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Our WNBA 2021 season preview with title predictions, MVP picks, and more

Our huge WNBA preseason roundtable includes predictions for all of the league’s big questions.

As the WNBA enters its 25th season, it feels like the league has never had more talent than it does today. It is hyper-competitive just to make a roster on each of the 12 teams. At this point, it fees like the W could add several more teams via expansion and still have plenty of star-power to go around.

The WNBA returns to home arenas this year after spending last season in the bubble wubble. The Seattle Storm enter the year as defending champions, and will be searching for their third title in four years. Storm forward Breanna Stewart is on her way to becoming one of the most accomplished players in the history of the sport, while veteran point guard Sue Bird remains a steady floor general as she enters her 18th season.

If the Storm are the favorites, there are no shortage of competitors. The Washington Mystics, Las Vegas Aces, and Chicago Sky are becoming popular picks to win it all at the end of the season.

Before the 2021 WNBA season gets underway, we asked our staff to predict how this year will go. Picks are being made by Sabreena Merchant, Sydney Umeri, Ricky O’Donnell, Brady Klopfer, Cat Ariail, Zack Ward, Eric Nemchock, and Jim Savell. For continued coverage of the WNBA all season, follow our excellent women’s basketball community Swish Appeal.

Which team will be the must-watch this year?

Cat: The Indiana Fever. Yes, the team that finished last in Swish Appeal’s preseason power rankings. However, if everything breaks right, Indy could emerge as a super-fun, young team. There’s a scenario where Kelsey Mitchell is a surefire All-Star, Teaira McCowan makes the leap many have been waiting on, Victoria Vivians strokes it from deep, Kysre Gondreszick shines like a lottery pick and vets Jantel Lavender and Danielle Robinson provide steady leadership, and just enough defense. The alternative scenario — where the Fever’s talent deficit resigns them to the WNBA cellar — is still intriguing. While I think we all want to see Tamika Catchings succeed as general manager, a disappointing season has to raise questions about the direction of the franchise. Will Indiana stand behind Catchings or make changes within the organization’s decision-making structure?

Sydney: The Las Vegas Aces. They are looking very strong this season, and they’re a team you won’t want to miss. Last season they were runner-ups to the Seattle Storm, and they didn’t even have everyone available to play. With Liz Cambage back after opting out of the 2020 season and Kelsey Plum fully recovered from her achilles injury, they will be fun to watch. They are also returning their core including, Tamera Young, Dearica Hamby, and A’ja Wilson; not to mention, they now have Chelsea Gray.

Ricky: The Chicago Sky. Chicago already had one of the most exciting teams in the league even before adding Candace Parker in free agency. Veteran point guard Courtney Vandersloot is the league’s top facilitator, Diamond DeShields feels primed for a breakout season at age-26, and Azurá Stevens is an inside-out scoring threat in the front court. The Sky have a great mix of established veterans and burgeoning young talent, and it feels like Parker could be the missing piece to tie it all together.

Jim: The New York Liberty. Sabrina Ionescu playing again combined with the arrival of Natasha Howard make the Liberty quite an intriguing team. The Liberty shot 602 3-point shots last season and that should continue to be a part of their offensive gameplan. If they make more than the 27 percent they did last season, the Liberty might find themselves in the playoff hunt.

Sabreena: Any team that has Chennedy Carter, Aari McDonald, and Courtney Williams in the same backcourt is must-see for me. If anything, the fact that the Atlanta Dream lost their head coach less than two weeks before the start of the season makes them more interesting because Carter and McDonald are just going to be given the ball and asked to go to work. The Dream also have LaChina Robinson and Angel Gray on the League Pass broadcast, so they’ve got everything going for them.

