2018 WNBA Preview & Odds: Is Third Straight Lynx vs Sparks Final Inevitable?

Minnesota Lynx SF Maya Moore.
Minnesota's Maya Moore will be searching for her fifth WNBA title and second MVP award in 2018. Photo by Joe Bielawa (flickr) [CC License].
  • The 2018 WNBA season starts this Friday with the Dallas Wings visiting the Phoenix Mercury. 
  • Last year’s finalists (Minnesota and Los Angeles) are heavily favored to return to the championship. 
  • The MVP race is wide-open, but the same can’t be said for Rookie of the Year. 

The 2018 WNBA season tips-off this Friday (May 18th). Are you new to the league? Welcome! A few things to know off the top:

  1. The WNBA has two dominant teams, the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks, who are favored to meet in the finals for the third straight year.
  2. Your not alone in your new-found fandom: the popularity of the WNBA is soaring, with the league setting a six-year attendance high in 2017 and getting a lot of love from DFS (daily fantasy sports) enthusiasts.
  3. The Rookie of the Year award might not be much of a race; no. 1 draft picks historically dominate ROY voting, winning eight of the last ten.
  4. The same can’t be said of the MVP award, and there are about 10-12 women who have a reasonable chance to claim the mantle as the league’s best player in 2018.

On that note, let’s look at the odds and futures for all of the action that awaits this season.

2018 WNBA Championship Odds

TEAM WNBA CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS 2017 PLAYOFF RESULT
Minnesota Lynx 8/5 Won Championship
Los Angeles Sparks 2/1  Runner-up
New York Liberty 15/1  Second-round loss to Washington
Connecticut Sun 18/1  Second-round loss to  Phoenix
Washington Mystics 20/1  Semi-final loss to Los Angeles
Phoenix Mercury 22/1  Semi-final loss to Minnesota
Seattle Storm 49/1  First-round loss to Phoenix
Dallas Wings 54/1 First-round loss to Washington
Atlanta Dream 60/1  Missed playoffs
Las Vegas Aces 60/1 Missed playoffs
Chicago Sky 74/1  Missed playoffs
Indiana Fever 125/1  Missed playoffs

The Lynx and Sparks, who met in the WNBA Finals for the second straight season, remain the heavy favorites to capture the 2018 title. They both showed their dominance in the semis last year, with Minnesota trouncing Washington 3-0 and LA doing the same to Phoenix.

LA then pushed Minnesota to the limit in the best-of-five finals, losing a heartbreaking Game 5 in Minneapolis that was closer than the 85-76 final score suggests.

The Liberty should still be the class of the Eastern Conference, but after an earlier-than-expected exit at the hands of the Mystic in 2017, it’s now been 16 years since they went to the finals.

2018 Over/Under Win Totals

TEAM WIN TOTAL OVER/UNDER 2017 RECORD
Minnesota Lynx 25.5 27-7
Los Angeles Sparks 24.5 26-8
New York Liberty 22.5 22-12
Connecticut Sun 21.5 21-13
Washington Mystics 17.5 18-16
Phoenix Mercury 16.5 18-16
Seattle Storm 16.5 15-19
Dallas Wings 14.5 16-18
Atlanta Dream 13.5 12-22
Chicago Sky 13.5 12-22
Las Vegas Aces 12.5 8-26
Indiana Fever 10.5 9-25

That’s a big jump for the Aces, admittedly, but there is ample reason for optimism, which is discussed in more detail below.

All in all, this year should see a little more parity. The Lynx and Sparks certainly have the talent to run over opponents on a nightly basis, but mustering the motivation to do so can be a big hurdle.

2018 WNBA MVP Odds

PLAYER 2018 WNBA MVP ODDS 2017 MVP VOTING 2016 MVP VOTING
Maya Moore (Minnesota) 8/1 8th (9 points)  3rd (197 points)
Tina Charles (New York) 9/1 2nd (199 points)  2nd (267 votes)
Candace Parker (Los Angeles) 10/1 3rd (132 points) 5th (30 points)
Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota) 12/1  1st (385 points) No votes
Brittney Griner (Phoenix) 12/1  6th (82 points) No votes
Jonquel Jones (Connecticut) 13/1  5th (88 points)  No votes
Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles) 15/1  4th (89 points) 1st (362 points)
Breanna Stewart (Seattle) 19/1  10th (2 points) 6th (24 points)
A’Ja Wilson (Las Vegas) 20/1  N/A N/A
Elena Delle Donne (Washington) 22/1  7th (11 points) 4th (119 points)
FIELD 3/1  N/A N/A

As the past results show, the same names keep popping up in the MVP voting. Moore (2014 MVP) was overshadowed by teammate Sylvia Fowles last year, but she remains the best player in the world.

If you want to cheer for a dark-horse, look no further than Jonquel Jones, who busted out in just her second season in the league. If she takes similar strides in her third year, she’ll not only help the Sun shine brighter than ever, she’ll get a ton of attention from MVP voters.

If you want to cheer for a dark-horse, look no further than [Connecticut’s] Jonquel Jones, who busted out in just her second season in the league.

2018 WNBA Rookie of the Year Odds

PLAYER ROOKIE OF THE YEAR ODDS DRAFT POSITION
A’Ja Wilson (Las Vegas) 6/5 1st
Kelsey Mitchell (Indiana) 7/2 2nd
Diamond DeShields (Chicago) 7/1 3rd
Azura Stevens (Dallas) 15/1 6th
Maria Vadeeva (Los Angeles) 19/1 11th
FIELD 10/1 N/A

The no. 1 pick from the most recent draft has won WNBA Rookie of the Year 11 times in the league’s 20-year history. That split is even more tilted recently: since 2008, only two ROY’s were not the most-recent first-overall pick (Elena Delle Donne, no. 2 in 2013; Allisha Gray, no. 4 in 2017).

A’ja Wilson is almost an odds-on favorite to keep the trend going. Here’s why:

Odds to Finish with Worst Record in the League

TEAM WORST-RECORD ODDS 2017 RECORD
Indiana Fever 3/2 9-25
Las Vegas Aces 3/1 8-26
Chicago Sky 5/1 12-22
FIELD 9/2 N/A

With the franchise relocating from San Antonio to Vegas, Bill Laimbeer installed as head coach, and first-overall pick A’ja Wilson ready to take the league by storm, the newly-minted Las Vegas Aces should find their way out of the cellar, where San Antonio resided the last three seasons.

The Aces’ gain is the Fever’s misfortune, though Kelsey Mitchell was certainly a great consolation prize in the draft and provides hope for Indiana’s long-term future. 

2018 WNBA Player/Team Props

PROP ODDS
O/U highest scoring single game (player) 39.5 points
O/U highest scoring single game (team; regulation time)¹ 109.5
O/U attendance of May 20 finals rematch (LA vs Minnesota) 10,999
O/U Brittney Griner in-game dunks (including ASG)² 2.5
Odds Brittney Griner has more dunks than rest of league combined 1/4

¹The Lynx hit triple digits six times last year, alone, including going off for 111 points (Aug. 18 vs Indiana) and 110 points (Sep. 1 vs Chicago) late in the season.

²Griner has 13 in-game dunks in her career. The rest of the league has seven, according to the WNBA record-keepers. A list of all the dunks in WNBA history.

All the dunks in WNBA history, from WNBA.com.