WNBA betting roundtable: Expert picks and tips for the 2022 season
The 26th WNBA season kicks off Friday night. Twelve teams will play a 36-game regular season schedule over the course of three months for a chance at the playoffs.
Who are the favorites, long shots and MVP front-runners?
Our analysts break down everything you need to know before the season starts.
Odds from Caesars Sportsbook and FanDuel.
Who is your favorite to win the WNBA title this year and why?
André Snellings, ESPN Fantasy Basketball and betting analyst: Connecticut Sun (+350)
The Sun dominated the regular season in 2021, turning in a WNBA-best 26-6 record that was 10 games ahead of the second place team in the Eastern Conference. They were strong both at home (15-1) and on the road (11-5), and finished the season on a 14-game winning streak. They fielded arguably the most dominant frontcourt in the league, built around WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones, and used their size to dominate half-court offense (top Offensive Rating in WNBA) and defense (3rd in Defensive Rating) against their opponents.
All of that came to an end in their first playoffs matchup, against the eventual champion Sky. Several things seemed to work against them…their long winning streak to end the season may have taken away their edge; they had a postseason bye that maybe left them a bit rusty to start the series; and the Sky had the length in the paint to counter the Sun’s front line, and the Sun didn’t seem to have the strength in the backcourt to overcome.
This season, things shape up differently. The Sun re-signed Jones to maintain her role as the franchise cornerstone, but they also signed explosive-scoring guard Courtney Williams to come in and give them scoring punch from the backcourt. They also enter this season with a healthy Alyssa Thomas, who tore her Achilles tendon in January of 2021 and missed most of last season. The Sun’s dominant frontcourt is now even deeper, they have more balance and depth, and as a team that is now used to the expectations and requirements to play at championship level, they should be better prepared to break through this season. hey are co-favorites for the championship, but for good reason, so there is still some value in betting them to win even without a lot of juice.
Eric Moody, ESPN Fantasy Basketball and betting analyst: Seattle Storm (+425)
As the Storm’s big three of Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd, and Breanna Stewart prepare for their final ride, the stage is set. When this trio was healthy, Seattle won two championships in 2018 and 2020. Bird is a 12-time WNBA All-Star who has assisted or scored on 32.9% of Storm baskets in 18 seasons with the franchise. Stewart became the fourth fastest player in league history to accumulate 2,500 points and 1,000 rebounds. Loyd is the 12th youngest WNBA player to reach 3,000 career points.
Last season, the Storm averaged 85 PPG, ranking second in the league. In transition, Seattle averaged nearly 12 points per game. Additionally, the Storm had a 51% effective field goal percentage. As long as all of them stay healthy, they could add to their championship collection. With what is expected to be Bird’s final season, the team seems to be working toward that.
Who is a long shot that you think could surprise everyone and win the title this season?
Snellings: Washington Mystics (+2000)
The Mystics were the WNBA champions in 2019, with a team built around then-MVP Elena Delle Donne in the frontcourt with a starting backcourt of Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins. That 2019 squad led the WNBA in team Offensive Rating by a whopping 12.6 (!) points per 100 possessions over the second place Sky … a larger gap than between the Sky and the last-place Dream (11.7 points per 100 possessions). Unfortunately, 2019 was the last season that Delle Donne was healthy, as she’s played a total of three games since then, and the team has struggled without her.
This season’s team is different than the 2019 unit, but if Delle Donne can stay healthy she would still have Cloud and Atkins as her starting backcourt. Atkins was a second-year player in 2019, and has matured and grown to be a better player now than she was then. Cloud is still in her prime, and is coming off a season of career-highs in assists, rebounds and steals. Myisha Hines-Allen, also a sophomore on that 2019 squad, has broken out to a star in her own right in 2020 and returns healthy after injury issues last season. Alysha Clark also missed all of 2021 with a Lisfranc injury, but was a unanimous All-Defensive team selection in 2020 as a member of the champion storm. And they also added young talent in 2022 third overall pick Shakira Austin, a 6-5 post player with explosive upside.