Brady: The Chicago Sky. The Sky have every ingredient you want for entertainment. Candace Parker is one of the best players in league history, and still good for numerous highlights a night. Courtney Vandersloot is the best passer in the league, with an assist rate in 2020 that nearly doubled the next-best player. Diamond DeShields might be the best pure athlete in the league. Beyond that, they have dynamics that could fill up the drama, entertainment, and intrigue bars. Parker’s an all-time great, but her teams have had their fair share of off-court stories and tension in recent years. Vandersloot and her backcourt partner, Allie Quiqley, are married. Many predicted a Sky breakout last year, but they finished just 12-10. It’s easy to envision the Sky ending the regular season as title favorites, or as a disappointing middle of the pack crew. And they’ll be must-watch TV the whole way.

Zack: The Chicago Sky. Candace Parker on her own makes any team worth watching with her passion and leadership. The story of her returning to her hometown of Chicago is so compelling. She has a big personality and fit in in Hollywood, but her return to her roots has revealed a different, humbler side to her. As a player, Parker proved doubters wrong last year by making the All-WNBA First Team and winning Defensive Player of the Year after struggling with an injury in 2019. She has a chip on her shoulder to prove she can still be one of the best at age 35. And Courtney Vandersloot must have a chip on her shoulder too after all these years of being kept out of the MVP discussion because she’s a point guard. She is a unique talent as the only player in the league who can pile up assists at a prolific rate and her teaming up with Parker just makes Chicago that much more interesting.

Eric: The Atlanta Dream. Granted, Atlanta is a bit of an unknown quantity entering the season, with former head coach Nicki Collen accepting a job at Baylor University in the middle of training camp and an overstock of ball-dominant combo guards making the Dream’s potential rotation a complete enigma. It’s that rotation, however, that makes Atlanta so tantalizing: 2021 No. 3 overall pick Aari McDonald, who became a national star during Arizona’s improbable run in the NCAA Tournament, joins budding stars Chennedy Carter and Courtney Williams on a team brimming with vibrant personality. The jury’s still out on whether or not the Dream will be any good, but they’ll be League Pass favorites regardless.

Which player will be a household name by the end of the season?

Sydney: Mark my words Charli Collier will be a name to remember by the end of this season. Though it’s her rookie year, and there might be a bit of a learning curve, Collier is extremely talented. She was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft coming out of the University of Texas as a junior. She is a center/forward with the ability to stretch defenses and knock down threes when needed, but is also a force on the glass, finishing with a combination of power and finesse around the rim.

Eric: Kysre Gondrezick. The Fever caused a stir when they drafted Gondrezick at No. 4 overall, but they clearly see something in her that they like, so it’d be surprising if she doesn’t get plenty of opportunity to carve out a spot for herself on a rebuilding Indiana team. She’s already signed a contract with Adidas - according to ESPN’s Nick DePaula, Gondrezick will be the face of Adidas Basketball moving forward - and she’s spoken at length about the importance of branding and influencing future generations. Gondrezick has yet to play a single minute of WNBA basketball, but she’s already on the fast track to widespread visibility.

Ricky: Chennedy Carter. Carter didn’t win Rookie of the Year last season (the award went to Crystal Dangerfield), but the 5’9 guard did establish herself the future face of the Atlanta Dream with a terrific all-around debut in the W. Carter is a dynamic three-point shooter, and should be freed up to work off the ball at times with the arrival of top draft pick Aari McDonald. The Dream might be in disarray after head coach Nicki Collen bolted for Baylor, but Carter will give fans something to cheer about.

Sabreena: Am I too late on Napheesa Collier? It feels like the hype train for Collier is so much softer than other big-name Connecticut prospects. She won Rookie of the Year in 2019, was second-team all-WNBA a year ago, and almost makes you forget that Maya Moore isn’t in Minnesota right now. Collier feels like she should be the biggest up-and-coming player in the W other than maybe her podcast co-host A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart, but Collier is damn good, and if the Lynx exceed preseason expectations, she’ll be the reason why.

