In sports, there are many stories of the team that did the unexpected and upended the heavy favorite — the USA men’s hockey team that knocked off the Soviet Union is a prime example of this. While these moments are lionized in sports history, they’re also few and far between; favorites are favorites for a reason, more often than not. With the WNBA season set to kick off on this Friday (tomorrow), I thought it would be a good idea to look at the three teams that have a chance at upending the applecart by reaching (or winning) the league championship series.
According to covers.com, the odds on favorite to win the WNBA championship is the Connecticut Sun (+350). The Sun are closely followed by Las Vegas (+375), Seattle (+425), and Chicago (also +425).
This season could arguably one of the more compelling seasons in the league’s history with the depth that the four teams at the top have on their roster. Part of the reason for this is the tightened salary cap combined with the increased salaries have made it harder for team’s to retain all of the talent they need to make a run through the league’s playoff structure. Don’t be terribly surprised if this season is more interesting than the NBA season that just wrapped up or if the playoff race has more drama.
With the uncertainty surrounding Brittney Griner‘s illegal detention in Russia, the Mercury’s roster isn’t as deep as it was last season. As a result, Pheonix drafted Notre Dame forward Maya Dodson and IUPUI center Macee Williams in the 2022 WNBA draft to shore up their front court. Between Dodson and Williams, I’ve seen far more of Dodson because she spent the first three seasons of her college career with Stanford and I really like her; Williams, unfortunately, did not make the final roster.
Dodson is effective at driving the lane and has a really smooth shot, especially when up close. The rookie won’t be able to replace Griner’s production all by her self, but she has a lot of talent and should work really well with the talent Phoenix already has on its roster. If Dodson is able to mesh quickly with Tina Charles, Sophie Cunningham, and Skylar Diggins-Smith then the Mercury will continue to be a dangerous team with a ton of bench depth that could make a deep run in the playoffs.
Washington absolutely nailed their draft picks with center Shakira Austin and shooting guard Christyn Williams — unfortunately, Williams will miss her rookie season with a knee injury. The Mystics also signed forward/center Elizabeth Williams to a one-year deal that should improve their frontcourt defense and rebounding capabilities. Williams averaged 2.9 defensive boards per game and 1.3 blocks per game last season — both below her career norms. Forward Tianna Hawkins was also brought in during the free agency period and she adds valuable bench depth for Washington.
Despite a 12-20 finish, that meant they didn’t qualify for the playoffs, last season, I have really like the picks Washington made in the draft and the two free agents they brought in (plus the resigned players) leave me thinking that this roster with a lot of potential to take off once it gels. It may take a month or so into the season, but once it comes together this is a roster that could make a deep playoff run.
New York Liberty
After the drama surrounding the Liberty’s decision to charter a plane for its players, the team made a smart free agent signings in Stefanie Dolson. Dolson is an efficient shooter and presence in the paint that really should help New York get more second chance opportunities. On top of that, they drafted one of Oregon’s top players in Nyra Sabally and Lorela Cubaj.
Both of the Liberty draft picks and the signing of Dolson will improve their ability to pull in rebounds. The big question for this squad is will it be able to improve its offensive productivity. New York struggled at times with scoring droughts and its ability to consistently make shots. If the Liberty are able to find more consistent offensive production, it will pair well with the defensive focus the front office took in the off season…that would make them a dangerous threat come playoff time.
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