2013 WNBA Championship Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 5/29/2013
The WNBA — easily the most underappreciated league to bet on — in now underway for another season. From now until Oct. 12, teams will play 34 regular-season games and three playoff rounds to determine the championship.
The league has been in action since 1997, but most people aren’t particularly familiar with it — at least not familiar enough to make good handicapping decisions. I’ll make some 2013 WNBA Championship predictions, but first here are three storylines that will shape this season:
Can Indiana repeat? - The Indiana Fever won their first title last year, and superstar Tamika Catchings got pretty much the only award she hadn’t earned in her long and impressive career. The team didn’t exactly roll to the title, though. They were 22-12 during the season and earned the second seed in the East for the playoffs. They got hot at the right time, though, and that’s all it takes at playoff time. Now they come back with 10 players from last year’s championship team, but with the biggest targets they have ever had on their backs. They are also beaten up, with three key contributors out for large portions of the season. Oddsmakers are showing the team some respect but aren’t necessarily expecting a repeat — they are the fourth choice at Sportsbook.ag to win the title at +450.
Can Phoenix go worst-to-first? - The Phoenix Mercury are a good team, but last year everything that could have gone wrong did en route to a 7-27 season. Penny Taylor missed the whole season with a torn ACL. Diana Taurasi played just eight games because of injuries. Candice Dupree missed 21 games as well. This is a team that scores like crazy, but they just couldn’t overcome those absences. Now all three players are healthy and ready to get back to what they do best. On top of that, the poor play and a bit of good luck meant that Phoenix won the draft lottery and was able to select megastar Brittney Griner from Baylor. Griner and Taurasi are both two-time National College Players of the Year, so they are obviously a very strong core to build around. This team absolutely cannot play defense, but they don’t need to because of their scoring. They are favored to win it all at +200, and if they stay healthy they are well-positioned to do so. The first game didn’t go as well as expected, though. Griner had 17 points and eight rebounds, but the team fell by 22 at home to the Chicago Sky and second-overall pick Elena Delle Donne. Delle Donne was the better rookie as well with 22 points. Griner did become the first player in league history to dunk twice in one game, though.
Western arms race - Phoenix should be good, but they aren’t the only team from the West with high hopes for the season. In fact, the Top 3 teams in futures odds are all from the West, with Phoenix closely trailed by the L.A. Sparks (+350) and the Minnesota Lynx (+400). There are real concerns with depth for the Sparks, but their top-end talent, led by Candace Parker and last year’s rookie of the year Nneka Ogwumike, is very solid. Minnesota won the title two years ago and lost to Indiana in last year’s final, so they are certainly seasoned. A decent draft capped a strong offseason for the team, and they will again be a threat. The teams in the West are going to have a tough road through the regular season, but they are going to be very game tough by the time the postseason rolls around, and it is going to be very tough for the East to deal with the three Western powers.
2013 WNBA Championship predictions
I have respect for Indiana and Connecticut, and Chicago has a chance to be better than expected thanks to Delle Donne. That being said, though, I just don’t see the Eastern Conference producing a champion this year. It’s the West’s year.
Phoenix is going to be very exciting to watch offensively, and they should only improve as the season progresses and they find their chemistry. They are so questionable without the ball, though, that I just can’t justify them at the price they are available at. There just isn’t any value there. The Sparks are very talented, but they are just one injury away from disaster in too many positions, and that concerns me.
The Lynx have been a model franchise the last two years, and I expect big things from them again. They spread the load offensively between four players, and they really upgraded by luring Janel McCarville back to the league after a two-year absence. They had a surprisingly strong draft giving where they were picking, and that complements an already-deep unit. They are the team to beat in my eyes, and they provide excellent value at +400.
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