Cat: Brianna Turner. In the latter half of her sophomore season, Turner served as a needed spark for the then-floundering Phoenix Mercury, with her relentless effort and energy translating into All-Defensive honors. She proved especially prolific in grabbing rebounds and swatting shots. Yet, Turner is overshadowed by the multiple starry names on this Mercury team — Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Kia Nurse. However, if Phoenix approaches their championship aspirations, expect Turner to be integral to their success. Turner also deserves more shine as an incisive voice on matters of racial justice.

Zack: Courtney Williams. Williams made a bit of a name for herself during the 2019 WNBA Finals when she was a member of the Connecticut Sun, but look for her to become even more well-known this season. She doesn’t often get talked about as one of the best players in the WNBA, but numbers suggest she had a case to be in Swish Appeal’s Top 30 players. With career-best averages of 14.6 points (2020), 7.2 rebounds (2020), 3.8 assists (2019) and 1.4 steals (2019), she deserves more respect and should put up even bigger numbers at age 27 for a Dream team that is looking for other members of its deep roster besides Tiffany Hayes and rising star Chennedy Carter to step up and give them a legit big three.

Jim: Ezi Magbegor. The 2019 first round pick of the Seattle Storm from Australia played her rookie season in 2020 and played 13 minutes per game. With Natasha Howard off to New York, there will be a hole at the center position. The young 6’4” center scored 17 points in 19 minutes in the Storm’s preseason game against the Phoenix Mercury, showing that she is ready to compete for the starting spot.

Brady: Napheesa Collier’s game isn’t quite as flashy as it is valuable, but if you like watching elite-level players play, there are few people who can hold a candle to her. She’s been under-appreciated early in her career as Minnesota tried to retool on the fly for the post-Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen era. But I suspect the Lynx will be title contenders this year, with Collier on the short list of MVP candidates. And I expect both of those things to be true for most years for the next decade or so.

Who will lead the WNBA in scoring?

Eric: Arike Ogunbowale. Dallas may be more balanced offensively than it was last season, but the roster is still very young, and it will probably be Ogunbowale’s team until proven otherwise. She’s posted massive usage ratings thus far in her career (over 30 percent in both 2019 and 2020, according to Basketball Reference), and that was with the Wings playing at a relatively slow pace. If head coach Vicki Johnson emphasizes early offense in her first season at the helm, Ogunbowale will get that many more possessions to put the ball in the hoop.

Cat: Breanna Stewart. On first instinct, the answer is Dallas Wings’ scoring dynamo Arike Ogunbowale. Yet, the 2021 Wings have a deeper suite of scorers. While it should be expected that an improved Satou Sabally will get more touches on offense, rookies Chelsea Dungee and Dana Evans also have the potential to fill it up. In contrast, Breanna Stewart will have to assume a bigger scoring burden on a retooled Seattle Storm squad that features a supporting cast of younger, still-unproven players and past-their-prime vets. With Jewell Loyd as the only other consistent bucket getter on the Storm, Stewie should turn in many big scoring nights.

Ricky: Arike Ogunbowale. Ogunbowale led the WNBA in scoring at 22.8 points per game inside the bubble last season, and she will be expected to carry the Dallas Wings again this year. While Ogunbowale put up big numbers, her scoring efficiency — 41.2 percent from the field, 33.6 percent from three — leaves her plenty of room for improvement going into this season.

Sabreena: Arike seems like the obvious pick, but I’m going to go with DeWanna Bonner. She was third in scoring last season, but now has a year of playing in Curt Miller’s system under her belt. Bonner will have more offensive responsibility without Alyssa Thomas available and potentially more space to work with now that Jonquel Jones is back, too. Conditions seem ripe for the league’s 19th-leading scorer of all-time to grab her first scoring title.

Brady: Breanna Stewart. Full disclosure: Ogunbowale should be the odds-on favorite, but Stewart has a very strong case after finishing third a year ago in her first season back after tearing her Achilles. On what figures to be a bad team with a lot of rookies to develop, it wouldn’t be a shock if Ogunbowale sees a slight decrease in minutes and role, as the Wings try and build up her teammates so they can be competitive in 2022. Stewart, on the other hand, will be given the key to the Storm’s car, and also their other car, as well as their courtesy car and golf cart.

