Because the WNBA enters its twenty sixth season, the Chicago Sky look to do what no crew has carried out in 20 years: repeat as champions.
However with the expertise pool within the league overflowing — to the purpose the place latest first-round draft picks and rookies of the 12 months can’t even stick on rosters — the competitors is hard throughout all 12 groups. Connecticut and Phoenix will look to avenge their postseason defeats to Chicago, whereas Seattle and Minnesota have retooled within the (supposed) last seasons of superstars of Sue Hen and Sylvia Fowles.
To attempt to make sense of what’s to return, we requested our employees to make predictions for the 2022 season. Picks are made by Sabreena Service provider, Zack Ward, Avery Wiggins, Eric Nemchock, Cat Ariail, and Ricky O’Donnell. If you happen to’re curious, right here’s how we did final 12 months.
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Which 2021 lottery crew (if any) will crash the 2022 playoffs, and in whose place?
Avery: The Washington Mystics will bounce again this 12 months with the return of Elena Delle Donne and several other new additions. They are going to take the place of the Dallas Wings within the playoffs.
Cat: Presuming Elena Delle Donne is on the courtroom for almost all of video games, it’s gotta be the Washington Mystics. Not solely is the 2019 MVP anticipated to be again on the courtroom, however we additionally get to see Alysha Clark in DC crimson, white and blue for the primary time. Mixed with a regularly enhancing Ariel Atkins, a Myisha Hines-Allen with an expanded function, an intense flooring common in Natasha Cloud and a sturdy defensive presence in Elizabeth Williams, amongst others, Mike Thibault has the items wanted to vault his squad firmly into the playoff image. In distinction, questions persist about how the Dallas Wings personnel suits collectively, which could lead on the Wings discovering themselves again outdoors the postseason.
Eric: The Washington Mystics. So much went fallacious for Washington final season, and whereas the Mystics definitely don’t look bulletproof coming into 2022, they’ll have a significantly better likelihood at making the playoffs if Elena Delle Donne and Alysha Clark are in higher well being. A crew that might fall out of the playoff image is New York; the Liberty solely barely made the postseason final 12 months and didn’t do a lot to deal with their ineffective protection.
Sabreena: The Sparks and Mystics will each be a part of the postseason social gathering instead of the Liberty and Wings.
Zack: I believe the Mystics will make the playoffs if Elena Delle Donne is wholesome. However for now, I’ll go together with the Sparks changing the Wings. Dallas received higher, however LA improved much more with the additions of Liz Cambage, Chennedy Carter, Katie Lou Samuelson and Jordin Canada.
Ricky: It’s a boring decide, however the Mystics seem to be the apparent decide among the many 4 groups who missed the postseason final 12 months. Elena Delle Donne can nonetheless be one of many best possible gamers on the earth if she’s wholesome, and there’s greater than sufficient expertise in her supporting solid to crack the top-8.
Which participant can be a first-time All-Star?
Zack: Myisha Hines-Allen. She made the All-WNBA Second Workforce in 2020 when there wasn’t an All-Star Recreation. Her numbers had been down final 12 months, however, with Tina Charles off to Phoenix, she’s going to play an enormous function on the Mystics in 2022, and I count on her to reassume star standing. She will play point-forward and do all of it on offense.
Avery: Former No. 1 total decide Sabrina Ionescu will lastly take an enormous leap this 12 months and change into an All-Star for the Liberty. She’ll change into a extra environment friendly shooter and enhance her scoring common and change into the type of star that everybody hoped that she could be out of Oregon.
Cat: Kelsey Plum has the potential to crash the All-Star social gathering. Coming off a Sixth Girl of the 12 months marketing campaign and a 3×3 gold medal, and an look on Wild ‘N Out, Plum has the general public profile, along with the on-court manufacturing, that always correlates with an All-Star honor. The Las Vegas Aces getting off to a scorching begin to the season might additional improve Plum’s possibilities.
Eric: Chennedy Carter. The Sparks confirmed religion in Carter by buying and selling for her this previous offseason, and with world-class frontcourt expertise like Nneka Ogwumike and Liz Cambage, Los Angeles looks as if the best place for the dynamic level guard as she enters her third WNBA season.
Sabreena: I had 4 gamers on my WNBA prime 30 (try the total Swish Enchantment record!) who haven’t been All-Stars, and the one I had ranked highest was Allisha Grey. Dallas has a ton of guard depth and bigs, however not a lot on the wing behind Grey. That makes her tremendous vital to the Wings, and a powerful begin after 3×3 success a 12 months in the past will get her to the All-Star Recreation.
Ricky: Kelsey Plum. The previous No. 1 total decide lastly lived as much as her pre-draft hype in her fourth WNBA season final 12 months. Plum averaged double-figures (14.8 factors per recreation) in scoring for the primary time in her profession, and did it on spectacular 58 p.c true capturing. Whereas she’s nonetheless projected to return off the bench, there ought to be extra offensive alternatives in Vegas this 12 months with Cambage’s departure. Plum’s three-level scoring capability is as spectacular as any participant within the league who hasn’t but been an All-Star.
Who’s Chicago’s largest menace to repeat?
Sabreena: The Aces. I don’t suppose Las Vegas is essentially the favourite to win the title, however I don’t like this matchup for Chicago in any respect. The Aces have sturdy defenders in all places on the courtroom and may play quite a lot of completely different defensive kinds. In addition they have the dimensions up entrance to deal with the Sky’s frontcourt. Chicago ought to hope to keep away from Las Vegas within the postseason.
