The defending champion Minnesota Lynx are the early pick to win the 2018 WNBA Championship, with many expecting a finals rematch against the Los Angeles Sparks to ultimately decide who wins the league this season.

WNBA Lynx 2018 Preview
The Minnesota Lynx are bringing back the same core that won a WNBA title last year, seen here posing during the team’s 2017 media day. (Image: Scott Takushi/Pioneer Press)

The short WNBA preseason is set to begin on May 6, with the first games that count in the standings taking place on May 18. Last season saw the Lynx and the Sparks sweep their respective semifinals before Minnesota were able to outlast Los Angeles 3-2 in the best-of-five finals.

Lynx Keep Championship Core Intact

The Lynx are returning all five starters from last year’s championship squad, so it’s easy to see why they are coming into the season as favorites. While a few new parts have been added to the bench that might change up the rotation a bit, the core of the team remains intact.

There aren’t many teams in the league that have an answer for a lineup that includes Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, and league MVP Sylvia Fowles. Minnesota has now made the WNBA finals six of the past seven years, winning four titles in the process.

That’s the kind of track record that makes it easy to see the Lynx putting up another gaudy record this year, as the team went 27-7 to post the best mark in the WNBA last season. But at least for now, Minnesota is more concerned with preparing themselves for the season than worrying about whether they can add more hardware to their trophy case.

“It’s about what we have to do to get better,” Augustus told the Minneapolis Star Tribune during a preseason workout. “Our goal here is to have fun and that’s all we’ve ever wanted to do. When you have fun with good people, you see what happens.”

Sparks Add Depth to Challenge Champs

The Lynx should face a difficult challenge from their Western Conference rivals, the Sparks (the WNBA playoffs are not seeded by conference, which is why the two teams could meet in the finals). Los Angeles is also one of the most successful teams in recent WNBA history, having defeated Minnesota in the 2016 finals before falling to the Lynx last year.

Like the Lynx, the Sparks are also bringing back their key players. Leading scored Nneka Ogwumike and Candace Parker are returning to hunt for another championship, as is 2017 WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Award winner Alana Beard. Los Angeles also looked to bolster their post play through the draft, picking Russian center Maria Vadeeva with the 11th overall pick.

Oddsmakers see very little to separate the top two contenders. At William Hill, the Lynx (6/5) are the slight favorite, but the Sparks (6/4) follow very close behind.

What’s most striking is the distance between these two squads and the rest of the league. The next teams on the board are the New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury, and Washington Mystics, all of which are given 12/1 odds of taking home a WNBA Championship this season.