Zack: Breanna Stewart. She has the edge over Ogunbowale with her ability to post-up and score as a frontcourt player as well as a guard-like perimeter player. Both are incredibly gifted with stellar moves and this is a close call. But expect 2021 to be the year of Stewie and expect that to include the scoring title.

Sydney: Arike Ogunbowale. She was the leading scorer last season, and it doesn’t look like anyone will stand in her way and slow her down anytime soon, not even the new additions to the Dallas Wings roster. She is very efficient and ultimately a guard that can accurately read defenses, take advantage of missteps by defenders and finish at a high percentage whether she’s slashing to the rim, pulling up in the lane, or from beyond the arch.

Jim: Breanna Stewart. The Storm’s roster has changed quite a bit from last season and the other top five scorers from last season (Arike Ogunbowale, A’ja Wilson, DeWanna Bonner, and Diana Taurasi) will have more scoring options. Stewart was coming off of an Achilles injury in 2020 and still managed to finish fourth in scoring. Look for her to be a prime number one option for the Storm.

Who will be MVP?

Sabreena: WNBA voters have a very clear “best player on best team” pattern when it comes to awarding the MVP. Not since 2015 has the MVP come from a team that wasn’t the No. 1 seed, and even then, Elena Delle Donne played for the second-seeded Sky. This really might come down to who has the best record, and I think that will be the Storm, who are projected to clear the field by three games by FiveThirtyEight. That means Breanna Stewart should be the MVP for the second time in her career. It’s already been three weeks since Stewart added a trophy to her case as the 2021 EuroLeague Final Four MVP, so it’s past time she added another one, right?

Eric: Candace Parker. Let’s be honest: MVP is largely a narrative-driven award. Parker may not be as individually dominant as Stewart, Delle Donne, Wilson and other popular MVP picks at this point in her career, but she proved in 2020 that she still has plenty left to contribute to winning basketball. Parker brings defense, rebounding, playmaking and experience to a Chicago team that needed every bit of her diverse skillset; if the Sky take the leap many are expecting of them and finish near the top of the WNBA standings, Parker will likely have a compelling case for MVP.

Jim: I think it comes down to Breanna Stewart and Candace Parker. Stewart will have the stats and, although I think the Storm are generally weaker as a team than they have been recently, the Storm will be near the top of the standings. Eric’s argument about the award being narrative-driven is compelling. If the Sky finish third or better and Parker remains healthy, look for Parker to take the award.

Ricky: Breanna Stewart. Stewart might be on track to become women’s basketball’s GOAT by the time she retires. Still just 26 years old, Stewart is already incredibly accomplished and seems to be firmly in her prime. She successfully recovered from a torn Achilles last year, and immediately led the Storm to a WNBA championship in the bubble. Elena Delle Donne and A’ja Wilson will push her, but Stewart is still the best player alive.

Sydney: Candace Parker. She’s in her hometown, with a new team and a new system, but I feel like this will be a dominant year for her. Thirty-five years old and having spent the past 13 seasons in LA, her change to Chicago shocked the basketball world. I feel like Parker, though a veteran, will continue to amaze us on her new team with many dominant MVP caliber performances. I think she’ll remind us that the young players are great, but even as a veteran she’s still one of the best in the game.

Brady: Breanna Stewart. Stewart is the best player alive, on a team with a solid chance of being the best in the league. That’s a pretty strong formula. Reigning MVP A’ja Wilson could make a push, but her usage might drop a little with Liz Cambage’s return. Elena Delle Donne has the skills to win, but is already hampered by back injuries. Others like Candace Parker, Napheesa Collier, Nneka Ogwumike, Brittney Griner, and Jonquel Jones all have cases, but also obstacles. Stewie has the most straightforward path while, again, already being the best player in the world.

