The field of eight teams that will compete in the WNBA playoffs is already set in stone, but the top teams will still be fighting down the stretch in order to secure key byes through the early rounds of the playoff bracket.

: WNBA playoffs Washington Mystics
The Washington Mystics are the heavy favorites to win a championship heading into the WNBA playoffs. (Image: Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty

Despite the fact that the league’s 12 teams each have three or four games remaining on their regular season schedules, the gap between the bottom playoff teams – the Seattle Storm and the Phoenix Mercury – and the ninth-place Indiana Fever is already too big for anything to change in the overall playoff picture.

WNBA Playoffs Reward Regular Season Success

But the WNBA playoffs are unforgiving, especially for lower-seeded teams. The first round will pit teams five through fight in single-elimination games that take place on the home court of the higher seed. The survivors move on to a second round of single-elimination matchups against the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds.

Only after those two rounds of win-or-go-home action do the top two seeds enter into the equation for the best-of-five semifinals. The finals are also held in a best-of-five format.


WNBA Standings (As of Aug. 30)

  1. Washington Mystics (22-8)
  2. Connecticut Sun (21-9)
  3. Los Angeles Sparks (19-11)
  4. Las Vegas Aces (19-12)
  5. Chicago Sky (18-13)
  6. Minnesota Lynx (16-15)
  7. Seattle Storm (15-15)
  8. Phoenix Mercury (15-15)
  9. Indiana Fever (11-20)
  10. Dallas Wings (10-20)
  11. New York Liberty (9-21)
  12. Atlanta Dream (7-23)

That means that it is critical for teams to fight to move up in the standings, as there are a number of advantages to be had by claiming a higher seed. Most valuable of all is finishing first or second in the league, guaranteeing that a single loss won’t mean elimination.

Washington Mystics Are Team to Beat

At the moment, the top seeds are in the hands of the Washington Mystics and the Connecticut Sun. At 22-8, the Mystics are considered to be the class of the WNBA, and perhaps one of the best teams in league history. Led by Elena Delle Donne, Washington isn’t just winning, they’re dominating opponents, accumulating an average point differential of +11.9 during the regular season. No other team has outscored their opponents by more than 3.3 points per game this year.

That, combined with the fact they are all but assured of getting a bye to the semifinals, has made the Mystics an overwhelming +110 favorite to win the WNBA title this year. The Sun (+270) are expected to be the squad most likely to pull off an upset, as they currently hold a two-game lead over the Los Angeles Sparks for the No. 2 seed and the other double bye in the playoffs.

Speaking of the Sparks, they and the Las Vegas Aces look to be the second-tier contenders, with FanDuel giving them each +600 odds of winning a WNBA title this year. Las Vegas looked to be in contention for a top-two seed after the return of A’ja Wilson, but three straight losses now have them in some danger of even losing a first-round bye, as the Chicago Sky is just one game behind them for the No. 4 seed with three games to play.

The bottom half of the field isn’t expected to make much noise in the playoffs, especially given the difficult task the postseason format presents for lower seeds. The Sky (+2700), Minnesota Lynx (+4900), Seattle Storm (+3600), and Phoenix Mercury (+2000) all have their work cut out for them, though anyone who survives the second round will see their odds shorten significantly.

The 2019 WNBA playoffs are set to begin on Sept. 11, with the finals taking place in early October.

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