SI’s 2023 WNBA Season Expert Predictions

by May 18, 2023Etc., Sports0 comments

After an emoji-filled offseason (thank you, Breanna Stewart), the 2023 WNBA season is upon us, with Sun-Fever and Liberty-Mystics getting underway at 7 p.m. ET on Friday. Our league mavens were given in combination to peek into our crystal ball and resolve what may occur at the courtroom and rancid this 12 months.

1. Which tale line are you maximum taking a look ahead to looking at this season?

Elizabeth Swinton: Brittney Griner’s go back will likely be a best tale line this season, however past that, her talent set offers the Mercury the possible to be a sneaky contender. With Skylar Diggins-Smith—who’s on maternity depart to start out the season following the beginning of her 2d kid—and Diana Taurasi each within the best 10 in issues in line with sport closing season, the addition of Griner is also sufficient for Phoenix to reinforce on its 15–21 document and make some noise.

Kristen Nelson: The Mercury will in the end get their probability to pick out up the place they left off within the 2021 Finals. This squad gained’t relatively be the superteam it used to be anticipating to be in February ’22 prior to Griner’s detainment and a large number of conflicts plagued Phoenix closing season. But do not rely Griner, Taurasi and Brianna Turner out.

Clare Brennan: The 2023 Wings will glance very other from closing 12 months’s squad once they traded away Marina Mabrey and Allisha Gray, whilst shedding Isabelle Harrison to Chicago. Dallas wasted no time reloading, despite the fact that, obtaining confirmed stars in ahead Natasha Howard and guard Diamond DeShields, along side 4 first-round selections, together with lottery variety Maddy Siegrist of Villanova. Now the Wings, underneath new trainer Latricia Trammell, will attempt to convert back-to-back playoff appearances to an actual postseason run, including crucial items round franchise participant Arike Ogunbowale. However, how neatly all this new ability and staff will jell stays an open query.

Emma Baccellieri: The go back of an absolutely wholesome Elena Delle Donne and what that suggests for the Mystics. While the veteran megastar used to be again at the courtroom closing 12 months after lacking functionally two complete seasons, it used to be in a restricted capability, with Delle Donne showing in 25 of 36 video games in 2022. This 12 months, she says she’ll be at 100%, which must make a large distinction for Washington. Speaking of which—there’s (relatively) been such a lot hype across the new superteams this offseason that I believe individuals are drowsing at the Mystics a bit of! This staff moves me as a valid name contender. After going 22–14 closing 12 months, Washington is poised to be even higher this 12 months. The persisted construction of 22-year-old Shakira Austin must be massive—and she’ll now be joined on protection through Brittney Sykes. Plus All-Star Ariel Atkins, skilled guard Natasha Cloud and a wholesome EDD, in a position to faucet into her complete talent set on each ends of the ground constantly for the primary time in years? Watch out.

Kevin Sweeney: I’m excited for an absolutely wholesome season of Delle Donne for the Mystics. Washington used to be a unique staff together with her within the lineup closing season, and this 12 months she plans to be a complete move after having to control her mins in 2022. Delle Donne remains to be probably the most WNBA’s highest avid gamers when wholesome, and that would elevate Washington into contender standing within the Eastern Conference.

Claire Kuwana: The Lynx dynasty would possibly begin to make waves once more. Diamond Miller, the No. 2 pick out, is a pro-ready participant who can give a contribution proper off the bat, and, together with her at the roster, Minnesota is environment itself as much as get started construction towards the Finals as soon as once more. Off the courtroom, I’m in point of fact excited to look how the momentum of the school sport carries over to the league this 12 months. It’s clichéd, however having avid gamers like Aliyah Boston are available in with nationwide NIL offers already established goes to carry precisely what the WNBA must continue to grow: funding.

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Julie Kliegman: Honestly, I’m no longer taking a look ahead to this and I don’t need to be a overall downer, nevertheless it’s a bit of tricky for me to look previous the Aces’ troubles presently—and it certain turns out like the avid gamers affiliation will stay combating on behalf of Dearica Hamby, the previous Las Vegas ahead who stated she used to be discriminated in opposition to through body of workers at the foundation of her being pregnant closing 12 months. This tale line must keep best of thoughts for lovers at the same time as the thrill of the season will get underway.