Cat: Napheesa Collier. With A’ja Wilson and Liz Cambage stealing votes from each other on the Las Vegas Aces, Breanna Stewart on a Seattle Storms team that likely will not match last season’s heights and the Washington Mystics’ Elena Delle Donne working her way back from offseason back surgery, there is a potential MVP void. As the Minnesota Lynx are poised to be near the top of the standings, Napheesa Collier, who finished fifth on last season’s MVP ballot, is a strong candidate to fill it. Even as the Lynx have bolstered their roster, it is Collier, with her ability to credibly play three positions on both ends of the floor, who unlocks the versatility that makes the Lynx a dangerous, championship-caliber team. Collier also should post the raw numbers and impact metrics requisite of an MVP.

Zack: Breanna Stewart. There really couldn’t be a more perfect storm for Breanna Stewart right now. She’s a little quicker than Elena Delle Donne, who is arguably the second-best player in the world, and more youthful at age 26. She eliminated any thoughts that the Achilles injury in 2019 would lower her level of play by averaging 19.7 points and 8.3 rebounds last year en route to a second-place finish in MVP voting. Expect her to win the award for the second time this year.

Let’s talk defense. Which team will finish No. 1 in defensive efficiency? Who will win Defensive Player of the Year?

Ricky: A’ja Wilson for DPOY. Aces finish with the top defense. Wilson won MVP last season, and is unquestionably one of the top overall talents in the league. The Aces’ defense only finished behind the Storm last year, and they’re getting Liz Cambage back this season. All signs are pointing to the Aces being a powerhouse, and their size inside is going to be a big part of a dominant defense.

Sabreena: At the risk of repeating everything Ricky just said, the Aces will have the best defense in the league. They have the bones of the defense that finished atop the league in 2019, and getting Liz Cambage back in place of Carolyn Swords/Emma Cannon/whatever was happening at the 5 last year should help them get back from second place to that perch. As for defensive player of the year, let’s just say it will go to someone who will also appear on one of the league’s all-defense teams.

Brady: There are a million and one good options for DPOY, but I’m choosing Natasha Howard. The last time Howard wasn’t fighting for minutes and spotlight next to Breanna Stewart, she almost unanimously won DPOY. She’ll have a tall task righting a Liberty defense that was last in the league a year ago, but if she can, she’ll be in pole position for the award. As for team defense, I’m going with the Lynx. Minnesota wasn’t a good defensive team last year, but they were lacking Sylvia Fowles for all but seven games. With a hopefully healthy Fowles, the additions of Kayla McBride and Aerial Powers, and a year of growth from Napheesa Collier, they could be elite on that end of the court. Most Cheryl Reeve teams are.

Cat: Sylvia Fowles. In her brief time on the court last season, the longtime Minnesota Lynx stalwart flashed DOY form. This season, with less of a burden on offense, Fowles should be able to devote her energies to anchoring Minnesota’s defense. In 2020, without Fowles, the Lynx’s defensive rating was nearly seven points worse than the league leader, a departure from season after season of being within two points of the league’s best defense, if not at the top. With a healthy Fowles, the Lynx should be back in their more familiar defensive stratosphere, and Big Syl might have earned more hardware.

Zack: Elizabeth Williams best defensive player. Lynx best defensive team. To me, Williams was the second-best defensive player in the league last year after Alyssa Thomas, who will miss all of 2021 with a torn Achilles. Thomas made more disruptive plays, but Williams provided sound fundamental defense on a consistent basis. She also averaged 1.4 blocks per game. The Lynx return nine-time All-Defensive player and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Sylvia Fowles from a calf injury to a team that was fifth in the league in defensive rating last year. The trio of Fowles, Napheesa Collier and Damiris Dantas in the frontcourt is formidable defensively and I’ll give it the edge over the backcourt duo of Briann January and Jasmine Thomas in Connecticut.

