Dearica Hamby is sticking around Vegas for at least a couple more seasons, after she signed a contract extension with the Aces.
Hamby, who was under contract for just one more year before the extension, has been a phenomenal piece off the bench for the Bill Laimbeer. She has scored in double figures for each of the past two seasons and helped the Aces manage the loss of Liz Cambage, who opted out of the 2020 season.
As a reward, Hamby has been named sixth woman of the year the last two seasons. But now Laimbeer has to get the most out of Hamby.
While she isn’t a starter, Hamby has proven to be as valuable as a starter. But the Aces have blocked her path to major minutes. Her natural position of power forward is occupied by league MVP A’ja Wilson. Plus with Cambage expected back in 2021, playing major minutes at center will be hard to accomplish.
But the Aces expected front court duo of Wilson and Cambage has not been effective. In 2019, the lone season they played together, Wilson and Cambage posted a net rating of +2.9 per 100 possessions in the 429 minutes they payed together.
Meanwhile both Cambage and Wilson have proven to play better with Hamby beside them. In 2019, the Cambage-Hamby duo posted a net rating of +9.5 in 415 minutes. The Wilson-Hamby duo was even better at +11.2 in 295 minutes.
And in 2020, Wilson and Hamby racked up a +13 rating in 461 minutes.
The Aces have acquired star power in their short time in Vegas. That has made them title contenders. But the fit has not always been perfect. Cambage and Wilson playing together is not a great match. Both need the ball to be at their best and both look to operate within the same 15-foot radius of the basket.
Simply by playing off the ball, Hamby helps alleviate some of the strains that accompany the Wilson-Cambage duo. But Hamby also showed off her range last season, hitting 18 of 38 (47.4%) of her threes in 22 games. If she adds a consistent three-point shot to her game, the spacing will help improve the offensive efficiency of Wilson and Cambage.
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The good news for the Aces is that regardless of which combination of bigs share the floor, they have been excellent defensively. Every combination of Wilson, Cambage and Hamby has held opponents to under 94 points per 100 possessions. For reference the Seattle Storm led the WNBA in defensive rating last season allowing 93.3 points per 100 possessions.
In an ideal world the Aces would be better off with an all-star shooting guard instead of an all-star center in Cambage. That would allow Hamby to play alongside Wilson and give the Aces better offensive spacing.
But Laimbeer will have to figure out how to make the trio of Wilson, Cambage and Hamby work to get over the hump in the playoffs and win the title.