Zack: Connecticut. I believe the Solar have the very best prime 5 within the league: Jonquel Jones, Alyssa Thomas, DeWanna Bonner, Courtney Williams and Brionna Jones. I do know they fell to the Sky within the semifinals final 12 months, however I believe they’ve what it takes to beat that psychological hurdle and problem Chicago.
Avery: I do know that that is the simple decide, however it’s true that the Connecticut Solar are the most important menace to the Chicago Sky’s possibilities of repeating. The Solar have the expertise that matches that of the Sky. The one questions are can they get it carried out when it issues and have they got the depth for a deep playoff run?
Cat: It’s the crew that Chicago upset of their run to the title: the Connecticut Solar. The Solar have improved their expertise and depth and, presumably, realized from final season’s shortcomings.
Eric: The Seattle Storm. It’s a star-driven league, and the Storm have arguably the very best duo within the WNBA in Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd. With Sue Hen and Briann January probably retiring after the season and a doubtlessly risky free company interval on the horizon, you’ll be able to wager the Storm will do every little thing of their energy to win yet one more ring with their present core of gamers.
Ricky: Seattle. This decide principally comes right down to Breanna Stewart nonetheless being my decide for the legendary title of ‘finest participant on the earth’ + Jewell Lloyd arguably the very best second choice within the W. Their depth is a bit worrisome, however I’m considering this might lastly be the breakout 12 months for Gabby Williams. Are you able to think about Sue Hen going out with a title? It could be a correct ending for an all-time nice. We simply may get it.
Awards picks: MVP, Coach of the 12 months, Rookie of the 12 months, Sixth Girl
Eric: MVP: Breanna Stewart, COY: Noelle Quinn, ROY: Rhyne Howard, Sixth Girl: Azurá Stevens
Sabreena: MVP: Breanna Stewart, COY: Noelle Quinn, ROY: NaLyssa Smith, Sixth Girl: Chennedy Carter
Zack: MVP: Breanna Stewart, COY: Sandy Brondello, ROY: Rhyne Howard, Sixth Girl: Brionna Jones
Avery: MVP: Breanna Stewart, COY: Becky Hammon, ROY: Rhyne Howard, Sixth Girl: Brionna Jones
Cat: MVP: A’ja Wilson, COY: Becky Hammon, ROY: Rhyne Howard, Sixth Girl: Rebecca Allen
Ricky: MVP: Breanna Stewart. COY: Becky Hammon, ROY: Rhyne Howard, Sixth Girl: Kelsey Plum.
Give me one daring WNBA prediction
Cat: Questions will start to be raised about Sabrina Ionescu and her anticipated “celebrity” upside. At moments, Ionescu has appeared just like the triple-double queen she was at Oregon. Nevertheless, largely resulting from damage and a protracted damage restoration, Ionescu has not established herself because the “face of the league”-caliber participant she is imagined to be. After a wholesome offseason and with a brand new, skilled head coach, the time is now for Ionescu to change into that participant. If not…
Sabreena: I’m anxious concerning the Minnesota Lynx. I shouldn’t be, contemplating Sylvia Fowles and Cheryl Reeve are nonetheless there, however pinning all their level guard hopes on Odyssey Sims issues me. Granted, Sims was nice in 2019 throughout her first stint in Minnesota and solely actually faltered in 2020 after giving start shortly earlier than the WNBA bubble. However she’s the lone lead guard on this roster, and if she performs like she did in Atlanta, the Lynx are in hassle.
Zack: The Liberty will end within the prime half of the league. I picked them to complete seventh final 12 months based mostly on the potential of their large three (Betnijah Laney, Natasha Howard and Sabrina Ionescu). Ionescu had an underrated season final 12 months and is poised to interrupt out much more this 12 months. Plus, the crew has added Stefanie Dolson.
Avery: The Aces will the league’s prime scoring crew. Becky Hammon was an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs beneath head coach Gregg Popovich, who had been recognized for his or her team-oriented offense. That, mixed with superstars like A’ja Wilson and Chelsea Grey in addition to promising younger gamers, ought to make Las Vegas an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses.
Ricky: The Sparks’ season will mirror the Lakers’ when it comes to a star-studded disappointment in LA.
Who meets within the Finals and who wins?
Avery: No shock that I believe that the ultimate two groups would be the Chicago Sky and the Connecticut Solar. It will likely be fairly the battle, however I imagine that the Solar will prevail ultimately.
Cat: Give me the 2 groups that skilled playoff disappointment final season within the Connecticut Solar and the Las Vegas Aces, with the Solar, lastly, discovering a approach to win the franchise’s first championship.
Zack: Chicago and Phoenix. I believe will probably be a rematch of final 12 months even with the Mercury lacking Brittney Griner. Tina Charles was at her finest final common season and Diana Taurasi was at her finest final postseason. I’m additionally an enormous fan of the Sky’s prime 7 gamers, together with additions Emma Meesseman and Julie Allemand.
Sabreena: Seattle and Connecticut. So long as Breanna Stewart is round, I’ll preserve choosing the Storm.
Ricky: Solar vs. Seattle. Give me the Storm and a Hollywood ending for Sue Hen.
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