Eric: The Las Vegas Aces are looking pretty tough defensively. Losing Angel McCoughtry to a knee injury is a big hit for their perimeter defense, but they should remain an excellent defensive rebounding team, and if they lead the WNBA in opponents’ free throw rate by as wide of a margin as they did in 2020, their overall defensive efficiency will once again be excellent. As far as Defensive Player of the Year, I think this is Napheesa Collier’s year to be recognized; her versatility and basketball IQ on the defensive end of the floor are unparalleled, and if Sylvia Fowles can stay healthy enough to contribute her usual stout interior defense, Collier will have all the room she needs to wreak havoc elsewhere.

Jim: I like the Minnesota Lynx here with Napheesa Collier to take the Defensive Player of the Year award. The Lynx were fifth last season and I expect the teams who finished in front of them to regress defensively based on roster changes and injuries. Minnesota plays great team defense and Collier is a versatile defender and should have the statistical argument to back it up by the end of the season.

Give me one bold WNBA prediction

Brady: Is it bold to say that Sabrina Ionescu will be one of the best players in the W? After being one of the most highly-touted prospects in league history a year ago, Ionescu struggled with ankle injuries and played just three games. In essence, she’s still a rookie, but she won’t play like one. I’ll say she makes an All-WNBA team.

Cat: The Atlanta Dream will earn a top-five playoff seed. It’s been a good year for interim head coaches in the ATL. (Shout out Nate McMillan!) Despite all of the unexpected turnover within the Dream organization, interim head coach Mike Petersen and lead assistant coach Darius Taylor inherit a team with a ton of talent. Last season’s oft-injured core of Chennedy Carter, Courtney Williams, Elizabeth Williams, Monique Billings and Shekinna Stricklen will welcome back Tiffany Hayes, with No. 3 draft pick Aari McDonald and free agents Cheynne Parker, Odyssey Sims and Tianna Hawkins highlighting the new arrivals. If Petersen and Taylor can get all these unfamiliar faces to coalesce into a team, the Dream should be in the middle of the playoff picture.

Eric: Teaira McCowan will win Most Improved Player. Though the criteria for this award aren’t exactly clear, the young Fever center seems like a good candidate to earn it; she struggled to stay on the floor in 2020, but her per-minute stats remained impressive, and with Indiana overhauling its frontcourt in free agency, McCowan seems to be in line for more minutes and a consistent starting role. If she improves her defensive mechanics enough to stay in the good graces of head coach Marianne Stanley, McCowan could realistically average a double-double, which would give her a good argument for Most Improved honors.

Zack: Dallas and New York make the playoffs. Charli Collier, Awak Kuier, Chelsea Dungee and Dana Evans will all make impacts as rookies with Collier and Kuier becoming stars. It’s not unprecedented in the WNBA for top two draft picks to do so in their first seasons. Arike Ogunbowale and Satou Sabally will also play well and Dallas won’t have any weak links. Marina Mabrey will remain an X factor. Meanwhile the Liberty will see a big three form with Natasha Howard, Betnijah Laney and a Sabrina Ionescu who lives up to expectations. Howard will be in contention for an All-WNBA spot and Ionescu’s distributing abilities will make the Liberty offense run smoothly so that they are able to bounce back from a 2-20 campaign.

Sabreena: The Mystics fall off. The expectation seems to be that Washington will be right back in the contending class now that all of the players who opted out in 2020 are back, but I don’t think it’ll be that easy. Elena Delle Donne won’t be ready to start the season, Emma Meesseman won’t be coming until after the Olympic break at the earliest, and Alysha Clark won’t suit up at all. Tina Charles is a damn good consolation prize with all those players at less than full strength, and Natasha Cloud has shown the ability to lead a championship team, but there’s enough uncertainty that I don’t think the Mystics can be penciled in alongside the Storm, Aces, Sky, or even the Lynx depending on when Collier gets back.

Jim: The Indiana Fever finally make the playoff leap. The Fever have drafted some of the best young talent to leave college over the last few years. However, that potential has not translated to success on the court, averaging just 8.5 wins over the last four seasons. As head coach Marianne Stanley enters her second season, look for the Fever to be much improved and fighting for spot in the playoffs.