All told, if Delle Donne can stay healthy, the Mystics return much of the backbone of the 2019 WNBA champs with some intriguing new talent added to the mix. Delle Donne’s injury risk is real, but the Mystics have a realistic shot to return to championship contention this season…which is nice value at 20-1 odds.
Moody: New York Liberty (+3000)
For bettors, the Liberty has a nice payoff at +3000 odds. Despite finishing 12-20 last year, New York made the playoffs. There has never been a team in league history to make the playoffs with a worse regular season record. Even though the Liberty lost to the Phoenix Mercury, who would eventually advance to the WNBA Finals, their performance showed the potential New York has, especially with Betnijah Laney and Sabrina Ionescu returning.
Sandy Brondello can get this team to their potential sooner rather than later as this is the second youngest team in the league. In 2014, she led the Mercury to a WNBA championship, and her 164 regular-season wins rank third among active WNBA head coaches behind only Washington’s Mike Thibault (357) and Minnesota’s Cheryl Reeve (267).
Who do you think will win the WNBA MVP award this season?
Moody: A’ja Wilson (+310)
The WNBA Most Valuable Player Award has been won by either a forward or a center over the last decade. Wilson averaged 18.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG, and 3.1 APG in 32 MPG for the Aces last season. With Liz Cambage now with the Los Angeles Sparks, she could be provided even greater usage in 2022 thanks to the supporting cast in Las Vegas.
In my opinion, new head coach Becky Hammon is an upgrade over Bill Laimbeer. After spending eight seasons with the franchise while it was located in San Antonio, she is the franchise’s all-time leader in assists, 3-pointers made, as well as games played, assists and steals. Hammon and the Aces are aiming to play fast and share the ball. Additionally, Las Vegas plans to use more pick-and-rolls and shoot more 3s. Wilson should have an MVP-caliber season with these changes. It is hard to fade her.
Snellings: Sabrina Ionescu
I agree with Moody, that A’ja Wilson deserves her spot as the favorite to win the MVP this season. Winner of the 2020 MVP award in her third season in the league, she enters this season still on the way up at only 25 years old. This shapes up in many ways to be her best season to date, and she’s already at the top of the league.
To switch things up, then, I’ll put forth a longer shot candidate: Ionescu. Ionescu entered the WNBA as the number one overall pick in 2020, fresh off one of the most celebrated collegiate careers in recent memory. In her second WNBA game, she exploded for 33 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 6 3-pointers. Then, in her third game, she suffered a catastrophic ankle injury that ended her 2020 season and lingered throughout much of 2021. Ionescu is healthy entering this season, on a Liberty squad that Moody highlighted as a dark horse candidate to return to contention after years of poor play.
If Ionescu is able to bring the big market, New York team back to prominence while putting on the type of all-around nightly triple-double-threat brilliance that would be her upside potential, she could build a strong MVP narrative. At +2000 to win the award, she makes an intriguing pick.
Is there anything else to look for when betting the WNBA?
Moody: If you’re venturing into WNBA betting for the first time, here are three tips. Be proactive by seeking out information. You have a big advantage over sportsbooks if you know that information. There are fewer beat writers covering WNBA teams than in the NBA. Take advantage of that. Another tip is to avoid betting against the public.
Although this strategy is popular in other sports, let me remind you that there are not enough casual bettors in the WNBA to have an effect on the line. This leads me to my final tip. Trends in the WNBA last longer. The betting trends tend to stick around in smaller-market sports for longer than they do in leagues that are more scrutinized. For example, if home favorites consistently cover, I would lean on that trend longer than you would if it happened in the NBA.
Snellings: As Moody alluded to, the information gradient works to the potential better’s advantage. Fact-gathering, reading informed analysis and watching plenty of game action to get your own personal feel are all tangible ways to improve your chances. And, in a real sense, the informed better has a reasonable chance to beat the books, whose algorithms don’t have as much information or history to work with as they do for other sports/leagues.
So, watch as much WNBA as you can, stay up to date on the trends and team situations, and just have fun exploring this league. The more of that you do, the better your chances to get/stay ahead of the books and have success betting the league.
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