The WNBA Playoffs have begun, and before we get into our favorite odds it’s worth mentioning the unique format of the eight-team postseason. The top two seeds (Seattle and Atlanta) have byes until the semifinals, and the third and fourth seeds (Washington and Connecticut) have byes through the quarterfinals.
The first round and quarterfinals games will be one-game, single elimination series. They’ve got a real March Madness feel to them. Reseeding also occurs each round of the postseason. Both the semifinals and finals are five-game series. With that in mind, let’s get into our top four picks.
The obvious advantage of advancing to the semifinals, combined with Atlanta’s odds, make them our favorite pick. They’re not as talented as Seattle – we’ll get to them later – but they’ll be rested when they square off against their semifinals opponent and, more importantly, went 2-1 against the Storm in the regular season. That matters.
So, too, does Atlanta’s defense. They finished the year tops in the league with a defensive rating of 96.7. They also led the league in blocks per game and have two players in the top 5 in blocks per game – that hasn’t happened since 2014 – and it could come in handy if they need to neutralize Breanna Stewart in the Finals.
They also enter the postseason as the league’s hottest team, having won 15 of 17 games. Despite being in the final four already, they’re +500 on Karamba, and much of that stems from their 10th (of 12 teams) ranked offense. They’ll need a third option past Tiffany Hayes and Angel McCoughtry. If they do, they’re well worth the odds here.
We’ve discussed it here before, but Breanna Stewart is a shoo-in for the league MVP award. And the last two MVPs have also won a title for their respective squads. And it sure doesn’t look like Stewart will be ending that trend. As the league’s top seed they’ve moved on to the semifinals and will play the lowest remaining seed. She’s been remarkable all year, ranking in the top 8 in the league in points, rebounds, steals, blocks and free throws.
Sue Bird finished the year second in assists, fourth in 3-point field goal percentage and first in net rating at 37 years old. She’s been a revelation and, combined with Stewart, has formed a 1-2 punch that’s yet to be stopped this season. They enter the postseason having won eight of nine and 16 of 19 games.
Their offense hasn’t faltered all year, as they lead the league in net rating and effective field goal percentage. When the advanced numbers like a team as much as the raw ones do, it’s not a surprise that they have by far the best odds on Karamba at +130. The payout isn’t high, but it’d be a mild shock if they don’t cut down the nets in a few weeks time.
Star power reins supreme in all walks of basketball. But maybe, just maybe, the balanced attack of the Sun can get it done this year. Chiney Ogwumike leads the way but this Sun team has five players in double figures, the only one in the league (only two teams have even four such players).
And that balance has given them the league’s second most efficient offense and net rating and the third best effective field goal percentage. They’re getting it done on both ends, too.
They’re fourth in defensive efficiency and first in rebound percentage. This group effort has given them a real shot to hoist the trophy next month. They’re +750 on Karamba, and they’ll need to win a single elimination game to get to the semifinals, but this is a hot team that’s won nine of their last 10 games and is 13-4 at home, tied for the best record in the league. Maybe some road magic can keep this balanced season going.
A little momentum never hurt, and despite what Connecticut might do it’s always good to have star power. The Mercury bottomed out in early August, going from 14-5 to 16-14 with a woeful 2-9 stretch. And while the sample size is small, the four-game winning streak they went on to end the regular season to help them maintain the No. 5 seed could loom large.
Diana Taurasi is a three-time champion and does her best work in the postseason, while Brittney Griner finished the regular season sixth in points and first in blocks. She’s a force that will match up well with the other top bigs in the league.
Their supporting cast is nothing to write home about, and it could spell doom if Taurasi (the league’s fifth leading scorer) and Griner aren’t on their games. But they’ve got the championship pedigree to get the job done. And if we can get +800 odds on Karamba, maybe they catch a hot three-weeks. You can bet no other team wants to face them.