Picking a team to root for in the WNBA Finals, plus a recap of what's happened this season
Here's a Finals primer for someone just joining us. Also, some DraftKings tips.
Good morning. It’s time for the damn WNBA Finals. We did it! It’s here! And we got the top two seeds: the No. 1 Las Vegas Aces vs. the No. 2 Seattle Storm.
This post is going to serve as a quick primer for anyone new to the league — especially those who may be joining us right this second since the W Finals are strategically placed to start at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2, two hours before Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Welcome! By the end, you should have an idea of which team you want to root for.
Before I get rolling here, I wanna remind everyone that Here’s Basketball is sponsored by Homefield Apparel, my fave college clothes store. You can use this link to peep their merch, and use the code below to get a nice lil discount.
Ok, let’s do this.
Before the season started, the Seattle Storm were the clear favorite to win the 2020 WNBA title for a few reasons.
Breanna Stewart, the 2018 MVP and Finals MVP, returned from a torn Achilles that kept her out of the entire 2019 season.
Future Hall of Fame point guard Sue Bird also returned from a knee injury that kept her out of the entire 2019 season.
The Storm had all of their best players opt in to the 2020 season. Most other teams were missing top pieces due to the pandemic (2019 MVP Elena Delle Donne did not play for the reigning champion Mystics, and All-Stars Liz Cambage, Jonquel Jones, Kristi Toliver and more chose not to play this year).
Due to the nature of the bubble season, teams had little practice time to integrate new players. That meant new acquisitions like Skylar Diggins-Smith in Phoenix, DeWanna Bonner in Connecticut, and Angel McCoughtry in Las Vegas had just days to weeks to learn a new system. Seattle had the advantage of familiarity. This starting lineup is the same one they used to win the championship in 2018!
Also, the Storm are just damn talented. Their starting lineup has Bird and Stewart, and is rounded out with runner-up Defensive Player of the Year Alysha Clark, last year’s Defensive Player of the Year Natasha Howard, and sharpshooter and All-Star Jewell Loyd.
The Aces were a harder-to-read group, though they were expected to make the playoffs:
Most notably, the team’s second-leading scorer, All-Star Cambage, received a medical exemption and opted out of the season due to the pandemic.
Breakout point guard and 2017 No. 1 pick, Kelsey Plum, tore her Achilles and also missed the entire season.
The team signed one of the league’s best-ever scorers, Angel McCoughtry, coming off knee injuries that kept her out of the 2018 playoffs and entire 2019 season. Nobody knew how good she’d be in her first year back (Hint: she was awesome.)
The Aces returned 2018 Rookie of the Year and two-time All-Star A’ja Wilson, along with reigning Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby. Jackie Young, the team’s 2019 No. 1 pick and All-Star Kayla McBride rounded out the team’s roster. The team also started Carolyn Swords, a 6’6 big who’d retired and accepted a front office role with Vegas in February, at center.
Each team’s regular season summed up in 1 note
The Storm were really good, but Sue Bird missed half of the season because of a bone bruise in her knee, and the team finished 18-4, tied for first place.
The Aces were a freaking bulldozer, shocking us all by snagging the 1-seed, winning the tie-breaker by beating Seattle twice (once without Stewart or Bird playing). A’ja Wilson wrecked shit and won her first MVP award.
The WNBA playoffs reward the top two seeds a helluva lot more than the NBA playoffs do, giving double-byes to both teams. This year, the Las Vegas Aces are the 1-seed, and the Seattle Storm are the 2-seed. They avoided having to play in win-or-go-home games that every other team in the playoffs had to play.
The top seeds’ cruise to the semifinals went differently for both teams, though.
The Storm swept the 4-seed Minnesota Lynx, 3-0, with only Game 1 being competitive to the final minutes. The Lynx were, of course, missing 2017 MVP Sylvia Fowles due to a calf injury for the entire series.
The Aces went a full five games with the No. 7 Connecticut Sun, and were down 2-1 in the series, surviving in a three-point Game 5 win. The Aces were without Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby for the final two games due to a knee injury that will keep her out of the Finals, too.
So who should you root for? It depends on what you want to see!
The Aces are the clear underdog
Vegas wasn’t expected to make the Finals because of the absences of Cambage and Plum, though most had them pegged as a competitive playoff team. Now their Finals odds are a step grimmer with Hamby out for the remainder of the postseason.
Root for the Aces if you like:
When the unexpected happens
When a 24-year-old MVP wins the award and a ring in the same year
When a star player comes back from major injury to ball out
When a team sustains a major injury in the playoffs and wins anyway
When a new franchise, in Year 3 of existence, rebuilds quickly to win its first title
Old-school bully-ball. These Aces hardly shoot threes, and they’re going against what we all expect the future of this league to look like. (Note: the last two champions led the league in three-point attempts per game. The Aces shot the fewest per game this year.)
The Storm are the clear favorite
Most had the Storm winning the championship before the seasons started, but the team didn’t blow away the rest of the league as anticipated. Still, they’re DEEP with talent, and will only be without ace sharpshooter off the bench, Sami Whitcomb, for the series since she returned to Australia to be with her wife for the birth of their first child.
Root for the Storm if you like:
When the favorite wins
When the former MVP returns from an Achilles injury to win her second ring at just 26 years old
When a nearly 40-year-old PG wins her fourth ring 16 years after her first
When a dynasty is established. The Storm won in 2018.
When a team of shooters shows the game of basketball has evolved into a three-point making league
Let’s also talk DraftKings for a sec
Remember, since there is only one game, one player is designated to cost 1.5 times her salary and tally 1.5 times her points. Today, I think you should choose Angel McCoughtry for this spot.
Guards to pick
Danielle Robinson, Las Vegas Aces ($6,000) - I’m going with Robinson over Bird in part because of the price difference ($1,200), but also because Robinson’s been awesome as the team’s starting guard. In two games against Seattle, she’s averaging 31 fantasy points.
Guards to avoid
Sue Bird, Seattle Storm ($7,200) - Bird’s great, but not a terrific fantasy sports player. She’s overpriced.
Forwards to pick
Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm ($10,600) - I’m going with Stewart over Wilson because without Hamby, Vegas has nobody to match up with Stewart’s size and mobility at the 4-spot.
Angel McCoughtry, Las Vegas Aces ($7,800/$11,700) - McCoughtry has helped carry the scoring load for Vegas since Hamby’s injury. She played more than 30 minutes in Game 4 and Game 5. For this price, I think you should choose her as your 1.5 times multiplier player.
Alysha Clark, Seattle Storm ($6,800) - She’s a shooter! Vegas is going to have to leave someone open, and I like Clark for this price.
Forwards to avoid
Natasha Howard, Seattle Storm ($7,600) - Of all middle-tier players, Howard’s most prone to getting lost. She’s a great player, but not a consistent fantasy one.
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If you have any leads, please email: email@example.com or DM me on Twitter: @mellentuck. I miss doing this as a full-time job. All of my previous work can be found at SB Nation, where I worked for the past four years before being laid off due to the pandemic. I’ve also written for The New York Times twice this year, which you can read here and also here.