Ricky: Dallas makes the playoffs. The Wings have missed the postseason each of the last two seasons, but they’re too talented to do it again. Dallas has one of the league’s top scorers in Arike Ogunbowale, while 6’4 forward Satou Sabally could turn into a star in her second season. Dallas also had three of the first five picks in the 2021 draft, adding Charli Collier and Awak Kuier to the front court, and Chelsea Dungee to the backcourt. They’re ready to crash the playoffs.

Sydney: The Atlanta Dream will make the playoffs. This is definitely a bold prediction considering that the team is in flux. They are under new ownership, have an interim head coach since Nicki Collen took the head coaching job for Baylor women’s basketball 11 days before the start of the season. The road to the start of the season hasn’t been a straight shot for the Dream, and yet I feel like this team has the heart to do what most people think they can’t. From Chennedy Carter to Aari McDonald, Elizabeth Williams, and the whole squad, I think there’s a chance for them to make the postseason despite their circumstances.

What’s your Finals prediction?

Sabreena: Until it happens, I can’t see the Storm being beaten. They have Stewie, and that’s a better starting point than anyone else. Here’s hoping they get to play the Aces in a rematch of both teams at full strength.

Eric: Mystics over Aces. Washington may struggle out of the gate with Elena Delle Donne recovering from a back injury and Emma Meesseman competing internationally with Belgium, but if both of those players are back in the fold by the time the playoffs roll around, the Mystics will be balanced, skilled and experienced. The contrasting offensive philosophies and amount of star power would make this a tremendous series to watch, and assuming both teams will be at their strongest, I think Washington will have the firepower to win it all.

Sydney: The Aces win it all. I know, we haven’t seen that happen before, especially since this franchise is just four years old, but their talent cannot be denied. It’s not to say that other teams aren’t talented, but I can see the Aces getting hot late in the season and being hard to cool down as long as they stay healthy.

Ricky: Storm over Sky. Seattle is the betting favorite for a reason. The Storm have won the title two of the last three years, and will be going for back-to-back championships for the first time in franchise history. Despite a couple questionable offseason moves, this is still a stacked roster led by Stewie, the best player alive. They remain the team to beat.

Cat: Mystics over Aces. The Washington Mystics may not finish with the league’s best record during the regular season, but, as long as Emma Messeman returns for the second half of the season and Elena Delle Donne remains healthy, DC has the ingredients needed to survive what promises to be a hyper-competitive championship chase and claim a second trophy in three seasons. With a do-it-all superstar in EDD flanked by numerous “stars in the role” with playoff experience — headlined by Messeman, Tina Charles, Natasha Cloud and Ariel Atkins — Washington has the intangibles characteristic of title-winning teams.

Brady: Storm over Lynx. I can see a path to the Finals for eight teams, which is part of what makes this league so fun. But the Storm have the strongest case, and the most Breanna Stewarts on their team, so I give them the nod to repeat. Choosing an opponent is harder, but I love the construction of Minnesota’s club. The pieces fit together seamlessly, there’s talent at every position, and they’ve got a budding superstar in Napheesa Collier. They’re deep and experienced, and led by an all-time great coach with plenty of postseason experience.

Zack: Aces over Mystics. Despite Angel McCoughtry being out for the season with a torn ACL and a torn meniscus, the Aces are still the most talented team in the league. The Mystics will prove doubters wrong by being a Top 2 team, but the Aces will have too much firepower with A’ja Wilson, Liz Cambage and Chelsea Gray in the Finals.

Jim: Aces over Lynx. With Liz Cambage back, the season-ending injury to McCoughtry can be weathered. Additionally, the rest of the Aces team has improved after making the WNBA Finals last season. After getting swept, look for the Aces to be on a mission. I like the Lynx to make a big jump this season. The Storm, Mystics, and Sky will be on the cusp but I like the defense of Minnesota to carry them to the finals but come up short to Las Vegas.