2. Pick a superteam: Liberty or Aces.

Baccellieri: I favor this team from a roster building perspective—I believe the Aces’ strengths are compatible in combination extra seamlessly. Granted, it’s a lot more straightforward to construct a superteam when already beginning with a championship team, like Vegas, somewhat than seeking to make up a ton of flooring in one offseason, like New York. But I’ve some actual questions on how all this ability goes to mesh for the Liberty. That is a lot so as to add in a single wintry weather, and particularly with a preseason as brief because the W’s, I’m interested by how lengthy it’ll take for this team to learn how to play in combination. That’s very true at guard: How are Sabrina Ionescu and Courtney Vandersloot going to divide tasks? (Plus Marine Johannès off the bench—her passing is solely otherworldly.) It rather well may well be unbelievable! But out of the gate, I’ve to pick out the Aces, who seemed waiting for a powerful name protection even prior to they added Candace Parker.

Sweeney: I just like the Aces. Chemistry issues, and there are fewer shifting portions in Las Vegas than in New York. Parker’s taste of play (in particular her passing skill) suits in with the returning star-studded core, and I think about trainer Becky Hammon to have this staff firing on all cylinders previous.

Swinton: It’s going to be amusing looking at the Liberty learn how to mesh during the season, however till they end up their chemistry, the Aces hang the higher hand. Adding Parker to a championship-winning core has the possible to be a deadly mixture, and, with the revel in and familiarity of the returning avid gamers, Las Vegas will likely be checked out to set the bar.

Nelson: Liberty. It’s onerous to not be serious about what number of stars are prepared to make seafoam inexperienced the colour of the summer season.

Kuwana: Liberty. It’s onerous to not be romantic about this staff.

Kliegman: I’m a Liberty homer, so: Liberty. In all seriousness, despite the fact that, I do suppose they have got the easier staff on paper—there’s simply the small topic of whether or not everybody can jell in the similar manner the Aces’ roster has.

Brennan: Picking between the Aces and Liberty presently feels a bit of like flipping a coin. New York, alternatively, has the slight edge, stacked with a bunch of hungry avid gamers, together with former WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones, who has apparently gained the entirety however a league name. Courtney Vandersloot and Breanna Stewart got here to New York to win a championship, duration, even taking a pay minimize to do it. That no-nonsense, intentional means suits proper in with New York, offering the W with a compelling cultural fixture and most probably a singularly dominant squad.

3. Pick an underdog!

Nelson: Picking Aliyah Boston to be an underdog feels bizarre, however such is the lifetime of being a No. 1 draft pick out and going to the staff that wishes you maximum. She gained’t have the South Carolina reunion with Destanni Henderson as we was hoping, however be expecting Boston to transition into the professional sport comfortably and in the end flip the fortunes for the Fever.

Brennan: Kahleah Copper is likely one of the maximum exciting avid gamers to look at within the league, with a singular explosive presence and craftiness in attending to the basket. The 2021 Finals MVP could have her palms complete this 12 months after a mass exodus from Chicago, with key items from the championship staff of 2 years in the past, together with Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and Candace Parker, out. Chicago is now definitively Copper’s staff, and it’ll be thrilling to look whether or not she will take the helm from Parker and make the Sky her personal.

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Sweeney: The Storm were perennial contenders with Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart in tow. Now that each are long past, it must be amusing to look them recast as an underdog. I gained’t rely out Jewell Loyd main this staff into the playoffs once more, regardless of all Seattle misplaced this offseason.

Swinton: With new trainer Curt Miller, the Sparks hang a chance to have a contemporary glance and rebound following their 13–23 appearing closing season. Nneka Ogwumike is coming off an All-Star 12 months and turns out poised to construct on it with Los Angeles this season.

Kuwana: The Dream. It may well be a stretch to name them an underdog, however I’m letting it slide in accordance with the large rebuild they did to get right here. Snagging Haley Jones later within the draft used to be massive, and the tradition that trainer Tanisha Wright and common supervisor Dan Padover looked as if it would have established in Atlanta is vital, particularly after an up-and-down 2021 that incorporated 3 other coaches and single-digit victories. I don’t know whether or not it’s honest to pick out a staff that has the latest Rookie of the Year at the roster, however I’m nevertheless excited to look whether or not the Dream can entire a playoff run after narrowly lacking the postseason closing 12 months.

Baccellieri: The Dream. I’ve a sense this rebuild is with reference to waiting to transport directly to its subsequent section. I’m no longer certain Atlanta will end above .500, however the younger core this is so thrilling and has various ability. The reigning Rookie of the Year, Rhyne Howard, is joined through Aari McDonald, Haley Jones, Laeticia Amihere. … They may no longer win a complete lot simply but, however they must indisputably take a step ahead from closing 12 months’s 14–22, they usually’ll be amusing to look at within the procedure.

