two key pieces, add post depth
The Aces made some small moves to kick off WNBA free agency, but they will pay dividends for the reigning champs
The Las Vegas Aces started the 2024 free agency period off by bringing back some familiar faces and adding one new one, all of whom figure to help the team try to capture its third straight WNBA championship. The Aces re-signed defensive stalwart and starting center Kiah Stokes, as well as locker room superstar Sydney Colson. They also added depth in their frontcourt, which was something they felt was necessary coming into this free agency period, by signing five-year veteran center Megan Gustafson.
Kiah Stokes re-signed with Las Vegas on a two-year deal after signing one-year deals in back-to-back seasons. She got a raise as well, as each year of the contract will pay more than $100,000. Stokes was a big reason the Aces won back-to-back championships. In each of the last two seasons, she stepped into a starting role when one of the Aces’ starting forwards went down with injury. While Stokes isn’t much of a scorer, she is known for her defensive presence around the basket and her ability to rebound.
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She set highs for both rebounds and blocks in her two years in Las Vegas last year. She had nine multi-block games as well and eight games with nine or more rebounds, including tying a career-high 17 rebounds against Chicago. Stokes is coming off a foot injury suffered in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals against New York. She has been seen still in a boot recently, and her ability to be ready to start the season is in question. However, head coach Becky Hammon trusts what Stokes can do, complimenting her defense down low and ability to rebound many times over the past two years. When she is ready to compete, whether it’s starting or coming off the bench, she will continue to play her role and have a big impact on the Aces’ quest for a third straight championship.
“We are so happy to re-sign our two-time WNBA champion center, Kiah Stokes,” Aces general manager Natalie Williams said in a statement. “She is a consummate professional, a rim protector and our secret 3-point shooter. Kiah is family, and we are blessed to have her back for two more years.”
The Aces also re-signed locker room superstar and “face of the league” Sydney Colson. While Colson doesn’t play a lot of minutes, her impact on the team and what she means for the locker room cannot be understated. She also has a big effect on the other guards on the team, as she is like a coach on the bench. Players like Kelsey Plum say their growth and success is due in large part to Colson and the wisdom and energy she brings them. She also played a big role in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals when the Aces were missing two starters due to injury. The locker room chemistry has been a big part of the Aces’ success over the last two years, so having the key to the chemistry back is important for Las Vegas.
“I’m excited to re-sign with the Aces because I love this organization and I truly feel like we’re a team in every sense of the word,” Colson said in a statement. “Every year I play in this league is a blessing and I hope every player, no matter what their role is, understands that. I don’t take anything for granted because I know the days of giving these quotes are limited. But until that day comes, I’m all in!”
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The Aces’ one signing of a free agent from another team was fifth-year center Megan Gustafson from the Phoenix Mercury. Gustafson is coming off a career year in her second season in the desert, which earned her a two-year contract with Las Vegas. She has proved to be a valuable backup center, as she put up solid numbers last year.
It took Gustafson a little while to find her footing in the league, but last year she really came into her own. She played a career-high 15 minutes a game in Phoenix while making four starts. She shot 53% from the field while more than doubling her field goal and free-throw attempts from the previous season. She scored in double figures 14 times and saw her playing time expand after the Mercury made their coaching change midway through the season.
“We are thrilled to add Megan Gustafson to our Aces roster,” Williams said in a statement. “She is a true blue-collar worker, who does all the little things that help teams win championships. At 6-4 Megan has great footwork, is a savvy finisher around the basket and can also knock down 3s. She will be a huge asset in Becky Hammon’s high-powered offense.”
Gustafson fills a hole the Aces needed, which is a solid backup forward. With Stokes coming off injury and Candace Parker still undecided on whether she is coming back to the Aces, Gustafson will be able to help A’ja Wilson down low as well as give her a breather at times. Gustafson showed she is a solid role player who can score down low, rebound, block shots and even space the floor. She has the ability to shoot the 3-ball, and Hammon will ask her to take them in the Aces’ high-flying offensive system. She is a great fit for the Aces as a backup forward and will give them some desperately needed depth.
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Written by Matthew Walter
Matthew Walter covers the Las Vegas Aces, the Pac-12 and the WCC for the Next. He is a former Director of Basketball Operations and Video Coordinator at three different Division I women's basketball programs.