Because the WNBA enters its twenty sixth season, the Chicago Sky look to do what no crew has performed 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 yr 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) remaining seasons of superstars of Sue Chook and Sylvia Fowles.
To attempt to make sense of what’s to return, we requested our workers 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 yr.
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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 yr with the return of Elena Delle Donne and a number of 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 court docket 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 court docket, however we additionally get to see Alysha Clark in DC pink, white and blue for the primary time. Mixed with a regularly enhancing Ariel Atkins, a Myisha Hines-Allen with an expanded position, an intense ground basic 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 matches collectively, which may lead the Wings discovering themselves again outdoors the postseason.
Eric: The Washington Mystics. Quite a bit went improper for Washington final season, and whereas the Mystics actually 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 yr 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 rather than the Liberty and Wings.
Zack: I feel the Mystics will make the playoffs if Elena Delle Donne is wholesome. However for now, I’ll go along 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 look like the apparent decide among the many 4 groups who missed the postseason final yr. Elena Delle Donne can nonetheless be one of many highest gamers on the planet if she’s wholesome, and there’s greater than sufficient expertise in her supporting solid to crack the top-8.
Which participant shall 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 have been down final yr, however, with Tina Charles off to Phoenix, she is going to play a giant position 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 general decide Sabrina Ionescu will lastly take a giant leap this yr and change into an All-Star for the Liberty. She’ll change into a extra environment friendly shooter and improve her scoring common and change into the form of star that everybody hoped that she can be out of Oregon.
Cat: Kelsey Plum has the potential to crash the All-Star social gathering. Coming off a Sixth Lady of the Yr 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 usually correlates with an All-Star honor. The Las Vegas Aces getting off to a scorching begin to the season may additional improve Plum’s probabilities.
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 (take a look at the complete Swish Attraction listing!) 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 essential to the Wings, and a powerful begin after 3×3 success a yr in the past will get her to the All-Star Recreation.
Ricky: Kelsey Plum. The previous No. 1 general decide lastly lived as much as her pre-draft hype in her fourth WNBA season final yr. 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 taking pictures. Whereas she’s nonetheless projected to return off the bench, there needs to be extra offensive alternatives in Vegas this yr with Cambage’s departure. Plum’s three-level scoring means is as spectacular as any participant within the league who hasn’t but been an All-Star.
Who’s Chicago’s greatest risk 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 robust defenders in all places on the court docket and might play a wide range of completely different defensive kinds. In addition they have the scale up entrance to take care of the Sky’s frontcourt. Chicago ought to hope to keep away from Las Vegas within the postseason.
Zack: Connecticut. I feel the Solar have the perfect 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 yr, however I feel they’ve what it takes to beat that psychological hurdle and problem Chicago.
Avery: I do know that that is the straightforward decide, however it’s true that the Connecticut Solar are the largest risk to the Chicago Sky’s probabilities of repeating. The Solar have the expertise that matches that of the Sky. The one questions are can they get it performed 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, discovered from final season’s shortcomings.
Eric: The Seattle Storm. It’s a star-driven league, and the Storm have arguably the perfect duo within the WNBA in Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd. With Sue Chook and Briann January possible retiring after the season and a doubtlessly unstable free company interval on the horizon, you possibly can wager the Storm will do the whole lot of their energy to win another ring with their present core of gamers.
Ricky: Seattle. This decide largely comes right down to Breanna Stewart nonetheless being my decide for the legendary title of ‘greatest participant on the planet’ + Jewell Lloyd arguably the perfect second choice within the W. Their depth is a bit worrisome, however I’m pondering this might lastly be the breakout yr for Gabby Williams. Are you able to think about Sue Chook going out with a title? It will be a correct ending for an all-time nice. We simply may get it.
Awards picks: MVP, Coach of the Yr, Rookie of the Yr, Sixth Lady
Eric: MVP: Breanna Stewart, COY: Noelle Quinn, ROY: Rhyne Howard, Sixth Lady: Azurá Stevens
Sabreena: MVP: Breanna Stewart, COY: Noelle Quinn, ROY: NaLyssa Smith, Sixth Lady: Chennedy Carter
Zack: MVP: Breanna Stewart, COY: Sandy Brondello, ROY: Rhyne Howard, Sixth Lady: Brionna Jones
Avery: MVP: Breanna Stewart, COY: Becky Hammon, ROY: Rhyne Howard, Sixth Lady: Brionna Jones
Cat: MVP: A’ja Wilson, COY: Becky Hammon, ROY: Rhyne Howard, Sixth Lady: Rebecca Allen
Ricky: MVP: Breanna Stewart. COY: Becky Hammon, ROY: Rhyne Howard, Sixth Lady: Kelsey Plum.
Give me one daring WNBA prediction
Cat: Questions will start to be raised about Sabrina Ionescu and her anticipated “famous person” upside. At moments, Ionescu has appeared just like the triple-double queen she was at Oregon. Nonetheless, largely because of harm and a chronic harm 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 in regards to 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 considerations me. Granted, Sims was nice in 2019 throughout her first stint in Minnesota and solely actually faltered in 2020 after giving delivery 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 yr primarily based on the potential of their huge three (Betnijah Laney, Natasha Howard and Sabrina Ionescu). Ionescu had an underrated season final yr and is poised to interrupt out much more this yr. 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 have been identified 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’ by way of a star-studded disappointment in LA.
Who meets within the Finals and who wins?
Avery: No shock that I feel that the ultimate two groups would be the Chicago Sky and the Connecticut Solar. It is going to be fairly the battle, however I consider 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 option to win the franchise’s first championship.
Zack: Chicago and Phoenix. I feel will probably be a rematch of final yr even with the Mercury lacking Brittney Griner. Tina Charles was at her greatest final common season and Diana Taurasi was at her greatest final postseason. I’m additionally a giant 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 hold choosing the Storm.
Ricky: Solar vs. Seattle. Give me the Storm and a Hollywood ending for Sue Chook.