Kliegman: I’m going to stay my eye at the Dream. Former Lynx stalwart Seimone Augustus advised me in April that she loves a excellent underdog tale and thinks Atlanta may make a deep playoff run. Who am I to doubt Seimone Augustus?

4. Who will produce the most efficient meme (doesn’t should be a participant)?

Swinton: After Breanna Stewart’s offseason emoji-fest, it’ll be amusing to look whether or not she continues to stay lovers on their ft all over the season. Even if her emoji tweets are performed, she is bound to entertain at the courtroom.

Sweeney: Kahleah Copper’s Twitter feed is already a few of the league’s maximum entertaining. Now we get to look her as Chicago’s undisputed megastar? That may produce some elite content material.

Baccellieri: Natasha Cloud. She’s already staked out her place at the league’s new rule governing bench habits, and it feels like she’ll be simply as a lot of a presence at the sidelines as ever, doing the entirety she will to hype up her teammates whilst no longer within the sport.

(And in the case of the brand new rule: I’m hoping it doesn’t prohibit avid gamers at the sidelines too a lot. The rule states that avid gamers “would possibly not stay status at or clear of their staff’s bench all over the sport for a chronic duration and, along side coaches, are prohibited from making an attempt to distract their fighters in an unsportsmanlike method,” which is completely cheap in a vacuum, nevertheless it leaves a query about what precisely is thought of as a “extended duration.” Fingers crossed that avid gamers are nonetheless allowed to have fun and produce the power.)

Kliegman: Curt Miller, inevitably. The Sparks’ new trainer has switched coasts, and he’s more than likely ready to dazzle us with some very California button-ups.

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Kuwana: A’ja Wilson. Her tweets all over the draft had been gold.

Nelson: DiDi Richards used to be minimize through the Liberty on Tuesday, however one thing tells me she’ll discover a staff (and social media) to polish on regardless of all of it.

Brennan: The W has been running to enlarge in-season competitions, including the Commissioner’s Cup and padding out All-Star weekend. With the ones contests, comes the chance so as to add coveted {hardware} to the trophy cupboard. Fans, alternatively, spotted the … petite measurement of stated trophies, with Kelsey Plum and Aces even trolling WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert at the measurement of her All-Star MVP award. Hopefully, the league has added some substance to its {hardware} this 12 months, as a result of lovers will likely be waiting to meme if no longer.

5. What is your Finals prediction?

Sweeney: Aces over Liberty in 5. Yes, the superteams gets right here, and sure, this apparently inevitable collection will rock. The Aces’ championship pedigree will lift them over the end line.

Baccellieri: Aces over Liberty in 4. Yes, protecting a name is tricky. But with the Aces bringing again the majority in their championship roster from closing 12 months, plus Parker and Alysha Clark, I simply can’t pick out in opposition to them.

Kuwana: Aces over Liberty in 5. I believe, in the long run, the Aces’ revel in as a staff within the postseason in combination will outweigh the New York superteam. Plus, getting Parker approach Las Vegas has veteran megastar energy to accompany Wilson and compete with the Liberty’s free-agency provides.

Swinton: Aces over Liberty in 5. Though New York has stirred up pleasure with its additions, it takes time to shape chemistry. Though it’ll no longer be sudden if the Liberty height on the proper time getting into the postseason, the Aces have the revel in and current relationships to transform the primary back-to-back champions because the Sparks from 2001 and ’02 if everybody stays wholesome.

Nelson: Liberty over Mercury in 4. Finally in a position to concentrate on basketball, the Mercury will energy their well past the Aces and into the Finals. But a star-studded New York squad will likely be an excessive amount of for any individual to deal with this season, and Stewart, Jones and Vandersloot’s diabolical plan will be triumphant.

Brennan: Liberty over Aces in 5. Maybe it’s wishful considering, however a five-game Finals collection in opposition to the Aces and Liberty simply feels proper. Ultimately, it’ll be New York who lifts the league trophy, despite the fact that, with Breanna Stewart profitable out over A’ja Wilson of their extremely expected rematch from closing 12 months’s playoffs. While Las Vegas has its sharp capturing, amongst different compelling attributes, in any case, Courtney Vandersloot is just too take hold of, Jonquel Jones is just too dominant across the rim, and Sabrina Ionescu is just too sizzling at the perimeter for Becky Hammon’s staff to forestall.

Kliegman: Liberty over Aces in 5, nevertheless it indisputably gained’t be simple. Han Xu will develop any other inch in birthday party.

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