The WNBA returns to relative normalcy this campaign after a number of significant players sat out the pandemic-shortened 2020 season in Bradenton, Florida.
Ahead of the season-opening games on Friday, here are the updated WNBA championship odds and our best bets to win it all.
|Las Vegas Aces||+300|
|Los Angeles Sparks||+500|
|New York Liberty||+5000|
Of the four favorites with odds shorter than +1000, the fewest question marks face the Las Vegas Aces.
The reigning champion Seattle Storm lost a lot of defense up front with Natasha Howard and Alysha Clark leaving. The Washington Mystics finally get to see the newish Elena Delle Donne-Tina Charles pairing, but an injury to the newly signed Clark will test the team's depth. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Sparks lost star contributors Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray to free agency.
But the Aces' roster remains deep, versatile, and physical, even with Monday's revelation that veteran forward Angel McCoughtry will miss the season with a torn ACL and meniscus. The squad is more imposing than the one that advanced to the WNBA Finals in the Wubble.
The terrifying A'ja Wilson-Liz Cambage frontcourt has been reunited after the latter sat out last season. The offseason additions of Gray and Riquna Williams bring much-needed floor-spacing to Bill Laimbeer's interior-oriented scoring attack. Kelsey Plum showed few signs of last June's Achilles injury slowing her during the Aces' final preseason tilt. Then there's also two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby and 2019 first overall pick Jackie Young. The list of contributors goes on and on.
It's difficult to envision anything short of another deep playoff run for the star-studded Aces.
Most of the core players who netted the Minnesota Lynx four titles over six WNBA Finals appearances between 2011 and 2017 have retired, departed, or are pursuing far more important matters. However, there are still two big mainstays from the franchise's dynastic tear through the 2010s: head coach Cheryl Reeve and star center Sylvia Fowles.
Now 35, Fowles is coming off a tough year after logging just seven appearances in the bubble due to injuries. Still, the 6-foot-6 standout has contributed 15.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, and 1.2 steals per game since 2018. When healthy, Syl remains an impact player, but there are several big reasons why she no longer needs to shoulder the load for her team.
The Lynx boast the two most-recent Rookie of the Year winners: forward Napheesa Collier (2019) and guard Crystal Dangerfield (2020). Reeve also beefed up her rotation with a trio of strong, in-their-prime contributors in guards Kayla McBride and Aerial Powers, and post player Natalie Achonwa.
If Reeve can continue to develop the youngsters, integrate the new recruits, and get one more throwback year from her Hall of Fame-bound center, the Lynx are only a hot week or two come playoff time from returning to the WNBA Finals.
The Chicago Sky made the most significant offseason splash while bringing Parker, the future Hall of Famer, back to her hometown. At 35, there's still clearly something left in the versatile big's tank. After a down 2019, she bounced back with a line close to 15-10-5 and was voted the Defensive Player of the Year.
But this Sky team is so much more than its new frontcourt pillar. Point guard Courtney Vandersloot finished fourth in MVP voting last season (Parker placed third) while averaging a 13.6-point, 10-assist double-double. Her backcourt mate (and wife) Allie Quigley matched the second-best scoring mark of her career (15.4 points per game) with dependably strong outside shooting.
Like everyone else in an Olympic year, head coach James Wade will need to navigate absences due to national-team commitments. But he'll benefit from plenty of firepower beyond his three biggest stars. Diamond DeShields, Azura Stevens, Stefanie Dolson, and Kahleah Copper have all proven themselves capable of averaging double-digit scoring figures over a season.